Cycling is an activity that can unite families, knows no age barriers, and is accessible to people with a wide range of abilities and interests. Whether casual exercise or a full-on fitness regimen outside or indoors—we’ve got you covered. Capital Region experts and cycle enthusiasts with decades of riding experience shared their knowledge on technique, safety, must-have gear, and places to roam with 55 Plus Living.
Cycling Health and Wealth Benefits
This low-impact recreational activity can improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and joint flexibility. Whether you’re riding solo or in a group, cycling can decrease your stress, strengthen your bones, contribute to weight loss and improve your mental well-being.
“As far as my retirement is concerned, bike riding is going to be a big part of it,” says 61-year-old Ed Brennan, president of the Albany Bicycle Coalition. As empty nesters, he and his wife have managed to be a one-car family for the past nine years. On most days, Brennan bikes to work. “I will be retiring soon with more money and healthier,” he says of their choice. “How many years do you want to spend working for your car?” Brennan says cycling is “a different way of seeing the country. You won’t see everything going 55 miles an hour that you’ll see on a bicycle.”
A fun, safe way to travel during the pandemic, bicycle sales continue to soar. Unfortunately, manufacturers have yet to catch up. Although the demand for bicycles is high and the surplus is low, you still have options.
Repair Your Old Bike or Upgrade It
“I’ve worked on more bikes from the ‘70s than I did in the ‘70s,” says Jeff Pepper, owner of CK Cycles in Albany. “We’re doing the best we can to repair everything that comes in the door.”
Matt Devlin, owner of Mad Dog Bicycles, agrees. “The repair business has been crazy,” says Devlin. “Everybody is bringing in bicycles from their attics and basements, bikes that haven’t been used in 30 years.”
If you can’t find a new bike, consider an upgrade. “We have e-bike (electric bike) kits that we can put on a bike you already have,” says Pepper. If you have a quality bike, we can put an electric assist on it.”
Electric Bikes (E-Bikes)
Steiner’s Sports, Ski & Bike Specialists, which has stores in Hudson, Glenmont, and Valatie, expects to have Trek electric bikes in the showroom available for a test drive in the fall. “Especially during the pandemic, electric bikes have become very popular among people who are not your regular cyclist or someone who does not normally think of riding a bike,” says owner Dave Endy. “The electric bike gives them a little more confidence that they can ride five or 10 miles and be able to get back.” He says e-bikes attract older cyclists because they provide that “boost” some cyclists need to keep going uphill.
The battery, motor, and control unit are the three main components of an e-bike. The motor on an e-bike is engaged either by throttle delivery or pedal assistance. For a pedal-assist e-bike, start pedaling to engage the motor and set the amount of electrical assistance you need. A full-throttle electric bike can be started with the press of a button and does not require startup pedaling.
In New York State, Class I and Class II e-bikes are allowed on roads posted at 30 mph or less. For off-road trails, check local regulations. The only distinction between Class I and Class II e-bikes is the addition of a throttle. Class II e-bikes still have the 20 mph limit but allow you to use a throttle.
New Bikes: Be Prepared To Wait
A good bike may come to those who wait—a few months, especially if you call local bike shops and place your order. “We’re telling people to call every bike shop in town to see what they have,” says Devlin. “Everybody gets a trickle of bikes coming on the floor; most shops have a waiting list.”
Talking with experts becomes more crucial when there aren’t enough bikes on the showroom floor to take a test spin. “We try to find out what kind of riding they do, how often, how much, what they want to use it for, to get the customer into the correct bike,” says Endy. “If, for any reason, when it shows up they are not happy with it, we give them a refund. We don’t want them to feel like they have to buy something they haven’t been able to see or touch.”
If you decide to go the online route, take note: chances are you’ll have to assemble it or find someone who can. Not all shops assemble bikes bought online direct from the manufacturer, but that’s where Steiner’s comes in. Endy says it’s not uncommon for someone to bring bike parts into the shop and say, “‘I tried to put it together but, I don’t know what I’m doing.’”
BOX: Cycling in and Around the Capital Region
The Albany Bicycle Coalition’s online interactive bike map features low-traffic, low-stress routes around the Capital Region within the cities of Albany, Troy, and Schenectady, also Rensselaer, Delmar, Colonie, and Niskayuna. The ABC is an advocacy organization that promotes cycling and safety. “We’re more leisurely kind of cyclists,” says Brennan. Riding around city streets is also convenient in winter when trails may not be plowed.
The Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail features Art on the Rail Trail, with unique artist murals to gaze at as you ride. This paved, nine-mile, non-motorized traffic bike-and pedestrian-friendly trail stretches from South Pearl Street, Albany, to the Village of Voorheesville.
The 750-mile Empire State Trail has been completed and welcomes bicyclists to experience the state’s diversity of communities, history, and landscape. In sections, the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail connects New York City with Albany, The Champlain Valley Trail goes from Albany to Rouses Point, and The Erie Canalway Trail runs from Buffalo to Albany.
Is a Peloton Right for You?
While hard-core cyclists may use a Peloton to keep in shape, average consumers are flocking to this indoor personal spinning concept. If you want to up your daily exercise game and join cycle classes from home, a Peloton stationary bike with computer hook-up may be right for you. On-demand sessions allow you to choose your workout. Every class is designed with a purpose, how hard you are willing to go, how long you want to ride. You can ride with the same people using the built-in camera. If you are feeling competitive, you can choose to see the stats of others and compare them to yours on the leaderboard. Choose from a library of classes with expert trainers and curated music.
The Peloton experience is not inexpensive. Be prepared for an investment of $1,895 for a basic bike built for immersive cardio and up to $2,945 for a bike with add-ons for cardio and strength training.
Websites for more information
Mad Dog Bicycles
Steiner’s Sports, Ski & Bike Specialists
Staying Warm Cycling in Fall/Winter
Avid cyclist Ed Brennan, president of the Albany Bicycle Coalition, offers this advice for staying warm while riding in cooler weather.
- Layer up. You don’t want to overdress and sweat in the cold, so wear layers that you can put on or take off.
- Protect your hands. “I use a lobster glove,” says Brennan. “I’ll put on a wool pair of mittens underneath and my thicker, lobster gloves over those.” With a split-finger design that looks more like a lobster claw than a mitten, these thick outer gloves block the wind and wet weather when you are riding into a headwind.
- Protect your feet. It’s no fun riding when your toes are numb and hurting, so you’ll want to be careful not to have tight-fitting shoes that cut off your circulation. Brennan suggests using waterproof shoe covers—bike gaiters along with a pair of toe protectors to break the wind chill.
- Protect your ears. You want to hear what’s around you and still keep your ears warm, so an ear band over your ears and a cap under your helmet can help. A balaclava fits over your head and covers your ears.