Niagara Falls by bike

Bicyclists gather pre-ride on the porch at The Craft in downtown Niagara Falls. (Joe Genco photo)

Noel Dill is bullish on Niagara Falls and on cycling. Why not put both together? He did Saturday with a 17-mile ride through the city with about 30 participants.

Bill Olesiuk of The Craft, a pub at Third and Ferry with a nice patio hosted the ride for his friend. Dill said he is considering a larger bike event in the Falls but has not yet fleshed out the details.

Saturday was a bit of an experiment to see how many people might come out to the Falls for an impromptu “pick up” ride organized through Facebook. Olesiuk took a bit of a risk. Knowing he would have the crowd from the ride, he opened at noon rather than 4. He was rewarded with full tables before and after.

“When you put the door up, they come in” he said, gesturing to the garage door that connects the patio and indoor space. “I had one family that came in early today. I told them, ‘Sorry, the kitchen’s not open yet.’ They said, 'We just needed a bite to eat before going on the Maid of the Mist and nothing's open.' I made them pizza. They were so happy.”

Dill and his gang came from Go Bike Buffalo, Slow Roll Buffalo and Slow Spokes organizationally but also places of residence like Hamburg, West Seneca, Cheektowaga, Buffalo and Clarence. Most had never biked in the Cataract City before.

The ride stayed mostly on the South End of the city with two breaks or “mass ups” at the Discovery Center and on Goat Island.

“We are seeing the Falls turning the corner,” Dill said. “This is a completely different ride than we are used to. We saw the best of Niagara Falls and we saw the worst. Niagara Falls and Buffalo were the cities of the future 100 years ago. They made the mistakes we have learned to overcome.”

A group of about 20 stayed to share a few beers and lunch after the ride, including Rob Brandon, a Slow Roll Buffalo squad member who said his goal for 2021 is to pedal at least 2 miles daily regardless of weather on his trusty orange Giant. Saturday made it 128 days without a break, even in winter. Dill said he rides year round as well. Dill revels in the Falls and his tight-knit biker gang.

“This is fun for me because my day job is in real estate development and we get to bring people to Niagara Falls. Paul Stephen and Stephen Development are committed to Niagara Falls. We have been since Paul and his partners invested in The Jefferson 20 years ago.”

The Jefferson is a large commercial/residential building on Rainbow Boulevard in Niagara Falls.

For David Relan, considering the Falls in a different light lit a lightbulb.

“I think we need to have a vegetarian restaurant here again,” he said. His family previously had a restaurant in the Falls as well as Bollywood Bistro on the University at Buffalo North campus, which is still open

Dill and most of those riding Saturday have been regular participants in Slow Roll Buffalo and other community rides designed for fun and to raise community awareness.

A good place to find more information is www.slowrollbuffalo.org even if Saturday’s ride was unrelated to that organization.

Saturday’s riders included people on everything from $2,000 carbon fiber road bikes to electric assist rides that can go for $4,000 or more. Others rode on 30-year-old mass market 10-speeds easily available at a garage sale for $20. Dill said the only barrier to entry is desire.

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