Most every rider knows Ohio’s Windy 9. If you don’t for any reason, it’s time to hop in the saddle and zip and zoom over to Ohio. This collection of routes includes some of the best motorcycling roads in the U.S. and it’s something every rider should experience—at least once.
Athens, OH, makes for a wonderful (and official) home base for your Windy 9 adventure. The provides easy access to each of the nine routes. And if you have energy after a long day on the road, you’ll find plenty to do in Athens to whittle away the night.
The city has a lot to see, explore, and experience. It has plentiful lodging options, restaurants serving a variety of cuisines, and great bars for a post-ride refreshment.
But the routes are the bread and butter of the Windy 9. And just like Athens, they have something to offer for everyone.
Black Diamond Run
The Black Diamond Run takes you on a 103-mile tour through the coal-mining history of Hocking Valley. These roads pass through several fascinating late-18th and early-19th-century towns, like Nelsonville (check out the Historic Square), Somerset, Shawnee, and Chauncey.
But if manmade environs aren’t your thing, don’t worry. You’ll also get to marvel at the natural beauty of the Wayne National Forest. For an extra dose of history, you can visit Robinson’s Cave, where coal miners gathered to plan early unionization initiatives, and the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway.
Hocking Hills Nipper
Before you head for the 92-mile Hocking Hills Nipper, make sure you’re wearing riding boots that are also comfortable to walk in. This route takes you into the depths of the Wayne National Forest for an experience that combines riding bliss with natural wonders.
There’s a lot to see along the route, from caves to gorges, from waterfalls to forest trails. Most of the sights do require some hiking—up to three miles—but they’re also great excuses to stretch your legs. Riders who enjoy Mother Earth just as much as munching miles in the saddle are in for an unforgettable ride.
Just like a lazy river at a water park, this 100-mile loop is made for relaxing. Heading southeast from Athens, you’ll follow the gentle curves of the Hocking and Ohio Rivers. This is a great route for cruisers and will have you feeling like you are leisurely floating down the stream.
But there are also places to see. The Forked Run State Park and Buffington Island Battlefield State Memorial Park are great places to take a break from the ride and stretch tired legs. Those who enjoy incredible engineering feats can marvel at the many locks and dams built into the Ohio River.
Do you like hills? Then point your bike east and tackle the Pioneer Pass Route. For the next 103 miles, you’ll roll through some of the most gorgeous hills Ohio has to offer.
Not only that, you’ll do a short stint on SR 555, also known as the Triple Nickel. Soak in the bucolic scenery of ridgetop farms and orchards. At around the halfway point of the ride, you can also stop for lunch at the picturesque riverside town of Marietta, OH.
The Pomeroy Dash lives up to its name. At 63 miles, it’s rather short, but oh boy is it sweet. Southward bound, you’ll motor along Old US 33, the historic thoroughfare that was once Athens’ main connecting artery to the Ohio River.
Along the route, the curving Applachian country roads take you through verdant rural scenes and Ohio River views. Stop for lunch at the historic town of Pomeroy and re-energize yourself for a return trip through the fantastic Ohio backcountry.
The Rim of the World
The Rim of the World route heads northeast from Athens. At 87 miles, it’s admittedly not the longest route of them all. But with all the breathtaking places to see, you could leave at the crack of dawn and be lucky if you make it back to Athens before dark.
Riding on SR 78, you’ll climb to the highest hills in this part of Ohio. There are great curves, twists, and turns through farmland and woods that will challenge your skills and keep you entertained. You can unpack from the twisties by admiring the locks 6 and 7 on the Muskingum River—the only remaining hand-operated locks in America
The 93-mile Southern Dip is one of the best cruising experiences you’ll have. Rolling south from Athens, you’ll follow the relaxing curves of the Ohio River all the way down to the town of Gallipolis. From there, you’ll head back north through the scenic countryside.
But if you need a break from the riverside riding, any of the idyllic towns along the ride give you chance to stretch and grab a bite to eat. You could also hop over to the West Virginia side of the river to Point Pleasant to try and spot the legendary Mothman.
The Triple Nickel
The Triple Nickel is not for greenhorns. This 92-mile ride (or 184 miles for a roundtrip) is the most challenging endeavor you’ll undertake on the Windy 9. And that’s what makes it so much fun.
After a slower start, you’ll soon reach SR 555—a sport-tourer’s dream. The road twists and turns through hills and blind curves, offering one challenge after another. The Triple Nickel will test your mettle as a rider and make for an unforgettable experience.
If you’re pressed for time and only have time for just one quick ride, the Zaleski Zipper will still satisfy you. This 60-mile stint serves you a perfect cross-section of what Ohio has to offer. It has plenty of turns but lets you ride through them at a leisurely pace if you so wish.
But despite the short distance, you can easily stretch the Zipper to a full-day experience. Stop to take in the nature at Zaleski State Forest. You could also test your nerves and try and find out if the legendary abandoned Moonville Tunnel truly is haunted.