By KELLY NICHOLAIDES
When she’s not flying as a commercial pilot, Jen Savitch gets on her bicycle for fitness and convenience — and her family embraces the lifestyle. Her sons, Ethan, 15, and Luke, 16, will be on the volunteer Bike&Walk Montclair medical team to assist up to 600 bicyclists in the Tour de Montclair on Sunday, Oct. 7, 10 a.m.
The iconic community bike ride begins at Crane Park. Riders can spin through a six-mile or a 12-mile option at their own pace.
“The medical teams ride in pairs. If somebody gets thirsty or needs a power bar, the teams have water and food. Backpacks they carry also include gauze, tape, and bandages in case anyone gets hurt,” Savitch said.
Whether someone uses a road bike, mountain bike or dirt bike, the exercise and mode of transportation brings a heightened awareness of one’s environment, she noted. “It’s what keeps me alive, and it’s so ingrained into my life. It’s a time to put everything aside, breath in the air, listen to the sounds, take in the sights, and go over a few bumps. It’s also a friendly way to get around. We’re out here together, part of the community and nature,” Savitch said.
Safety tips include sharing the road, following traffic laws and anticipating dangers.
“You have to expect that every parked car you pass can have a door open on you. Give yourself enough space and try to hold that straight line for safety,” Savitch said.
The Tour highlights parts of town not easily seen by car, noted Bike&Walk Montclair event organizer Nick De Toustain. The software sales professional joined the non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that advocates for policies, programs and street designs that support biking and walking five years ago. He grew up on a bike, and enjoys it for freedom and independence as ease of getting to school or hitting a trail.
“Bicycling is an alternative to cars and has health, social, economic, recreational benefits as its driving force. We’re not anti-car. There’s room for everybody. Share the streets. We want to get more people to take a bicycle to get from point A to point B, get across town to the Y, or go pick up a loaf of bread,” said De Toustain.
The annual event peaked at 1,000 riders up until six years ago when it took three years off, and saw a relaunch 2016 with 300 riders. Last year, 500 people registered. This year, De Toustain has 300 so far and expects hundreds more the day of the event.
“The two tour options take riders through the maximum number of sites and attractions that you’d normally zoom past in a car. You gain a better appreciation of Montclair, its architecture, gardens and people in all four wards. Hop on a bike or put on your walking shoes. We understand that cars are essential in New Jersey, but short trips on a bike build awareness,” De Toustain said.
Riders will cruise by the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, Nishuane Park, the Montclair Art Museum, beautiful homes and gardens throughout the township all at the rider’s own pace.
Diamond Cycle will provide on site basic mechanical tune ups before the rides in the staging area at the YMCA. Riders should get their ABCs (air, brakes, chain) checked before they dust off any bicycles from their garages, De Toustain said.
As a means of transportation, bike riding resurgence could be due to practicality, as well as more New York City professionals living in suburban New Jersey to raise families. Bike&Walk offers lessons for children and adults, teaching thousands of residents how to ride safely, respectfully and courteously. “We teach bicycle riders to co-exist. Don’t swerve, run red lights or block traffic. Be mindful and share the road,” De Toustain said.
The Tour de Montclair is hosted by Bike&Walk Montclair and the Montclair Center BID. The Montclair Bread Company will provide donuts, fruit and coffee before the ride and pastries, lemonade and sandwiches afterwards. Gelotti will offer gelato after the ride. Phil Cantor Photography will snap fun, celebratory photos of riders, and The Deep Dig band will entertain all.
Registration for the Tour is available online at bikewalkmontclair.org and on the day of the event from 9 a.m.- 9:45 a.m. Riders will start lining up at 9:30 a.m. Registration includes a T-shirt, branded string sac, admission to the tour and a one-year membership to Bike&Walk Montclair. Cost is $35 — includes registration for one indivual; family is $50 — includes registration for up to five individuals; and youth/senior is $25 — includes registration for one individual.
Sponsors include Diamond Cycle, Gelotti, Lukas & Berube, Montclair Bread Company and Phil Cantor Photography. The event receives support from The Township of Montclair, Montclair Police and the Montclair YMCA.