Biking is the answer for those seeking high-energy, low-impact fitness activity on Long Island. The North Shore features rolling hills for challenges and the South Shore’s flatness promotes speed. And everywhere, beautiful scenery abounds and quaint downtowns beckon. It can be done solo, but in a group the experience also becomes a social outing. More than that, clubs organize safe and beautiful rides to allow riders to, well, enjoy the ride.
“My favorite roads to ride are those that head east from the club’s Greenlawn start,” said John Greene, vice president of the Huntington Bike Club. Like many area clubs, Huntington’s avoids heavily trafficked or poorly maintained roads opting instead for quiet neighborhood routes with smooth roads and interesting destinations.
In fact, most club rides are destination rides—meaning riders might have to drive to the starting point, bike to a specific location and come back via a different route, with stops for food in between. The plan allows for individuals to enjoy more relaxed riding and sightseeing, rather than counting the distance, planning stops and managing water or supplies.
The benefits to the clubs and road biking lifestyle are numerous. Cardiovascular fitness is the most obvious, but Tracy Riedinger, a physical therapist and president of HBC got back into biking after a third knee surgery. “It’s an activity that my knees can tolerate,” she said. In fact, bad knees seem to be par for the course, almost a de facto membership requirement. “We have a lot of ex-runners in the club because running just pounds your knees into the ground and cycling is much more forgiving.”
Plus, there’s safety in numbers, especially when riding along at 20mph with traffic whizzing by. “I’ve become very attuned to bicycle safety…that’s my number one issue and that’s the theme for anything we do with the clubs.” said Bob Devito, president of Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association, the Island’s largest cycling club with about 1000 members, and the director for the Nassau Suffolk Bicycle Coalition, the umbrella organization for the Island’s bike clubs.
Joining a club is as easy as reading their online calendar of scheduled rides. All clubs allow and encourage a try-before-you-buy mentality to membership. Rides are graded on a familiar ABC system; rides in the C range generally make frequent stops, average cruising speeds of 10-14mph and leaders will wait for slower paced riders. This is a good place for beginners to start, even with a hybrid bicycle, though higher rated routes require a road bike. The main thing is just getting out, discovering the Island and enjoying the ride.
When buying a road bike, make friends with the local bike shop to ensure the proper fit and type. They might even hook you up with The Strava app and enabled devices to virtually compete with friends, club members or your own trackable runs.
Suffolk Bike Riders Association (SBRA). Ride locations are from mid-Suffolk to East End. Membership is $20; sbraweb.org.
Huntington Bicycle Club (HBC). Rides start in Greenlawn. Membership is $25/person, $30/family; huntingtonbcli.com.
Massapequa Park Bike Club (MPBC). Rides start in Bethpage. Membership is $20/person, $25/family; massparkbikeclub.org.
Long Island Bicycle Club (LIBC). Rides start at Westbury High School. Membership is $20/person, includes 10 percent discount at select bike shops; bicyclelongisland.org.