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Experience this: Ice bikes at Canalside

You know those ice bikes you see gliding around the ice at Canalside? They are moving into the fast lane.

Made only in Buffalo, they can now be found in Rochester, Vancouver, British Columbia, and, most recently, in Green Bay, Wis., at the request of the Green Bay Packers. They have been celebrated by National Geographic.

But how many of us here have experienced this pedal power?

It's time. Hate to break it to you, but winter won't last forever.

Sometimes there's a wait.

"Check in with us," said Lisa Florczak, who invented the bikes and launched them four years ago. "If it's an hour or something, we take your cellphone number, and we give you a call and say your bikes are ready. Grab a coffee at Tim Hortons. Go see the river, see if the lake is frozen. Go get some hot chocolate." Hot chocolate is for sale in the heated concession area.

The ice bike booth is next to the skate rental booth. Step up. Sign a waiver. An attendant will select an ice bike for you, hand you a helmet, and help you hop on.

The essentials

Where: Canalside, next to the skate rental booth.

When:  Special winter break hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, Feb. 22, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday. Normal hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Cost: $12 for a half-hour.

Tip: Call ahead. If there is a long wait, you can leave your phone number and get a call back when your bike is ready.

The experience

It's strange at first. The bikes have a streamlined, patented design, with a blade in front and a wheel in back. They don't glide as easily as you think they will.

Turning takes particular effort. You have to rotate the handlebars an entire 90 degrees, and then some. That is when it is most like skating. You feel that satisfying scrape of the blade against the ice.

To stop the bike, you simply pedal backward. Not that I could get that in my head. It has been forever since I rode a coaster bike, so I bumped into a stranger's ice bike.

A head-on collision. But no harm done.

These bikes really are safe. They don't tip. They can't, from what I understand. They are designed to co-exist with skaters, which they have been doing, knock on wood, for four years. Though I heard they can go fast, mine didn't, and I pedaled hard.

Which reminds me: You will get a workout, should you desire. Florczak does not desire.

"Some people want a workout. They want to push it. That's great," she said. "But if you're me, you just want to be active and involved with friends. This is a great alternative that lets you do that."

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