Columbus, OH USA

Pedal Pusher
November 2009
by Greg Knepp

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North to Clintonville
Day tripping in bike-friendly neighborhood

Much of my recreational cycling seems to take me to (or at least through) Clintonville, not for any specific reason, it’s just that the area is so darn bike-friendly and so close that it’s hard to avoid.

Consider: Clintonville is bordered on the west by the Olentangy River Bikeway and on the south by OSU – both active cycling venues. The neighborhood itself is a maze of easily maneuvered side streets and alleys, densely packed with a quaint and curious hodgepodge of friendly residences, and cut-through north and south by larger, but easily pedaled, city roadways: High, Indianola, Calumet and Third primarily. Add to this a handful of hidden, wooded ravines, and a smattering of off-High Street grocery stores, junk shops, bars and even an old-time movie theater, and you have a fascinating, if somewhat dog-eared, urban neighborhood.

And Clintonville is just that – a neighborhood. Despite an array of effective community organizations including its own chamber of commerce, Clintonville is not, nor has ever been, a separate civic unit; even the boundaries, with the exception of the western one, are disputed – though not hotly. I like to think that the area begins north of campus and continues to Whetstone Park, but some consider everything south of Arcadia Avenue to be a separate entity dubbed “Old North Columbus” and still others want to move the northern boundary all the way to Worthington, thereby swallowing Beechwold whole! The eastern frontier has
traditionally been defined by the Conrail railroad line, though many carry the border to I-71.

No matter, wherever Clintonville starts or ends, somehow you always know it when you’re there ( calls Clintonville “a state of mind” – cute). And, to borrow a line from Cunard, getting there is half the fun! But what route is best? That depends. From the east side of the Short North, Indianola Avenue makes a good, though somewhat choppy, cycling route. The Olentangy River Bikeway seems a logical choice from an embarking point west of High, but I prefer to meander through campus, then catch Neil Avenue as it picks up at Lane on the northern edge of OSU. This route leads to Dodridge Street which, in turn, spills out onto High, right in the heart of Clintonville. From this juncture, traveling in any direction is fine: south to peruse the Old North Columbus shops, east up-hill via Arcadia Avenue to catch Calumet Street for a northerly cruise past some interesting landmarks on the ridge, such as North Education Center, Xenos Christian School, Clintonville Community Market, Crestview Middle School (now completing renovations) and the Walhalla Ravine viaduct. Or one may want to go north on High Street – a commercial corridor that encompasses a wide variety of emporiums and restaurants, most of them more casual and less pricy than like establishments found in the trendier and more touristy Short North. Well to the north on High, the Whetstone Recreation Center makes a good turning point in the trek. A welcome coast down to the river affords easy access to the Park of Roses. After a welcome repose, a fast pedal along the Olentangy River Bikeway will take you south, back to the Short North. An unbeatable day trip, and one that I never seem to tire of.

But there’s more in store for cyclists in Clintonville than simply good riding. The area is rife with bike shops; there’s nothing a cyclist loves more than nosing around a bike shop! Moving north from campus, the first cyclery one encounters is Handy Bikes at 2489 N. High Street. This is a branch location of the main store in Grandview. Unlike its parent shop, the High Street location sells primarily reconditioned used bikes. This is where the action is with the college crowd; they love those old Schwinns.

Such steeds are also the main stock and trade of Once Ridden Bikes. This venerable establishment is in the process of moving to its new location at 2595 Indianola Avenue. Its bikes are reconditioned and look real good. When I checked out several of them, I found that their wheel and crank bearings were sound, their wheel rims true, and their breaks and shifters fully operational. The old dudes who tend this store do a terrific job of providing good two-wheeled transportation at reasonable prices, but they do more than that: They also help preserve the very history of cycling. It’s not unusual to find perfectly ridable bicycles from the ‘70s and even the ‘60s at Once Ridden Bikes. Incidentally, they also sell brand new Fugi Bicycles – a respectable brand if there ever was one.

Moving a few blocks east we come upon ReTagIt at the southeast corner of Hudson and Summit streets. This is essentially a general retail outlet for used goods of a broad description. The shop has a few dozen used bikes on hand, and while they are generally cheaper that those found at the two shops already mentioned, they’ve not been reconditioned, merely put into basic riding shape – oiled, tires inflated, breaks checked, etc. If you’re looking for a fixer-upper you might want to take a gander at the stable of bikes at ReTagIt, but keep in mind that it takes more than just a can of
3-in-One Oil, a screwdriver and a heart full of good intentions to repair an old bicycle.

Heading back to High Street, we turn north once more and promptly arrive at Bike Source housed in the old Campus Bike Shop right next to Mozart’s. This is an up-scale chain outlet selling spiffy new bicycles made by top line manufacturers such as Giant, Specialized and Univega. Though Bike Source is a chain store, the service is excellent. The sales force is able to draw upon their other local outlets if they run short on any model that they normally carry. This increases the scope of their inventory by a factor of three. In my view, though, Bike Source’s real strength is that it carries the Electra brand. Electra makes really nice commuter and town bicycles – beautifully designed, mechanically flawless and priced to move. I own two!

Farther up the street to our right, we see Baer Wheels located on the southeast corner of Weber and High. Dave Baer started out repairing bicycles in his house nearly two decades ago. Now he not only fixes bikes but also sells several lines of high-end models: Jamis, Masi and Surly to name a few. Dave also carries Terry Bikes, a line with frame and wheel configurations specifically designed for women. The inventory is not cheap, but it’s exotic and sophisticated, and the discriminating cyclist would do well to include a trip to Baer Wheels when shopping for a new mount.

Finally we head far to the north, to Beechwold (North Clintonville?) where at 4584 N. High Street we find Northland Cycling and Fitness. This is a homey but comprehensive little shop that has been in business for as long as I can remember. It’s main offering Schwinns. These aren’t the department store Schwinns that you find at Target, but the company’s line of better models sold exclusively through bike shops. Ya gotta love a Schwinn! Northland also sells Giant and Kona brand bikes, both respectable breeds.

In short, if you’re a cyclist and don’t get a hoot out of a spin about Clintonville then it’s time to check your pulse. It’s a pedaler’s paradise up yonder, so hop on your saddle and head north – north to Clintonville!

Greg Knepp is a Short North cyclist

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