So, you’re thinking of heading out for a ride on the Erie Canalway Trail trail this summer. Maybe a day trip to a trailside museum or Canal community? Or even a multi-day Buffalo to Albany adventure. Here’s what you need to know….
1. Plan it out
Use PTNY’s interactive Canalway Trail map or Cycling the Erie Canal guidebook to scout out a segment of trail that works for you. Important considerations are trail surface, amount of road riding necessary, and terrain. Both the interactive map and guidebook use color coding to indicate the trail surface that you’ll encounter at various points along the Erie Canalway Trail. The most common surface on the statewide trail is compacted stone dust, but you’ll also see some paved sections. When dry, stone dust provides a similar ride to pavement. When wet, stone dust may provide more rolling resistance than pavement. Besides stone dust and paved off-road trail sections, on-road connections make up some of the trail network as it crosses New York state.
Other things to look for when planning a trip are availability of parking and location of trail-side amenities and services. If you’d like to do a one-day “out and back” (a trip where you ride one way to a destination, then back to your origin) then it might be best to find a location where there are places to eat, bathrooms, or a museum at your turnaround spot. And you probably want these services close at hand, so you don’t have to ride miles out of your way. Fortunately, there are endless possibilities for this type of trip on the Erie Canalway Trail, with most canal towns located right on the trail.
For multi-day trips, you’ll want to look for lodging or camping accommodations near the end of your day’s ride. Again, there are many good choices on the Erie Canalway Trail, and PTNY’s guidebook and/or interactive map are the best places to look.
2. Check your gear
Your bike should be in good mechanical condition and comfortable to ride. You may need to visit your local bike shop to make adjustments. Most Erie Canalway Trail riders use hybrid bikes because of their comfort and versatility, but touring bikes, cyclocross bikes, and gravel grinders are also good options. Tandems, recumbents, and trikes are welcome.
Due to the varying surfaces you can encounter on the trail, it is important to think about your tires. We recommend tires with puncture protection, 28-42mm wide for 700c wheels and 1.3- 1.6” wide for 26” wheels. If you ride a road bike, we suggest the widest tires the frame will accommodate for a smooth ride. For mountain bikes, we suggest non-aggressive tires or “slicks” to reduce rolling resistance. Trike riders should know that small portions of the Erie Canalway Trail are single track. If you have questions about your tires, ask at your local bike shop.
See PTNY’s Cycle the Erie Canal Rider Handbook for other gear suggestions and considerations.
3. Be prepared for the unexpected
Beyond ensuring that you are prepared for unforeseen events relating to your bike, the most challenging and unpredictable element in cycling may be the weather. You never know when you’re going to get wet, so be prepared. A good, waterproof rain jacket is an essential item for any but the shortest of rides.
4. Be prepared for the unexpected …. Part 2
A flexible attitude can be the more important than any piece of equipment you bring to the trail. That’s because many of the wonderful aspects of trail riding are discovering things that you didn’t expect. We’re talking about wildlife, great views, quirky trail-side shops and attractions. Each Canal community has its own interesting history, and you are as likely to hear about it in a neighborhood diner as the local historical society. There’s also great Canal infrastructure on display as you ride along both historic and modern sections of the Erie Canal – lift gates, locks, abandoned walls, and more… So, take time to take it all in, and don’t worry about hitting everything on your list in one go-around.
5. Consider a group ride
Group rides are a great way to get into cycling.We regularly highlight group rides on the Erie Canalway Trail through the Trail Facebook page. Some good examples of group rides for a range of rider abilities are Tuesdays on the Towpath in the Syracuse area and the weekly trail ride that heads out weekly from Bike Barn in Cohoes in the Capital Region. Of course, the grand daddy of all organized rides is PTNY’s annual Cycle the Erie Canal bike tour, which covers the entire, 360-mile trail in eight days – fully-supported.
6. Share your story
If you’ve completed the full Erie Canalway Trail, either in one trip or over several trips, you are an Erie Canalway Trail End-to-Ender! Register online to be included in the annual End-to-End Honor Roll, and to receive your free End-to-Ender certificate and decal. Registering as an End-to-Ender will also enter you in a raffle for an LL Bean gift card(LINK)! We’d also encourage you to connect with other trail users through social media. The official Erie Canalway Trail Facebook page is the place to start. We post stories and pictures of trail users. We also provide up-to-date information on trail closures and happenings along the Canal corridor. You may also be able to connect with other trail users that you met on your trip.
Well, we’re feeling inspired. How about you? And most of the tips listed above apply to any multi-use trail, not just the Erie Canalway Trail.
See you on a trail this summer!