County Legislator Harbin participates in the ride of a lifetime

Cortland County Legislator and Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2). (Photo provided by Beau Harbin).

Much like other Americans who observed COVID-19 risk mitigation strategies over the past two years, Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin (D-LD-2) found a love for cycling.

“I needed an outlet to go outside and do some exercise while still in the pandemic, so there weren’t a lot of options,” he said.

Harbin, the County Legislature’s Minority Leader, found a way to merge his hobby with public service. He learned of the Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP) Ride for Life, which encompasses 100 miles around Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, last year, when he saw a friend participate and fundraise. Donations raised by riders who participate in the program assist STAP to provide vital services for people dealing with HIV, Hepatitis-C, and other bloodborne diseases and chronic illnesses.

His knowledge and involvement with STAP made his participation on the ride last month a perfect fit.

“I've had a connection with that program for a couple of years,” Harbin said, adding he has worked with STAP during his time as a legislator on projects that added a safe syringe dropbox outside the Cortland County Office Building. STAP has also held listening sessions where community members, including Harbin, discuss how to reduce the number of overdose deaths in the county. 

“At this time last year, I thought this is something I wanted to do, but I was new to cycling at that point, so I put it on my bucket list,” he said.

Since then, Harbin started his preparation.

“Since the beginning of the year, I started getting ramped up and started to train for it,” he said. “I really started to train for it pretty seriously in April.”

To prepare, Harbin says he needed structure.

“One hundred miles is a long way to ride on a bike, that’s for sure. It took about seven and a half hours for me,” he said. “I needed to get my fitness back up. I needed some structure to be able to make sure that I was successful.”

Over time, as Harbin kept finding his footing in the world of cycling, he started adding long rides to his training regiment.

“As the weather got nice, I started doing 40, 50, 60-mile rides,” he said. “I started riding along the Erie Canal trail because it is nice and flat. It is a great trail we have here in Cortland.”

Some aspects of the century ride take some time getting used to, Harbin said.

“It’s one thing when you go out and you do a couple of miles and you’re on the bike seat for a half hour to an hour,” he said. “It's a different thing when it's five hours, six hours, seven hours. It just took, just as with anything else, it just took time and commitment and some dedication to be able to focus on it.”

As Harbin now prepares to participate in next year’s STAP Ride for Life, the 25th iteration, he recommended cycling for young families as a nice, inclusive bonding activity that can help maintain stable levels of fitness.

“Ride for Life is also a great fundraising opportunity,” he added.

Harbin said he reached out to friends and colleagues, asking for their support. By the time he was ready to ride, Harbin had already slightly surpassed his goal of $3,000. In total, Harbin said the estimates for the total fundraised by STAP is $122,000.

“It’s been great fun and a great motivator,” he said. “I hope to do it again next year.”