SARATOGA SPRINGS — While Saratoga Springs has long been known as a tourism destination, it has not necessarily been due to the area’s cycling roads and trails. But a new event held by Bikeatoga and the Saratoga Regional YMCA is hoping to change that.
Bikeatoga and the YMCA are teaming up to host the first annual Saratoga Foliage Ride on Oct. 7 and 8. Three different routes are offered on each of the two days, at distances of 30, 50, and 75 miles.
Ed Lindner, advocacy chair of Bikeatoga, said that while the event is a fundraiser, it is also “an opportunity” to showcase the area’s cycling roads.
“Saratoga’s such a great draw in and of itself,” said Lindner. “People know the racetrack, they know SPAC, they know our award-winning downtown. But our cycling routes are a little bit of a secret, and so we hope to change that.”
Each day’s routes provide a unique experience for riders, beginning on Saturday, Oct. 7. Lindner noted this is the 246th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Saratoga, and said Saturday’s 50- and 75-mile routes will travel through the Saratoga National Historical Park, where a re-enactment will be taking place.
“So there will be re-enactors, Continentals and Redcoats, in the park firing off muskets and cannons as people ride through,” said Lindner.
A rest stop will be provided at the Saratoga Battle Monument on Saturday. Sunday’s routes will venture further east, including parts of the Empire State Trail and Champlain Canal Trail, with a rest stop to be provided at King Brothers Dairy in Schuylerville, said Lindner.
“That’s just a lot of really beautiful rolling hills, farmland,” Lindner said of the Sunday routes. He emphasized the rides are not races, with participants able to start and ride at their own pace.
Full SAG support will also be offered for riders. The Saratoga Foliage Ride will have volunteer support from the Saratoga Shredders Mountain Bike Club and members of local schools’ National Honor Societies. Sue Commanda, outgoing chair of the Saratoga YMCA and co-president of the Saratoga Cycling Club, added that the event is also seeking additional volunteers.
Commanda said the YMCA and Bikeatoga teaming up for the event was “a natural partnership.” She noted that the Saratoga Cycling Club also assisted with designing the routes for rides.
“The Y is all about healthy living, and very supportive of Saratoga events,” Commanda said. “Bikeatoga has beautiful programs as far as their bike programs, making sure everybody has a bike to ride. And the Y has a scholarship program that they’re supporting, because nobody’s turned away.”
Prior to the rides, which begin at the YMCA, a buffet breakfast catered by 9 Miles East will be offered at the Saratoga YMCA’s outdoor pavilion, Lindner said. Riders can sign up for $99 per day, or $149 for both days, according to the registration link. Participants will receive a day pass to the YMCA, as well as an event t-shirt. A jersey can also be purchased, which was designed by artist John Coleman of Glens Falls.
The Foliage Ride was inspired by a similar ride held in Staunton, Virginia, called the Shenandoah Fall Bike Festival, Lindner said. He noted the Saratoga Foliage Ride has seen registrations from states such as Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, and even as far as Florida.
“We really should be a cycling tourist destination,” said Lindner. “And we hope over the next couple of years to build this event into something like that.”
Proceeds raised by the event will support the YMCA’s financial assistance program, which provides scholarships for memberships and programs. Funds will also help support the Bikeatoga Workshop at St. Peter’s Church, which repairs donated bicycles and donates them back to members of the community.
Lindner said Bikeatoga donated more than 500 bikes to members of the community through the workshop last year. He said they are looking to have a successful inaugural event in hopes of growing the Saratoga Foliage Ride in future years.
“We love Saratoga. We really want to support the area in any way that we can,” Commanda added. “Bikeatoga does beautiful programs, and so does the Y, and they give back, which is wonderful … So seeing the event come together, but also sharing the beauty of Saratoga with other people from other states, is fun.”
More information on the Saratoga Foliage Ride is available at srymca.org/saratoga-foliage-ride.