Biking Through Crisis: An Interview with Samantha M.

As we explore ways to travel and find the outdoors by bike near New York City, we wanted to hear from local experts to get their insider insights. We were lucky enough to catch Samantha Moranville of Kingston’s Revolution Bicycles as she was returning from a bike trip in the Catskills.

On moving from New York City to Kingston

My husband was born and raised in NYC and worked in bike shops in the city since he was kid. When I met him 20 years ago, he was working in a bike shop in Manhattan. Before we got married, we started talking about opening a bike shop in Williamsburg. At that time there was no dedicated bike shop in Williamsburg. We even had a whole business plan written up but didn’t end up doing it.

We had been coming up to the Hudson Valley with friends and wanted to buy a weekend place here but we immediately figured out we couldn’t afford anything in the sticks. We accidentally discovered Kingston through a cheap real estate listing. I immediately fell in love with Kingston – it’s a diamond in the rough, it’s vibrant, beautiful, has gorgeous architecture – it’s everything I could want. We ended up moving here full time after a few years.

Revolution Bikes Kingston

From the 2009 Recession to the 2020 Pandemic

In 2009, when everything started to crash it looked like my husband was going to get laid off. We  said “this is our moment”. At the end of March, I found a 250 square foot space in Saugerties and by the end of April we opened. In 3 weeks, we’ve never worked so hard in our lives. It took off – the people of Saugerties needed the bike shop.

Fast forward, we kept growing and we realized that we sold a bike to everyone in Saugerties and realized “we’re not going to survive here”  – so we started looking for new spots.  We had always wanted to look in Kingston,  but the hard part of Kingston is finding the right location. 

It was serendipity when I stumbled across a commercial listing that would work. It took us 6 months to buy the place and get environmental testing (it had been a laundromat.) We took a few months to renovate, then we moved. Before we officially opened, we were already doing business processing sales on the cellphone.

It’s been gangbusters in there ever since. One of the cool things about Kingston is that we have a progressive government and they have really made alternative transportation a centerpiece of the entire city plan.

This summer, Samantha and her husband Steve decided to close the shop for three weeks because they had sold out of most of their inventory. “The nation is experiencing a bicycle boom like we haven’t seen since the 70s gas crisis, and that is fantastic! We welcome all the new cyclists into the fold.

 

On her favorite spot for biking in the Hudson Valley

My favorite spot for biking in the Hudson Valley is Minnewaska Park outside of New Paltz. That park has carriage trails, two lakes, a waterfall, and the most spectacular views. There are a variety of trails that  are challenging enough that you’re not bored but accessible enough that you don’t need to be a hardcore cyclist to go.

On the best place to go on a beginner-friendly bikepacking trip

I’d say an easy trip for a beginner that is two days where you pedal, camp and pedal back is on the Empire State Trail once it’s open. You can start anywhere in Kingston and New Paltz area, load up, and then travel up over the Kingston Rhinecliff Bridge* then pedal down to Ferncliff Forest. Ferncliff is a private forest preserve that allows camping, mountain biking, hiking and has a fire tower where you can climb to the top and get views. 

 

A few more tips & tricks:

  • While the Empire State Trail is not completed yet, you can still follow this route but it just isn’t yet completely car-free
  • It is legal to bike across the Kingston Rhinecliff Bridge but you are not allowed to stop and take pictures
  • Ferncliff Forest also has lean-to’s if you’re trying to go ultra lightweight
  • If you want to do it car-free, you can take the train to Poughkeepsie and head over the Walkway Over the Hudson to New Paltz. Coming back, you’d take the backgrounds that run parallel to Route 9 – which are hilly but not as hilly as the Catskills.

If you’re in Kingston, stop by Revolution Bicycles to grab any extra gear you need to ride autonomously (pumps, tubes), or bikepacking gear like racks! They’re easy to get to and also are full service if you need a mechanic.

 

Bikepacking Guide

Mappy Hour and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. are teaming up to bring our community an introduction to bikepacking from the local stories to the necessary skills to get you out on your next biking and camping trip.

If you need a frosty beverage as you enjoy these video replays, head to Drizly for delivery to your doorstep or visit your nearby Whole Foods.

BIKE x CAMP