Bike biz booms with summer sun

New bikeways connect local riders to Tobay Beach

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In most locales, June is the month of weddings, graduations and Father’s Day. Long Island vegetable gardens boast newly sprouted greens. June is also the month that all species, sizes, colors and configurations of bicycles appear on streets and paths, and on racks on the backs and roofs of cars and trucks.

Seaford and Wantagh are prime habitats for cyclists, with miles and miles of excellent suburban bike paths. Cedar Creek Park, in Seaford, and Wantagh Park both have bike loops, and the 13-mile Bethpage Bike Path allows riders to pedal from Woodbury through Wantagh to Seaford. The 5-mile Ellen Ferrant Memorial Bikeway, recently the beneficiary of a $3.5 million upgrade, connects Cedar Creek with the 4.5-mile Jones Beach Shared-Use Path. The bikeway, in turn, connects to the 3.6-mile Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway and Shared-Use Path running east to Tobay Beach. When it is completed later this year, the greenway will run an additional 10 miles, to Captree State Park.

The area is well supplied with bicycle shops able to meet the needs of any cyclist, from beginners to hard-core competitors.

The two most serious stores serving the area — Brands, in Wantagh, and Sunrise Cyclery, in Massapequa — were packed with customers last Saturday. Row upon row of gleaming BMXs, “fat tires,” hybrids and mountain bikes lined showroom floors and filled overhead racks. Cycling accessories, from helmets and biking shoes to safety lights and bicycle couture, shared space with bike racks and equipment for indoor winter training.

“Yeah, we’re crazy busy today,” Cathy Totino said as bicycles left Sunrise Cyclery with parade-like regularity. Totino is part of the family team that owns and runs the Massapequa store, managing it with her son Joe, while husband Frank runs a second location in West Babylon.

Mountain bikes continue to be the store’s best sellers, Totino said, and are well suited to the range of terrain most riders are likely to encounter. For example, the Bethpage Bike Path has both paved and unpaved sections, and while mainly flat, it also includes at least one challenging hill.

Brands manager John Cerami has seen a variety of trends in his half-century at the store. When he first started, “10-speeds” and what are now known as town bikes were the norm. Nowadays, Cerami said, “People are buying mostly mountain bikes, but they’re buying a lot of road bikes, too.”

Totino and Cerami agreed that customers should expect to pay between $400 and $500 for an average mountain bike, with 21 to 24 gears, caliper brakes and front shock absorbers. Customer Andrew Loucas was wrangling just such a bicycle — in bright turquoise, minus the shocks — onto his car rack in the store’s parking lot. He had bought it for his 13-year-old daughter. “She needs it to ride to school,” he said. Asked how she made her choice, he said simply, “She liked the color.”

Prices can run to thousands of dollars for top-end equipment. A $16,000 Japanese-made racing bike held pride of place at Brands, next to an Italian model more modestly priced at $5,400, as well as cycles bearing the logo of legendary Belgian Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx.

“You can still get Columbus [steel] frames,” Cerami said, referring to the top-line standard of a generation ago. Most modern racing bikes are made of aluminum or carbon fiber, he said, and can weigh less than 15 pounds. Improvements include electronic shifting and power-assisted pedaling that enables riders who are older or less fit to keep up with more aggressive cyclists.

New developments in safety equipment also have made cycling less dangerous. Helmets are now available with special liners that help guard against concussions, Totino said.

“The helmet protects the head,” Cerami added. “The liner protects your brain.”

Both stores also cater to more modest bike budgets.

Cyclists’ needs are as varied as the equipment. For those whose schedules don’t permit daily outdoor cycling or who want to continue training through the winter months, there are a variety of indoor trainers available. Riders remove their bikes’ wheels, mount their frames on the devices and ride as they would outside.

“You can program courses for hills or wind resistance,” said Brands sales associate Byron James. “And you can ride in groups with people from all over the world.” James demonstrated a simulated ride in Central Park, where local riders were joined by those from Canada, Denmark, France and Sweden. One Wantagh club, Triangle-Cyclists, has 50 members who meet and ride online, James said.

Totino, herself an enthusiastic cyclist, rides a modest mid-range mountain bike and clearly loves her job. “What I like best is helping people get outside in the fresh air,” she said.

Despite the almost overwhelming variety of bikes and equipment, for some, choosing a ride is the simplest of matters. One girl of 5 or 6 did not want to give her name or age or be photographed as she stood in the midst of the bewildering array of options. But she was anything but vague about her choice of bikes. “I want a blue one,” she declared firmly.