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It’s Open Season for Bikers

They say they choose to bike for exercise, adventure, camaraderie

By Mary Beth Roach

Sam Sampere and wife Tracy Cromp, preparing for a training ride at Green Lakes State Park.

To keep in shape, to make friends, to see parts of the country and world from a different vantage point.

These are just some of the reasons why area cyclists, all older than 55, say they continue to cycle.

“I see so many people retire and drop dead. That’s not going to be me. How many people retire and have a hard time walking around the grocery store? It’s not going to be me,” said Sam Sampere, 58, of Fayetteville.

Sampere is a long-time member of the Onondaga Cycling Club and has been biking since his days as a student at LeMoyne College, when he would commute from his then-home in Syracuse’s Sedgwick neighborhood to the campus, having to climb that very steep Seeley Road, to get there.

Sampere often leads a group of cyclists during sessions at the club’s winter training facility. The riders go at their own pace and Sampere keeps them energized with his upbeat playlists.

“When you see yourself getting better and going faster it builds motivation. You build confidence,” he said.

These sessions, and clubs like the OCC, build friendships.

“It’s the camaraderie,” Sampere added. “You don’t know anybody when you join the club, but then they become your friends.”

Paul Ciaralli

At a recent training, Paul Ciaralli, 76, of East Syracuse, said that friendships are one of the main reasons he enjoys riding, a sport he took up several years ago when his brother bought him a bike.

“It’s basically the people, and it’s nice exercise,” he said. He’s also done several charity rides and his longest ride has been a 60-miler, done in three 20-mile intervals.

Mary Beth Domachowske, of Syracuse, started about eight years ago and has taken part in several charity rides, including a 100-mile ride for missing children and a 50-miler for the American Heart Association. The 65-year-old also does various triathlons, with an 800-meter swim; a 12 to 14-mile bike ride and a 5K run.

“It’s very motivating. It’s not for necessarily a medal, but for fitness,” she said.

And she said that she, too, has made a lot of friends and met women, similar in age, who enjoy working out.

Mary Beth Domachowske

That these training sessions can help cyclists stay fit during the Central New York winters is one of the reasons that Ned Roulston, 60, participates.

It “gives you a leg up on staying in shape,” he said. The Jamesville resident travels the country, too, to do 100-mile rides, call centuries, which he said are group rides “like a rolling party” with breaks every 20 miles. “You ride with people you’ve never met, but then for 100 miles, you’re buddies.” He also rode up Whiteface Mountain about four years ago he said.

Keeping healthy while enjoying something he’s done since his college days, when he raced, is what motivates Roulston.

“Now, as I get older, I’m worried about my health. I’d like to be around. This is as much for fun as it is to keep myself healthy so I can enjoy my golden years,” he said.

Health is the key motivator for Bill Reilly and Mindy Ostrow, owners of the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, who have biked not only New York state, but also in Europe.

“We want to be able to experience life this way for as many years as possible,” Reilly, 73, said. “That’s the basic motivation. Mindy’s mantra is ‘keep moving’ and cycling helps
us do that.”

And how they move!

Most of their traveling, Reilly said, is what he called “active travel.” When the pair looks for a getaway, he said, they want to be active.

Kathleen Sullivan and Dick Scheutzow
ride their bike around Onondaga Lake Park. Photo by Chuck Wainwright.

“We’ve always done hiking or biking when we’re traveling and we like that because you’re really in touch with the outdoors. You’re in touch with the people. You’re not sailing by or driving by in the car. You’re experiencing wherever you are right,” he said.

They have ridden along parts of Lake Ontario, even leaving on the ferry at Wolf Island and touring Kingston, Ontario. They’ve taken part in the annual New York State Parks and Trails ride along the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany four times and have gotten family members and friends to join in as well. They’ve done the Auburn YMCA’s Bon Ton Roulet, which is a seven-day ride through the Finger Lakes, and the cyclists, depending on which routes they choose, can ride anywhere from 45 to 75 miles a day. Reilly said that while the hills around Watkins Glen and Ithaca were challenging, it was a pleasant experience.

They’ve biked in Italy, the steep hills in which Reilly likened to those in the Finger Lakes and the West Coast of Ireland. They found Ireland more challenging than they expected and cautioned other cyclists venturing over there to watch for the stone walls that line many of the country roads. Ostrow also warned, with a chuckle, to keep an eye out for the sheep.

For one area couple, cycling has provided many more benefits than sightseeing and health.

Dick Scheutzow, 63, of Syracuse, and Kathleen Sullivan, 69, of New Hartford, met cycling about 15 years ago — and they fell in love.

The couple will be doing the 400-mile Cycle the Erie Canal ride together in mid-July, traveling from Buffalo to Albany.

The ride is sponsored by Parks and Trails New York.

The ride goes from Buffalo to Albany, and marry at Syracuse’s Burnet Park, which is one of the overnight stays on this ride.

Bill Reilly and Mindy Ostrow of Oswego in Bar Harbor, Maine.

A cyclist since he was 9, Scheutzow is involved in the local chapter of the Ride for Missing and Exploited Children and he has trained many riders over the years in ride safety, effectiveness, maintenance and etiquette. He also served on a task force in the 1980s for the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council to connect the Erie Canal trail from Camillus to Dewitt. After 30 years, he said, his dream has been realized, which was to connect the 14 miles from Camillus to Dewitt, which includes the multi-use trail up the middle of Erie from Teall Avenue to Bridge Street and from Teall to Camillus.

While all the cyclists agree as to the healthful benefits of the sport, they admit they are not immune from some aches and pains along the way — backaches, strained muscles and even sore behinds from hours on the bike seat. However, they offered some suggestions to alleviate the discomfort and build up stamina.

“The biggest preparation is for your butt because of the number of hours in the saddle,” Reilly said, advising cyclists to build up their time on the seat. “If you’re spending an hour and then two hours and then three hours riding, your butt acclimates, and it becomes no big deal.”

Ostrow also suggested that cyclists start with short day trips — and a good pair of bike shorts.

Besides the training facility run by the Onondaga Cycling Club and Central New York Triathlon Club in Syracuse, the two clubs also offer a variety of outdoor rides in season; and the Oswego YMCA offers a variety of cycling programs.

The Erie Canal Trail through Central New York is a relatively easy ride, with only slight hills to deal with. Parts of the trail are paved; other parts are gravel. There are paved trails along the east and west sides of Onondaga Lake. The east trail is in Liverpool, and the one on the western shore can be accessed near the Orange Parking Lot, off of Route 690’s Exit 7, or Longbranch Road. Near Exit 7 is another trail by the Visitor Center that will lead to Hiawatha Boulevard. The Syracuse Creekwalk takes cyclists along Onondaga Creek, from near the Destiny USA mall through parts of downtown, Lower Onondaga Park and into Kirk Park. There are parts of the Creekwalk where cyclists might need to cross city streets or the trail follows sidewalks.

So, whether for better health, interesting sightseeing or to meet new people, it’s the perfect time to get rolling.

How to Participate

Bike shops in the area are great resources for not only bikes, but gear and services. Some also have information on upcoming rides; several offer their own rides; and some of the shops’ websites have lists of upcoming rides or suggested trails. This list features more locally based stores. Also included are websites for cycling groups and trail information.

Advance Cyclery

118 Seely Road

Syracuse, NY 13224


Bike Loft

717 South Road

North Syracuse, NY 13212


The Bikery

7556 Van Buren Road

Baldwinsville, NY 13027


Mello Velo Bicycle Shop

790 Canal St.

Syracuse, NY 13210


Murdock’s Bicycles & Sports

177 W. First St.

Oswego, NY 13126


Resource Cycling

128 W. Genesee St.

Fayetteville, NY 13066


Syracuse Bicycle

2540 Erie Blvd. East

Syracuse, NY 13224


Parks and Trails New York –

Onondaga Cycling Club –

CNY Triathlon –