Bicycle paths are by far the safest and most relaxing way to bike, because there are no motorists over your shoulder.
Fortunately, the Capital Region is blessed with plenty of well-built and scenic paths suitable for the casual cyclist.
There are plenty of 15- to 20-mile rides, journeys long enough to get blood pumping and endorphins flowing, but manageable for those who don’t dream of competing in the Tour de France.
The granddaddy of bike paths is the Erie Canalway Trail along the Mohawk and Hudson rivers. You could ride it from the state Capitol all the way to Buffalo.
Me, I’d rather be home by dinner. Here are some rides I enjoy on the trail:
• Between Colonie Town Park and Blatnick Park in Niskayuna, you’ll pass under the surprisingly peaceful southern abutment of the Northway’s Twin Bridges, and see long stretches of Mohawk marsh where you just might spot a blue heron.
• Schenectady County Community College to the trail’s end next to the railroad tracks in Rotterdam Junction. I feel a lot more relaxed than the people driving on I-890, which the bike path runs parallel to for a piece.
• From the parking lot by Passonno Paints in Watervliet south to the Corning Preserve in Albany. Barely long enough to get warmed up, but worth the ride for the frequent views across the broad Hudson and the feeling of civilization’s power when under the Patroon Island Bridge.
• From the south side of Amsterdam, ride west to the historic Yankee Hill Lock’s lovely waterfront park, on to even more historic Fort Hunter on the Schoharie Creek, then to potential food stops in Fultonville.
To the north, a gold star goes to Warren County, which has a real gem of a trail system:
• A favorite ride there is Queensbury to Lake George, starting from the trail parking off Country Club Road in Queensbury. It’s 7.5 miles to the Million Dollar Beach in Lake George — just a few hundred yards from Canada Street’s colorful human parade. The climbs are so gradual you’ll only notice them when approaching the pedestrian bridge over state Route 149.
• Another gold star goes to the Feeder Canal Heritage Trail, starting by the dam off Richardson Street in Queensbury. You’ll ride through a more woodsy riverfront than you’d expect in Glens Falls. There’s a mile or so of on-road riding from the downtown Civic Center to the Hyde Museum, then it’s off-road again. At the Five Combines in Hudson Falls, a series of five small locks — I guarantee you’ve never seen anything else like them — used to bring Hudson water down a hill to “feed” the old Champlain Canal.
• Saratoga County offers the Zim Smith Trail on an old railroad grade that runs 9 miles from Ballston Spa to Coons Crossing in Halfmoon. It passes some nice marshes and wetlands, but there really aren’t destinations at either end of the trail. Best advice: Start in either Round Lake or at Shenantaha Creek Park in Malta. Shenantaha has more parking and a Stewart’s shop a few hundred yards away, just off the trail.