Swing into Spring 2022: Gather your friends and spring into fitness

The Daily Sentinel looks at warm weather living and activity in the Mohawk Valley region.

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For many Mohawk Valley outdoor enthusiasts, “spring forward” is not just a call to reset the clocks but to readjust the mindset from wintry weather activities to verdant spring ones. Exercise options abound, including the newest product on the market -- electric bikes.

Dick Sonne’s Cycles, Fitness and Skis, at 4465 Commercial Drive in New Hartford, witnessed an exponential annual growth in eBike sales from fewer than 10 six years ago to close to 100 in 2021.

“Electric bikes open options for people of all ages, from seniors with disabilities to athletic 20-year-olds who love to zip up and down hills,” explains dedicated biker Steve Sonne. He and his wife, Laurel, purchased the business from his parents, Dick and Ruth Sonne, in 1984.

His eBike models include specialty-market brands, Specialize, Giant, and others, which the staff customizes to fit the customer’s physique – a feature unavailable with online businesses.

Sonne notes that the health benefits can outweigh the $1,800-$2,000 price tag for a decent entry-level model. More popular than the traditional bikes, and retailing around $3,200, the lighter Step-Thru model weighs in at approximately 44 pounds. Sonne predicts eBikes will represent a big percentage of bicycle sales when bike lanes become part of the Mohawk Valley’s infrastructure.

Reggie Smith, a 20-year member of the Tramp and Trail Club of Utica, Inc., prefers a manual bike: “Biking is an excellent form of exercise, great for the body and spirit, especially when you can also socialize with friendly people who share the same interest.”

According to the club’s website, www.trampntrail.org, the volunteer-run club, founded in 1921, has conducted more than 6,000 official weekend hikes, plus kayak/canoe trips to local rivers and lakes, historic walking hikes, and bicycle trips.

Newer water sports trends are evident in the Adirondacks lakes area. Nature photographer and kayaker Sue Kiesel notes, “In the past, I could see scores of trucks loaded with Jet Skis drive along Route 28 to the Fulton Chain of Lakes, but recently, kayaking has taken over as the sport of choice.”

The Sauquoit resident adds approvingly, “Kayaking is quieter than jet skiing and better for wildlife as well as the environment.”

Frankfort resident Mike Longo enthusiastically endorses stand up paddleboarding (SUP), which has also become popular in the past five years and a sport his family enjoys near their camp in the Adirondacks.

As its name suggests, the paddler stands on the board, using a paddle to maneuver in the water. “Getting in and out of the cramped areas of canoes and kayaks can be quite challenging but paddleboards allow a person to easily step from the dock to the board,” Longo explains.

Other paddleboard advantages include stability and versatility; models can be fitted with a sail, are inflatable and easily portable, or made of fiberglass; and accessories such as bags for phones and car keys are available. The approximately 10-foot-long by three-foot-wide model accommodates two people – and the family dog. Prices start at around $1,000.

Longo recommends stand up paddleboarding as an ideal outdoor activity for all ages, even eight year olds – providing they have a good sense of balance and do not fear the water. He affirms, “Paddleboards are great watercrafts. They allow people to choose whether to actively paddle, use them for doing yoga, or to simply lay in the sun, commune with nature, get a tan, or drift in the serene lake.”

Janet Throop prefers enjoying the great outdoors with her feet firmly planted on terra firma. Her nature-loving father, Frank Crennan, now deceased, began taking her on short hikes when she was four years old. Hiking has remained her favorite sport, one she shares with husband, David, and daughter, Julie Hsu.

Locally, they frequent several trails including Old Tow Path and the Rayhill Trail; they highly recommend the Pixley Falls State Park for its grassy path. Near their camp in the Adirondacks, they hike Coney Mountain, Blueface Mountain and Castle Rock, among others. “We grab every opportunity to hike,” Janet states. “It is great exercise, and we enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, listening to the birds chirping, and watching wildlife, especially the noisy Canada geese in the spring.”

The seasoned hiker’s advice for newcomers to the sport: Start slow, choose easier routes, wear suitable footwear, and dress appropriately for the weather – sound advice for most every outdoor activity.

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