By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter
The Finger Lakes Region is ideal for hitting the road on two motorized wheels, with great routes and destinations that are custom-made for life on a bike. Middle-aged men and women and baby boomers alike are out there enjoying them. Here are some stories from just a few of them.
George T. Conboy, 56, chair of Brighton Securities, leaves the world of finance behind to ride one of his two BMWs – a 2010 and a 1972 – or his 1972 Honda as often as he can. His favorite destination is the Rochester Public Market every Saturday, where arriving on a bike is a great convenience. “I’ve been shopping at the market since the late ’70s, and as parking has become tighter, coupled with my reluctance to park far away and ride their trolley, I find no trouble parking a bike wherever I want,” he says.
Conboy started riding a motor-cycle for purely practical reasons, “after daily trudging up the hill from the lower parking lots at RIT.
“It was such a slog,” he recalled. “One day, I noticed that right next to each building was an area for motorcycle parking. Above my head popped a cartoon light bulb: If I had a bike, I could park right here! I promptly bought a used motorcycle – a ’72 Honda CL 350 – and a gold-flake helmet. Not only could I park closer, but with gas at the extortionate $1-per-gallon, I saved money. I would ride every day as long as temps were 40 degrees or higher.”
A whole-body experience
Jane Milliman, 48, publisher of the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal, “took the course, got my license, and started riding in the spring of 2015.” She rides one of her motorcycles “as often as I can, from April through October. It depends on the weather, but at least a couple of times a week; preferably more,” she told me.
If she is on her commuter bike, Milliman’s favorite routes are along Lake Ontario up to Pultneyville, and the back roads to her house in Victor. “If I’m bopping around on a little scrambler, I like to go to the Rochester Public Market from my office on East Avenue or my boyfriend George’s house in Rochester.
What makes a route or destination better on a bike is the thrill of negotiating what Milliman calls, “twisty roads.”
“You have to pay a lot more attention to what you’re doing, and that aspect of it is very relaxing. The rest of the world melts away,” she says. “Also, it’s a total body experience, not completely unlike road cycling, and I enjoy the physical engagement and modest athleticism involved.”
Biking for work and fun
For Dan Harris, 54, a motorcycle is more than a recreational vehicle. He rides not only 10,000 or more miles a year for pleasure, but also for his job as master tech with Country Rode Motowerks in Fairport. His current project there is a 1938 DKW German military bike.
Harris’s commute is only about 14 miles one way, but he often takes the long way around to enjoy life on his bike. “I have been known to ride down the west side of Canandaigua Lake, cut over northeast to Geneva and out to Sodus Bay, then east along the lake to State Route 350 and back to Fairport,” he told me. “I have also just headed east and found myself in Albany, Naples, Watkins Glen, Ithaca.”
He and his clients have favorite routes all over the world, but locally, they enjoy the Finger Lakes BMW Club rally in Watkins Glen on Labor Day weekend. (fingerlakesbmw.org).
Harris started riding at age 8 and now has a 1976 BMW R90/6, and a 1969 BMW conversion (a ’69 frame with a ’76 engine and other modifications), that is a work in progress.
The honeymoon continues
Sandra Glanton, 61, and her husband Lynn rented a motorcycle on their honeymoon on St. Thomas and St. John more than 30 years ago. They’ve been biking together ever since. She’s happy to be the passenger, and is just as passionate about motorcycle travel as her husband.
He’s 69, and has driven motorcycles since he was 14. “He started on a Vespa scooter, the first licensable scooter he owned. For two years before that, he owned minibikes,” Sandra explains. “He went from a Suzuki 125 when he was in college to a 1969 Yamaha 350 when he got out of the military. He purchased a Yamaha 750 in 1979 and drove that for about 30 years and put 100,000 miles on it. In 2007, before he retired, he bought a Honda ST 1300A. It has about 40,000 miles on it.”
He has taken the Yamaha 750 and the Honda ST 1300A on numerous long trips, primarily with his Xerox engineer buddies.
The couple’s favorite journeys include Sodus Point or Canandaigua Lake from their house in Walworth. “We also like a trip along Lake Road in Webster, particularly during the fall, due to the winding roads and foliage,” Sandra says. “We’ve ridden up to Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and taken the ferry across Lake Champlain to Vermont. My husband has traveled along Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains, up to Maine, and as far as Mackinaw Island in Michigan.”
Beating the stereotype
Contrary to what some people believe, bikers often have strong commitments to charitable causes. Conboy has participated in the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, an international event to raise funds for prostate cancer research and suicide prevention (gentlemansride.com/rides/united+states/rochester). It began in 2002 in Sydney, Australia, inspired by a photo of the Don Draper character from “Mad Men” riding a classic bike while wearing an elegant suit. “I decided a themed ride would be a great way to combat the often-negative stereotype of men on motorcycles, and bring niche motorcycle communities together,” says ride founder Mark Hawwa.
Conboy said: “I will be among the tens of thousands of distinguished gentlefolk in hundreds of cities worldwide who don their cravats, tweak their moustaches, press their tweed and sit astride their classic and vintage styled motorcycles this year.”
Harris has ridden to raise funds for breast cancer research.
Check out the CycleFish calendar (cyclefish.com) for thousands of motorcycle event listings, including rallies, biker parties, poker runs, rides, charity and benefit events, motorcycle swap meets, bike shows and more.” Enjoy the wind in your face as you hit the road on your bike throughout the Finger Lakes!
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (writerruth.com) is an award-winning freelance writer/editor who is terrified of motorcycles.