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Water bikes hit Buffalo’s harbor, offering a workout or a view

As Tracy Cardwell pedaled into the Canalside harbor Sunday, a passing kayaker asked how she liked bicycling on the water.

“It’s easy,” she called back from her bicycle seat.

Cardwell, 48, was joined Sunday by her son, daughter and husband as they tried out the Water Bikes of Buffalo, Canalside’s latest attraction.

During their hourlong outing, the family pedaled from the Harbor Kayak end of Canalside, then whipped the bikes around and rode past the General Mills plant.

“We’re gonna feel this tomorrow,” said Cardwell, who discovered the bikes Friday and decided to return Sunday with family. “It felt great to be out on the water on a beautiful day. You can’t beat it.”

Water Bikes of Buffalo, a family-operated business, opened three weeks ago but, due to weather, has been limited to five days of operation.

When the weather does permit – as it did over the weekend – business has been steady, and curious passersby have stopped to ask questions and take in the unfamiliar sight of bicyclists on the waterfront.

On Saturday, 65 riders gave the bikes a try, said a representative for the Florczak family, which owns the operation. The Florczaks first came across water bikes during a trip to the Carolinas and, being lifelong Buffalo residents, figured starting a similar business in the area would be an opportune way to partake in the Canalside resurgence. The summertime business is scheduled to be open through Labor Day.

The water bikes are outfitted with all the makings of a standard bicycle – handlebars, bicycle seat and pedals. But instead of wheels, the bikes each sit atop two yellow pontoons – hollow plastic buoys – and are guided by a propeller and rudder.

Bicyclists have the option of riding solo on a single rider bike or gliding across Buffalo’s waterfront in pairs on a tandem bike. One water pillar double rider, which is a hand-brake operated pillar that rocks back and forth as pairs sit in a cage-like capsule, is also available.

The single rider bike costs $15 an hour, the double rider $25 an hour and the water pillar $35 an hour.

The bikes can glide through the water at speeds up to seven miles an hour, but the experience is as intensive as you make it, the family representative said. Some bikers have opted to take it slow and rent a tandem bike for a leisurely chat on the water; others have showed up actively seeking a workout.

For the most part, the bikes are fit for all ages, though there’s a 48-inch height restriction and those younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult. From employee Lauren Lamparelli’s observations, the bikes have been warmly received by riders.

“It’s a cool way to see your city,” she said.