Rich Shapiro and Lindy Ellis are newcomers to our area, arriving as permanent residents just last summer. However, they have been making winter excursions here from the Southern Tier of New York since Christmas of 1981.
"We have been coming up to cross-country ski for more than two decades," explained Lindy. "We were never here in the summer until 2004. We love the people and the vibrant village of Saranac Lake. We enjoy shopping in area stores; the shop owners have been wonderful to meet."
Rich adds: "This village is alive, with great businesses and many wonderful people. There is a mix of folks who grew up here and those who have chosen to move here. We love the outdoor activities - cross- country skiing in winter, pedaling bikes, paddling on the water in summer. This is a lovely small town, with lots of things other villages don't have. There are many activities to do on weekends. We bought the house 4 1/2 years ago, knowing we wanted to move here once Lindy retired."
They met in engineering college, and have lived in the southern tier for the past 33 years, working for Corning. Lindy headed an engineering group that was part of Corning Inc. until she retired last summer.
Rich retired in 1995 and began his business, Gear To Go Tandems, www.gtgtandems.com.
He explains how they first got into tandem riding: "In 1991, we wanted to do a three-day, 150-mile fundraiser ride for the American Lung Association and Lindy was not a strong enough rider. The tandem allowed the two of us to do it together. Never having ridden a tandem, we did a three mile test ride in the rain and got hooked. After that we ordered our first tandem, did the long ride and then kept on riding whenever we could. Neither one of us is a strong rider. We don't do long distances nor do we climb hills very well. But we really enjoy the time spent outdoors doing something and doing it together."
The business has grown and is now New York state's largest tandem bicycle shop. In addition to selling tandem bicycles, Rich coordinates tandem bicycle tours. He has organized tandem tours since 2001 in the Thousand Islands, Lake Champlain, Finger Lakes, Niagara region, Ohio, and Canada. He has organized the Southern Tier Tandem Rally since 1993, and is planning the first annual Saranac Lake Tandem Rally this June. Rich said, "We are expecting to have 30 tandems, and a triplet, here in Saranac Lake for the tandem rally the last weekend of June. Should be quite a sight!"
Rich feels tandem biking is perfect for our area.
"It's low key and low impact," he explains. "The sport attracts people who like to combine outdoor exercise with social activities. It's a great pastime for families and couples of all ages. The average age of tandem riders on our tours is in their fifties, much to the amazement of the folks in all the small towns we pass through. Tandem folks will be a plus for the local economy, with their hotel, food and shopping purchases. And they'll likely come back each year, once they have tandemmed in Saranac Lake."
He continues: "It's a specialized, service-oriented business - we help couples learn how to tandem and enjoy the tandemming experience. Tandems are the great equalizer. People have fun together; they can ride together even if they have different riding strengths. Tandem bikes are a product most local bike shops aren't familiar with. In Elmira, our average customer traveled 150 miles to get to us."
"Our relatives can't understand why we moved here," continues Lindy. "We really enjoy the winter, and we have met so many active people here, all ages. So many people here enjoy outdoor sports."
"We're interested in supporting the community. We've always had a sense of volunteerism, trying to do what's right. We're starting to get involved in the Skate Park committee," Rich adds.
Rich is the cook; Lindy loves to garden. Both enjoy refinishing old clocks, with Rich working out the mechanics while Lindy works on the exterior. They also spent a year-and-a-half in Japan with their tandem bike.
This article was based on an interview with Rich Shapiro and Lindy Ellis. Yvona Fast's professional website is