When Ken Larsen retired from General Electric last spring, he made a vow to get in shape.
No beer at home. Dessert only once a day. And he resumed cycling for the first time in more than a decade, purchasing a recumbent adult tricycle instead of a two-wheeler.
Since May, he’s lost nearly 30 pounds, and on Wednesday he was celebrating his 63rd birthday by riding his TerraTrike 63 miles up and down Saratoga County’s Zim Smith recreation trail.
“Until May, I really hadn’t ridden in 15 years,” said Larsen, who lives in Schenectady and was a network engineer at GE. “Part of it was just to set a goal, here’s the kind of shape I want to be in at the end of the season.”
Larsen had celebrated his 45th birthday by riding 45 miles on a two-wheeled, diamond-frame bike, but then stopped cycling because of work and family obligations. He has a 19-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter.
When he retired, Larsen decided to buy a recumbent cycle, saying he can no longer ride a traditional bike without getting a sore neck after 11 or 12 miles.
“These things are a pleasure to ride,” he said Wednesday during a mid-morning break at the Stewart’s Shop on East Line Road. “Until you ride one, you don’t realize how much of your attention [on a traditional bicycle] goes to keeping going straight and keeping your balance.”
The Zim Smith Trail stretches nine miles from Oak Street in Ballston Spa to Coons Crossing in Halfmoon and is the centerpiece of Saratoga County’s off-road recreation efforts. Larsen was riding it back and forth between Ballston Spa and a spot just below Round Lake, where pavement gives way to stone dust.
“The Zim Smith Trail is just a very nice, almost entirely flat trail,” Larsen said. “There’s a Stewart’s right on the trail, a bakery right off the trail. It’s a great place to ride. I’ve probably ridden it 10 to 12 times.”
He learned about the Zim Smith Trail from a Ballston Spa friend, Kevin Harrison, who also rides a recumbent cycle. There’s a circle of friends — all of whom bought recumbents from Spike’s Trikes in Amsterdam — who were encouraging Wednesday’s ride and met Larsen outside Stewart’s.
Last Friday, Larsen pedalled 51 miles on the trail. On Wednesday, he started at 7:30 a.m. from Malta’s Shenantaha Creek Park and was confident of achieving his 63-mile goal by mid-afternoon.
“One of my goals for next year is to join the group that does the length of the Erie Canal, and they do about 60 miles a day,” he said.
Larsen estimates he will have ridden 1,500 miles this season, averaging 100 to 120 miles a week.
Larsen hasn’t given up beer and dessert entirely. He planned to stop for a beer before his ride ended and pick up a birthday cake at a Round Lake bakery.