By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette — For those who haven't ridden on two wheels in a while, there is no longer an excuse not to check out the bike paths along the river.
A new business called "Preview the Falls" has opened at 6720 Buffalo Ave., and there are 20 different bikes to choose from for children and adults.
Owner Gregory Smalko is particularly proud of his bikes, all cruisers designed for comfort with large, cushioned seats.
"Everything is brand new," he added, noting that the bikes come equipped with saddlebags, water bottle holders and helmets.
The bike rental location is across the street from the city's new LaSalle Park, near the south Grand Island bridge. An entrance to the bike path which leads to the falls is nearby as well, so tourists can ride along the Niagara River to Niagara Falls State Park.
Smalko, who has been handing out brochures to all the motels and hotels in the city and is available on Facebook while he creates a website, is a bicyclist himself, and rides the bike path often. Opening the business in June was a dream he'd had for years.
Mayor Paul Dyster visited Smalko's location recently and was happy to see a bike rental business in LaSalle. "I think it's a great idea," he said.
"Not everybody owns a bike and not everyone who does wants to carry it on their car when they go on vacation," he added. "It's a service that has to be offered in a tourism economy."
Dyster, who on a recent vacation rented bikes with his family, noted that the rental shop's proximity to the bike trail is a plus. "Families are much more interested in using a dedicated bike trail, because they don't have to worry about cars. It makes the whole affair so much more relaxing."
He added that the bike trail will be getting some maintenance soon. The riverside path is a city project constructed on state land, cared for by the city.
Now that the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel has agreed to pay the city the money it was owed, there will be some cash available for the trail, and Dyster plans on making the small improvements that riders have come to expect on the bike paths.
That's good news for Smalko who is concerned about the length of grass surrounding parts of the trail. "Compared to other bike paths around the area, it could definitely use a facelift, just to keep it looking good," he said.
Regardless, tourists sometimes don't notice the little things in the face of the grandeur of the falls. A family who rented four of Smalko's bikes on Friday enjoyed the whole experience.
"We thought it was great," said Stephanie Cinchy of Ocean, N.J., who, with her parents and sister, rode the rental bikes to the falls. "We rode all the way down to the state park. It was beautiful. It's just the perfect distance to ride."IF YOU GO WHAT: Preview the Falls Bicycle Rental WHERE: 6720 Buffalo Ave. FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 245-0787 or visit "Preview the Falls Bicycle Rental" on Facebook