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New Buffalo Bike Tours explore city's 'under-the-radar' history

Marc Moscato biked Buffalo before it was cool.

“Before I left about 16 years ago, I had been involved with bike advocacy and it seemed like it was really dangerous to ride your bike,” he said. “I remember biking and people screaming [slurs] at me just because I'm riding my bicycle. Sometimes it still happens, but to move back and to see things like Reddy Bikeshare, Slow Roll and GObike – all of which didn't exist prior to my leaving – is totally amazing.”

Moscato, 42, a Kenmore native who spent 15 years in the Pacific Northwest before returning to the region last year, led a nonprofit during half his time away called Know Your City, in Portland, Ore.

The self-described “fair-weather bicyclist” recently launched a similar enterprise called Buffalo Bike Tours, with the motto, “Ride – Before It Snows!” The regional development manager for the March of Dimes will spend many of his off hours leading guided tours from May to Halloween, some in line with city stereotypes, others that blow them away.

“When people from out of town typically think of Buffalo history, they know chicken wings, they know snow storms, and they know a losing football team,” Moscato said, “but there's a lot of amazing history here, and a lot of it is kind of under the radar.”

Moscato lives on the West Side. He pilots a vintage 1980s Panasonic road bike during warmer months, and a 2009 Toyota Yaris when the weather turns.

Buffalo Bike Tours founder and owner Marc Moscato brings his ukulele along on guided tours to liven things up. (Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bike Tours)

He will lead four 1 p.m. Sunday rides starting at Campus Wheel Works this month. The first two are donation-based spins, one this weekend that explores lesser-known city history, and one next week focused on "historical heavy-hitters." Two food tours will follow; the first with stops at ethnic favorites, the second at top chicken wing emporiums. Those cost $50. Register for the rides at  bit.ly/2MfW53B.

The rides, two to three hours long, are twists on the A/Sides, B/Sides, East Meets West and Wing rides Moscato, Dan Regan or Tyler Madell will lead up to seven days a week, provided at least three or four people register. Learn more and make reservations at buffalobiketours.com. Those rides leave at 10:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. from Hostel Buffalo Niagara, 667 Main St., in the Theatre District. Bikes restored by GObike Buffalo can be rented for $15 for riders who need one.

The tours are heavy on storytelling – and often include old folk songs Moscato sings as he strums his ukulele.

“I have a terrible singing voice,” he said, “but in Buffalo, we don't let things like that slow us down.”

Moscato informally led several B/Sides Rides last summer, modeling them after tours in Europe where the guide passes a hat afterward.

These tours explore the city’s lesser-known history, including the Underground Railroad on the Michigan Street corridor, the raucous Erie Canal Days at Canalside, and contemporary social movements on Connecticut Street.

Guides also stop at Sahlen Field to talk about Ralph Martin's, Buffalo's first openly gay nightclub, which stood on the site from the mid-1930s to the early '50s, and where drunken patrons were welcome to sleep overnight.

“It was through activism that I kind of really saw the value of applied history," Moscato said, and drew the connections between history and some of the factors that really shaped Buffalo into the place it is.

“There was a 12-year-old girl on the tour recently,” he added, “and she said, 'I never knew Buffalo was so interesting.'”

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh@ScottBScanlon

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