COVID-19 has caused shortages in everything from toilet paper to Lysol, but one of the odder developments has been a nationwide bike shortage, as supply chains have slowed while demand for safe outdoor activities has skyrocketed. Luckily, you don’t need to own a bike to have a cycling-centric staycation on Long Island.
After a rough start to the travel season, Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn in Stony Brook has experienced a recent boom in reservations from Long Islanders and New York City residents looking to get away while staying safe. The inn is following health official guidelines and best practices, including requiring masks indoors, allowing for outdoor dining and spacing out seating indoors to allow for social distancing. And of course, biking with your family outdoors is a low-risk activity. Travelers can BYOB (bring their own bikes) or get a complimentary loaner as part of their stay.
“When people started to feel comfortable about travel, our whole demographic changed,” said Elyse Buchman, a retired social worker who co-owns the inn with her husband, Marty, a former history teacher. “Instead of long-distance and international travelers…now we have mostly people coming from the city, Nassau and Suffolk needing to get out…because now their homes are both homes and offices. They want to go to a safe destination where they can enjoy bike riding and feel like they are on vacation.”
Vacations are what inspired the inn in the first place. Marty had biked most of his life, and when he and Elyse met 14 years ago, she got into it too. The couple has biked through Thailand, Australia, Israel and Italy and even rode from London to Poland. Still, there was no place like home.
“On one of our trips in Italy, a lightbulb went on,” Elyse Buchman said. “One of the things we always would notice no matter where we would travel is that we enjoyed riding at home, and there were so many places that we could travel to at home that were just as nice as the places we would travel to.”
They decided to open an inn, hoping to give travelers from near and far access to all Long Island has to offer without battling the legendary traffic.
“The beauty of this one is that they can come to us as an international traveler, they can come from the city and hop the train, they can come by ferry,” she said. “Once they get here, they don’t need a car because Stony Brook is a walkable village. And then there are so many places you can go by bike from here.”
Before guests arrive, Elyse sends them an app with suggested routes. She and Marty can also customize routes. The shortest route on the app is about six miles, and more advanced riders have traveled all the way out to Orient Point. The most popular one is about 15 miles and takes visitors to Frank Melville Park, West Meadow Beach and the Old Field Lighthouse.
“If somebody only has a single day and they aren’t a long-distance rider, they tend to like that one because it’s not too far or too hilly,” she said.
There’s also limited shuttle service to the North Fork, so if a less experienced cycler wants to hitch a ride out East to bike, they can.
The Buchmans usually close the inn at the end of October, but the concept has been so popular they’ve opened up reservations at least through November, with an eye on remaining open even longer if the staycationers keep coming.
“People can still ride in the cooler weather,” Elyse Buchman said. “People still kayak and go hiking in the cooler weather. We have Avalon Park right across the street. That’s always a destination in and of itself. And then, of course, there’s the beach. Even though you may not go swimming, you can still enjoy the view and experience of being by the water.”