Bruce Gilbert

Bruce Gilbert Credit: Bruce Gilbert

"It’s a great day for a bike ride." So says Scott Paskiewicz, pulling bikes from his trailer in the parking lot at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead on a recent afternoon.

"We do this ride every year," says the 41-year-old group leader from the Eastport Bible Church. “The fall is the perfect time to get out and ride.”

Many people think of cycling as a favorite summer pastime, but those who go two-wheeling on a regular basis tend to say fall is their favorite season. The summer crowds have departed, and the remaining fall foliage provides a beautiful backdrop. Add the refreshingly cool air that rolls in during late autumn and a spectacular November sunset — what’s not to love?

PICK YOUR PLEASURE

Everybody has a favorite type of ride and route, says Robyn Berger-Gaston, 48, of Port Jefferson Station. She prefers riding on paved roads. “My favorite place to bike is on the North Fork. It has nice, wide bike lanes along the major roads and food stands to stop at if you need an energy boost.”

Berger-Gaston generally covers 10 to 20 miles, at about a 10-mile-an-hour pace, on her rides. She often rides in events sponsored by the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association (sbraweb.org), said to be Long Island’s largest cycling club.

Lou Malfi of Huntington likes to race. The 60-year-old cyclist and president of the Massapequa Park Bicycle Club (massparkbikeclub.org) trains hard all summer, so the fall is when he really gets to ride for the fun of it. “It’s a nice change to get out and ride without worrying about heart rate or any other competitive stuff,” he says.

Malfi also prefers to ride on roads. This time of year, he favors Gold Coast rides that take him up into Oyster Bay, Bayville, Locust Valley and Sea Cliff.

“I usually head west from the Nassau-Suffolk border,” he says, because “you can get great views of beautiful waterfront homes and mansions.”

OFF-ROAD OPTIONS

Long Island is flush with off-road opportunities, too — from Setauket Woods to the Pine Barrens and many state and county parks, dirt trails and fire access roads (but avoid the seasonal hunting access only areas, which are posted). Just about any of these routes will put you smack in the middle of spectacular fall foliage and, depending on the trail, serve as simple loops for beginners to challenging tests of endurance.

“I love mountain biking in Cathedral Pines County Park in Yaphank,” says Mike Vitti, 58, of Glen Head. He’s president of the Concerned Long Island Mountain Bikers (climbonline.org), which strives to increase and maintain bike trail opportunities and access. “This park has a 4-mile mountain bike trail, and you can add in several smaller loops to increase distance. I want to see as much nature as I can.”

WHERE TO GO

Bike route maps are available at many town halls, and bike shops will suggest local routes to match your experience.

Be sure to follow the rules of the road, which include wearing a helmet, using hand signals when turning and riding with the traffic. Joining a bike club — they’re easy to find online — is a great way to learn biking etiquette, make friends and discover more trails. Here are some routes that are good during late fall:

SOUTH SHORE Wantagh Parkway Shared-Use Path is flat, fast, quiet and pretty. Start at Cedar Creek Park. Heading north? The Massapequa Preserve Bike Path runs through Bethpage State Park and has plenty of fall foliage. Access from Merrick Road on the southern end and Bethpage Park on the north.

NORTH SHORE Investigate the Gold Coast with rides that parallel the water as much as possible along West Shore Road between Oyster Bay and Bayville. You’ll need to do your own mapping for this route, which can take you up toward Locust Valley and Glen Cove.

MID-ISLAND Cathedral Pines County Park, Yaphank, is a favorite for mountain biking. Trails here appeal to intermediate to advanced riders. Indian Island County Park in Riverhead offers several miles of paved and dirt trails.

SOUTH FORK The entire stretch from Southampton to Montauk offers great riding potential. Start at Hither Hills State Park and ride to Montauk State Park and back. Trails suitable for mountain bikes also skirt the north side of Hither Hills, but follow the signs to avoid hunters.

NORTH FORK For a relaxed trip with views of Peconic Bay, tidal creeks and marshlands, start at the eastern end of New Suffolk Avenue and map a route to Love Lane in Mattituck. Soundview Avenue in Southold and County Road 48 from Inlet County Park in Greenport to Orient Point State Park also are great touring routes.

SHELTER ISLAND Ram Island Road and Gardiners Bay Drive provide a great loop with challenging hills and spectacular water views.