Jeweled water, expansive, rolling hills and grapevine vistas all define one of New York State’s loveliest landscapes: the Finger Lakes. This is a region that David Seither, physical education teacher at Gananda Central School District, knows well.
For six of the past seven summers, Seither has set forth toward the goal of riding around 10 of the 11 Finger Lakes. In 2017, he circumnavigated the 10 lakes riding solo on his bike.
A Born Runner
Seither grew up competing in track and field, and would run on his own for the sheer fun of it. When a knee surgery left him with only 30 percent of his meniscus, his doctor recommended he pursue lower impact physical activities.
“I’m a pretty active person so I got into biking,” Seither says. “This was about 10 years ago.”
Between having surgery and becoming a father, Seither, now 40, got serious about his bike riding. In 2009, he told his friend Eric Smith he wanted to ride around the Finger Lakes — all of them, with one exception. The two men eliminated Otisco Lake because, although it has only six miles of shoreline, the roads around it total 35 miles with little view of the lake.
“I’m motivated by goals,” Seither says. “After our conversation we began to plan out our rides.”
Using a regional biking book, “30 Bicycle Tours in the Finger Lakes Region” by Mark Roth and Sally Walters, Seither and Smith began to plan the logistics of the endeavor. Both men had families, so they decided to tackle the rides as a series of weekend morning rides. Seither’s wife, Julie, wanted him to go early so he could return and be able to spend time with their young children during the day. Plus, for safety’s sake, early morning rides meant lighter traffic. Seither usually takes a picture of himself after each ride to send to his wife letting her know he completed the ride.
For conditioning purposes, Seither and Smith started with the smallest lakes and saved the larger ones for the end of the season.
“It was built-in training,” Seither says.
The smallest lake on the itinerary is Canadice, a 12-mile ride. Honeoye and Conesus are each 18 miles. After these two the mileage bumps up to 41, 42 and 43 miles for the larger lakes, and the biggest ones measure in the 80s.
After a couple of years riding this pattern, Seither and Smith realized it took more time to drive to the smaller lakes than it did to ride them. So they began to combine the smaller rides.
The biking activity soon became a summer tradition. And with it, friends joined Seither and Smith.
“There are about five of us,” Seither says. “Eric and I do all of them but the others kind of pop in and out as they can.”
That first summer in 2009, Seither and Smith were not able to ride all 10 lakes. But most years since, they've accomplished their goal. Summer 2017 proved the most challenging. A litany of circumstances kept friends from participating. As a result, Seither did all 10 rides alone.
“They’ll be back next year,” he says.
Now that Seither’s children are older, he has more time to take in the sights and enjoy the views. He says that back in 2009 his familiarity with the Finger Lakes was limited to Seneca and Keuka. Owasco, Canadice, Skaneateles and Hemlock were all new to him.
“It used to be all about how fast I could get around,” he says. “Now that I’m older I stop, have a snack and take in the views.”
Keuka Lake — a 43-mile, fairly flat ride — is Seither’s favorite, but he finds all of the lakes gorgeous and has a hard time choosing which one he likes best. He is also impressed with the cultural history. He revels in discovering the historic placards that dot the roadside along the lakes. Rockefeller’s boyhood home, an extinct hamlet and the white deer population at the Military Depot have all been fun finds.