Bikers are many things to many people, from the free (if doomed) spirits of Easy Rider to the terrors of Altamont to stockbrokers out for a weekend jaunt. It all depends who’s looking and how hard they bother to.
So when about 40 bikes and twice as many riders descended on Cantine Field this last Saturday, the Saugerties residents cruising by on their normal, non-motorized bicycles might not have been sure what to think. They need only have looked for the signs: This was the Saugerties Boys & Girls Club Bike Run, now in its second year.
Scott Helsmoortel came up with the idea for the run last year. The Boys & Girls Club board member describes himself as “an avid rider” of about ten years. “I was trying to think of a way to do my own fundraiser,” he said, “and I figured I would give it a shot.”
Registration started at 10 a.m., with riders milling about the Cantine pavilion drinking coffee and eating bagels and catching up with friends old and new. The event had a friendly, almost familial atmosphere, as if the fact that all rode motorcycles helped form an instant connection. Some were from the Saugerties area, but others rode in from as far afield as Orange County, as shown by their jackets. A man drove a remote control car while his son chased it around the field’s playground. Helsmoortel put on some old-school rock and R&B, a music choice many appeared to agree with.
Saugerties resident Nick Loiacono came out to the ride by himself. This was the first charity ride the “independent rider” had ever done. “The Boys & Girls Club, it’s a good cause,” said the rider of 34 years.
Maintaining a significant presence at the event was Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA, a national organization with a chapter in the Hudson Valley. Calling themselves “Keepers of the Children,” over a dozen riders wore the logo, a fist with a skull and crossbones. According to information they passed out, BACA provides services to families with at-risk children, including supervision to court hearings, protection against abuse and funds for therapy.
At about noon the riders kicked off, passing through Catskill, Athens and Coxsackie before stopping for refreshments and heading back to Cantine Field. When returning through Saugerties, they received a police escort. The riders came with all kinds of bikes, many Harley Davidsons, with at least one crotch rocket and another rider on a dirt bike. One Harley rode with a Boys & Girls Club flag flapping behind it.
Joseph DeMercurio, owner of the Saugerties business JD’s Cycle Wear, had a small booth running before and after the ride. His first time tabling at the bike run, he sold helmets and gloves as well as beef jerky. “Because it’s a local event, I like to support it,” he said. He donated riding glasses and a motorcycle drink-holder as auction items and door prizes. Though he attends many charity rides like the bike run, and indeed has been riding for 12 years now, he never gets to ride in them himself. “I’m always working,” he said.
The afternoon capped off with a buffet lunch and a performance from the Paul Luke Band, which plays a strain of country and rock it describes as “Catskill Rock.” Many of its members are riders themselves, and after setting up they joined the bike run as well.
For those who choose to sit inside their vehicles while traveling at high speeds, it might have been hard to know what to make of this gathering of leather-jacketed riders like what occurred Saturday at Cantine Field. From a distance it can be intimidating, all revving engines and outsize beards and logos of punching fists, but one barely needs to scratch the surface to see what’s really going on. At $30 a ride and $15 a rider, a good deal of money was raised for the Boys & Girls Club of Saugerties. Bikers, it turns out, are like pit bulls: You just have to get to know them first.