The Wheel Deal
Whether you're a pedaling pro or a novice, here's the lowdown on the best bike shops in the Valley. Plus, four trails you won't want to miss once you're all geared up.
The Wheel Deal
Every year, the legion of happy bike riders grows. If you haven’t joined in yet, you may need info about where to buy a bike and all the stuff that goes with it. We’ve pedaled the Valley to find the shops with the best selection and service
by Elizabeth Trickett
“The Hudson Valley is one of the best places in the world to ride,”says Lucy Anich, president of the Mid-Hudson Bicycle Club, now celebrating its 40th year. “Each place has something special.” The club hosts group rides almost daily for beginners through experienced riders and has members aged from five to 75 years old. It’s not only about riding; many groups also hold picnics, or end a ride with a stop at a local pub or coffee shop.
“It’s a great way to spend time with the family,” says George Zubalsky, owner of Dark Horse Cycles in Montgomery. “With the high price of gas, people are staying closer to home. And within a 10-mile radius, there are so many free places to ride.” If thoughts of biking conjure up images of bruise-covered, muscle-bound mountain bikers or whip-thin, spandex-clad road riders, think again. Zubalsky explains that many people believe they have to ride over rocks and through mud, but there are actually miles of local groomed trails, many of which are flat and well-marked.
When it comes to riding attire, rest assured — it’s okay to leave the spandex at home. “You can look the way you want,” says Debby Lewis, owner of Wheel and Heel in Fishkill. There are shorts and even skorts for women who want some padding without displaying their thighs to the world. For men, there are shorts available with hidden padding.
The best place to scope out a new ride, or to find the perfect riding outfit, is at your local bike shop. For any prospective biker, getting to know the shop owner is one of the best relationships you can form. “There are so many bike shops around and they are wonderful and supportive,” says Anich. “They’re a great resource.”
Piermont Bicycle Connection
215 Ash St., Piermont (Rockland)
If you can’t find what you’re looking for at Piermont Bicycle Connection, chances are you won’t find it anywhere. They stock enough jerseys to outfit the entire Tour de France in every color and crazy design imaginable. (Where else can you find the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd next to Curious George?) Funky socks are imprinted with everything from martini glasses and flowers to the tortoise chasing the hare. “It’s a labor of love,” says owner Stephen Lopatkin. For the past 14 years, the store has been named one of the top 100 bike shops in the country, which has helped attract some world-class customers. “Lance Armstrong has been in the shop, and he’s tiny,” says Lopatkin with a laugh.
Bikes: Cannondale, Scott, Lightspeed, Merlin, Titus, Independent Fabrications
Rentals: Cruisers are available
The vibe: Kid-in-a-candy-store. Even the most dedicated riders will discover something new, and the helpful staff assists in narrowing down the choices. Non-bikers will enjoy the array of artful clothing, socks and sunglasses. Kayaks are also for sale.
2294 State Rte. 208, Suite #5,
George Zubalsky knows his bikes. After 12 years at Bryan’s Bikes in Cornwall (the store is named after his son), he decided to retire. But the easy life didn’t suit him. “I was so bored,” says Zubalsky, who, after a year, decided it was time to open another shop. In 2002, Darkhorse Cycles opened in Montgomery (this time his daughter had a say in the name) and has been a staple of Orange County ever since. In his faux retirement, Zubalsky still leads post-work road and mountain bike rides and organizes at least one race a year. “We’re all about the sport,” he says. “I enjoy it and I like giving back.”
The store itself is a reflection of Zubalsky’s life and loves. Bikes line an entire wall and spill out onto the sidewalk. Test bikes are also available, along with local maps, energy bars, pumps, clothing, and all the provisions for the perfect ride. Colorful microbrew beer bottles and souvenirs from Zubalsky’s favorite places and trails line the walls. Darkhorse is like the neighborhood watering hole — locals stop in after work for a chat or even to drop off some homemade cookies.
Bikes: Specialized, Santa Cruz, Titus, Seven Cycles
Rentals: Not available
The vibe: Homey and comfortable. There’s no pretense or stuffy atmosphere. Zubalsky says it best: “What you see is what you get, and the service is exceptional.”
Overlook Mountain Bikes
93 Tinker St., Woodstock (Ulster) 845-679-2122; www.overlookmountainbikes.com
Perhaps it’s the reggae music that flows through the shop, or the fact that it’s in the funky town of Woodstock (where laid-back bikers abound), but Overlook Mountain Bikes is about as non-dogmatic as the cycling world gets. Owner Billy Denter clearly enjoys his work, and wrenches alongside his employees. “I love getting happy people on bicycles,” says Denter. “We try to keep it fun and friendly, but professional. A good shop can do both.”
Located in an old house on the outskirts of town, Overlook makes the most of its small space, with two levels of bikes against one wall and others throughout the store. Frames and rims hang from the ceiling, and Denter squeezes in a fair amount of apparel.
Bikes: Kona, Giant, Trek, Vicious Cycles, Seven Cycles, Marin, Intense Cycles
Rentals: Mountain bikes (both hardtail and dual suspension), and hybrids
The vibe: Terrific customer service sets Overlook apart. The staff helps beginners feel accomplished and psyched to ride. According to Denter, there are no stupid questions. When it’s time to rent or ride, “we’ll send them anywhere from a rail trail to a loop around Woodstock to single track in the area.”
Rte. 376, Wappingers Falls (Dutchess), 845-463-7433;
692 Rte. 6, Mahopac (Putnam), 845-621-2800; bikeway.com
Now in its 20th year, Bikeway is the cycling shop mecca, with enough bikes to make your head spin in a carbon-fiber daze. In their Wappingers location (there’s also a smaller branch in Mahopac), there are over 300 bikes on the floor along with 600 in stock, and they have enough apparel, space for repairs, and accessories to back it all up. Bikeway also offers state-of-the-art body scanning to find the perfect fit. “Fit is the most important thing once you get the right type of bike,” stresses Wappingers’ manager Mike Berretta. “There are a lot of little adjustments you can do to make any bike fit better.”
Bikes: Cannondale, Giant, Specialized; kids bikes include GT, Haro, Hoffman and Stolen
Rentals: Hybrids and comfort bikes
The vibe: The place is big, but you can still find someone to help you. They have a large selections of clothing, including helmets, socks and tiny gloves for kids, and an impressive assortment of clothing specifically for women. This bike portal can sell you a bike, outfit you for the ride, fill your pack with pumps and tubes, slap a rack on your car, and send you off with a map of local trails and the number for your local bike club. It’s one-stop shopping at its finest.
Wheel and Heel
3 S. Terrace (off Rte. 9), Fishkill (Dutchess), 845-896-7591; 20 Rte. 17K, Newburgh (Orange), 845-562-1740; www.wheelandheel.com
One of the local staples in the bike business is Wheel and Heel, run by Philip and Debby Lewis. Over the years, these former teachers have led countless rides and offered up honest advice to budding and experienced cyclists. “Some stores forget that there are so many kinds of bike riding and no way is the best,” says Debby. “Everyone is different.” Whether it’s the overflowing folder of maps and trails on hand, the repair classes and clinics they offer, or the expert attention they give to fitting each customer, cyclists will find the answers here.
Bikes: Trek, Haro, Kona, Gary Fisher, Lemond, Klein, Colnago, Redline
Rentals: Mountain bikes
The vibe: A comfortable, no-pressure atmosphere, where costomers are encouraged to learn the basics of a bike, get fitted on a trainer, and then take the bike out for a spin. The Lewises are expert fitters and will help customers find the pedals that suit them best.