Casual bike rides offer exercise, camaraderie
CAPITAL REGION For Debra Moskowitz, easy pedaling means easy living.
“I’ve been known to go out Old State Road, cross the railroad tracks in Rotterdam and go to Route 158, then turn around,” Moskowitz said of one of her favorite casual bike rides in Guilderland.
“I live in the suburbs here,” added Moskowitz, who lives in Guilderland. “When I go on Old State Road, it’s just rolling hills and farmland, and I feel like I’m very far away, which I like.”
Summer puts more bicyclists on the roads, some on long training rides. For some wheel enthusiasts, better rides are the casual and easy trips. And they say these easy routes can be easy to find.
Moskowitz and 11 other bicyclists from the Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club left Lynnwood Elementary School in Guilderland on a recent warm night. Lydius Street, Route 158 and Gifford Church Road were all part of the 22-mile casual jaunt.
Experienced riders say easy and accessible rides can be found on the county bike paths that take riders along the Mohawk River in Schenectady County and near the Hudson River in Albany County.
John Ogden of East Greenbush, who leads the “Tuesday Night Casual” rides for Mohawk-Hudson club, said people also can find casual rides in their own neighborhoods.
“Clifton Park used to be a beautiful place to ride,” Ogden said. “Unfortunately, every year there’s a little more traffic. It still is, it’s mostly flat, so it’s a good place to ride. And going up into Burnt Hills and Charlton is really nice. You’ve got some hills in Burnt Hills and Charlton, but you can avoid them.”
Ogden prefers summer casual rides during the early evening. Temperatures are lower. So are traffic numbers.
Kinderhook’s Martha Mooney, who was in Ogden’s riding party, prefers the easier, more casual style of pedaling. She believes it’s better for exercise, better for sightseeing.
“I think there’s a lot of beautiful terrain in Albany, Columbia, Saratoga and Schenectady counties,” said Mooney, a retiree. “I moved up from the city, and it was like I’ve discovered the area by virtue of going on these bike rides.”
For Mooney and friends, a 15- or 20-mile bike ride is an easy distance, with riders pedaling between 11 and 13 mph.
“You feel good after. You get real exercise,” Mooney said. “I’m going out to go into the scene. Others need to go out because they need exercise, they’re more in training. I’m in enjoying mode myself.”
Dana Albon, 29, of East Greenbush, counts the Corning Preserve and Lions Park paths, in Albany and Niskayuna, respectively, as her favorite easy rides.
“Any ride is easy, it’s just how much you push yourself,” she said.
Albon likes the group rides because of bonuses — company on the road and the feeling of accomplishment she get once she jumps off her seat.
“You can always feel kind of proud about yourself in that you did it,” she said. “Cyclists are always great. Even if there’s a hill you feel you can’t get up ... they’ll encourage you to get up. Even if that’s walking the bike up, you do it.”
Delmar’s Skip Holmes, president of the 750-member Mohawk-Hudson group, said his outfit has plenty of people who prefer casual rides. He said they might be in their 50s and 60s and join the club because they don’t want to ride alone. The club’s casual rides, he added, often include a social bonus — restaurant stops for lunch or snacks are generally part of the ride.
He said people looking for easy rides can try the Saratoga Spa State Park. If they’re traveling — and Holmes and his wife, Trudy Quaif, were recently on Cape Cod — they should bring their bikes to find easy ways away from home.
“We went 10 miles in an hour. You stop for coffee and a muffin, it’s not a long time,” Holmes said.
Club member Dave Render of East Greenbush, who coordinates the club’s casual rides, said The Crossing in Colonie offers a flat loop for riding.
“And if people want to take a little bit of a hike, drive to Glens Falls. There’s an enclosed bike path,” he said. “We have members who lead rides there, they go to Lake George, have lunch and come back.”
Even Albany Rural Cemetery has miles of roads. Render said people should not feel a cemetery ride is sacrilegious — he said Albany Rural was designed as a park, as well as a cemetery.
“There are gravel roads, so you have to be a little careful, but it’s an awfully pretty area,” Render said.
Dave Giokas, who works at Freemans Bridge Sports, said bicycle shops often post group rides on their websites. Rookie riders might especially appreciate tagging along.
“You’re going out with experienced people,” Giokas said. “Some people may think that’s intimidating, but if your bike breaks down, you have experienced people there.”
Becky Puritz, a sales associate at the Downtube bike shop in Albany, suggested John Boyd Thacher Park in Voorheesville for scenic, easy rides. People may not want to pedal to the park, however — Puritz noted there are plenty of hills leading to Thacher.
“Once you’re actually up in Thacher, it’s not so bad,” she said. “You can ride around Thompson’s Lake, as well.”
Bob Stricos of Guilderland prefers Altamont for peace and quiet on his bicycle.
“There are a lot of nice back roads, and most of the hills are fairly gentle,” he said.
The high rpm some cyclists prefer as they increase their speed is not for Stricos.
“If you’re in that much of a hurry,” he said, “take your car. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”