By: Jeremy Hill
Motorcycle riders rejoice: the Athens County Visitor’s Bureau has your next ride planned for you.
“Ohio’s Windy 9” is a group of nine backcountry routes curated by Athens locals and the Athens County Visitor’s Bureau aimed at bringing motorcycle riders to Southeast Ohio. The ACVB distributes a free, detailed map of the routes that can be picked up at several locations in Athens, printed from the web or mailed to your home.
The routes feature more than a thousand miles of twists and turns through the Ohio Valley, and each route has its own character. “The qualities of each of the routes are different — they vary in how easy or difficult they are to ride,” says Paige Alost, executive director of the of ACVB.
Routes like “The Triple Nickle” — named for State Highway 555 — feature tight turns and elevation changes that experienced riders might find thrilling. By contrast, the 94-mile “Southern Dip” route is more tame, a jaunt along the Ohio River.
A team of locals, including the late Chris Wolf, former owner of The Smiling Skull Saloon, developed the map prior to its first run in 2016.
“They had both been coming to us and saying, ‘hey, we really need to make a map, because I have to keep making maps for people who want to come ride in the area,” Alost says.
Once the routes were chosen and measured, the ACVB partnered with RoadRUNNER, a motorcycle magazine, who designed the map itself. It features lodging and lunch recommendations, as well as roadside attractions.
Riders have taken note.
“It’s been, I’m not going to say a surprising success, but I wish we had done it a lot sooner,” says Alost, adding that people have come from states away to ride the routes.
“We may not have the steepest mountains, we may not have the widest rivers here, but by far what people tell us is what matters most is the quality of the road,” Alost said.
Alost and her team hope to encourage groups of riders to make Athens their home base while they spend time exploring the routes, and one group is already planning to do it: The Vulcan Riders, a national association of Kawasaki Vulcan enthusiasts, will hold its east coast rally in Athens in July. They’ll be there for four days.
At least two Athens hotels are offering deals for “Windy 9” riders.