Preparing for the Ride
Here's information on what sort of things you need to bring with you. Note: Use of an ANSI or Snell approved Helmet is required. There
are tips on training to help
you get in shape for the ride if you aren't already. It isn't a strenuous
trek, but you will enjoy yourself more if you prepare yourself. You'll
also find information on choosing
a bike, accessories, and clothing.
Packing for the Ride - Suggested List
- A good bicycle with tires in good condition
ANSI or Snell approved helmet
Small repair kit that will include: a tire, spare tube, tire irons, patch kits, Allen wrenches, screwdrivers, pump
Rear view mirror
Water bottles and cages (2)
Bike mountable bag
Bike lock & cable
- Duffel Bag (distinctive label)
- Clotheslines & pins
- Wrap clothing in plastic bags inside luggage
- Aspirin (pain killer)
Any personal medicines
- Insurance card
- Toilet paper (just in case)
HALT spray (to keep dogs away)
Camera & film
ID (driver's license)
Money/ traveler's checks/ credit card
Writing materials & stamps
- Cell phone (if available) for emergency contact
Training for the Ride
When preparing for Cycling the Erie Canal, there is no substitute for miles and minutes. The people who spend time preparing have the most fun. If you wait till the last moment, put off training and tuning up your bike, you'll find each day hard enough that you won't have much energy to enjoy touring the historical sites during day and evening activities.
This is especially important for families with children. It simply isn't fair to bring a ten-year-old without spending time beforehand helping him or her get ready. Even if you are resigned to the pain of the untrained, take some pity on others in your family and get them out on training rides.
How much is enough? If you could take the time to ride 400 miles before Cycling the Erie Canal you would be in excellent shape to ride each day. However, some training is better than none. Set a reasonable goal given your schedule, and stick to it. Your work will pay off.
Try working some organized tours into your schedule. These will help you meet people and take you to some wonderful places. Also consider joining your local bicycling club. Again, you'll meet great people who can help you train and give tips on touring.
Basic Training Schedule
The plan here is simple: ride five miles. Begin with some 5-mile rides in April. This should take less than an hour. A lot of short rides at this time of year will let you build up gradually.
The trick is, once you are used to riding 5-miles, do it twice in a row. In May do these 10 miles rides for the first couple weeks, then gradually add one five mile ride at a time. By the end
of May, you should be able to put together four or five five-mile rides, and do 20 or 25 miles at a time. The weather is great then, you'll want to be out anyway.
Around the first of June, move up to 30-35 mile rides. Then, a week or two before Cycling the Erie Canal, go for it all. Do at least two 50 mile rides, Cycling the Erie Canal style. This means stop frequently, do some sightseeing, and try to pace yourself so that you have enough energy the rest of the day to enjoy yourself.
Children Need to Train, Too
It is very important to help your children train for the tour, too. They need to be taught to drink often, when to eat, and road etiquette. Practice helps them learn to ride in a straight line and obey traffic laws. These are crucial skills for safety on the road, not just during the tour, but always.
This is also the time to find out how your young ones take to riding in a trailer, if you plan to bring one on the tour. Nothing is worse than finding out the first day, 30 miles from the start, that your child cannot tolerate the motion.
Choosing Your Bicycle
It's a well-known fact: better quality, lighter bicycles ride more easily than heavier ones. And you'll find these bicycles are less prone to breakdowns, too. It all adds up to easier riding, which translates into a less tired biker at the end of the day.
A light bike is not everything, though. A wide selection of gears will also make your day more pleasant. Lastly, a bicycle that fits will be infinitely more comfortable than one that doesn't. A bicycle shop can fit you to the appropriate size; a department store may not.
If you can't afford a new bicycle, don't despair. People can ride the tour successfully on bicycles of every description. Do take the time to get whatever you are going to ride in top mechanical condition though.
You probably know by now that when you buy your bicycle, you aren't done spending money yet. The most important accessory is a good helmet. They aren't expensive anymore, certainly less so than a lifetime of invalid care. Find one that fits, and that has been certified by the Snell Institute and passes the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards. You MUST wear it on Cycling the Erie Canal, but you'd be crazy to leave it home at any time. It's especially important to set an example for children: why would they want to wear one if mom and dad don't?
A frame pump, patch kit, tire tools and a spare tube are a must. Don't know how to change a flat tire? Don't be embarrassed. If the truth were known, probably half of those on Cycling the Erie Canal don't either. Just stop by your local bike shop some weekday morning when they aren't busy, and they'll be happy to show you. Or call the local bike club and ask.
You'll need a place to carry these repair items, along with money, glasses, sun block, and food, so you will need some sort of bag. A belt bag or fanny pack works, as do the variety of bicycle-mounted bags. Remember that you won't be able to access your luggage until you've reached that day's destination. So you may also need to bring rain gear or a windbreaker.
You will also need water bottle cages and water bottles. Nothing will stop you dead in your tracks on a bike faster than dehydration.
Some other tools come in very handy at times. Consider a chain tool, a spoke wrench, an adjustable wrench, Allen wrenches (metric, 4, 5, and 6 mm), and duct tape. Even if you're not sure how to use them, someone on Cycling the Erie Canal will know how.
For a week, the entire weight of your body is going to be forced down on the three places your body meets your bike: your hands, feet and posterior. Clothes can make a huge difference on how that contact feels.
Bicycle gloves help with pressure, and with chafing. New washable styles can help keep them presentable for a long time.
Bicycle shoes come in many styles, for the ski-binding type of pedal to the sneaker-type touring shoe. On Cycling the Erie Canal, the touring shoes are better for all the sightseeing you will do off the bike.
New bicyclists always have questions about bicycling shorts. Be assured they are very functional. They help combat the bicyclist's biggest enemies: heat and moisture. Sitting on a bicycle seat all day creates an ideal microclimate for bacteria growth, which quickly leads to a sore posterior. Cycling shorts have a sewn-in pad to soften the contact and absorb this moisture. Good pads then dry quickly. The lycra material also allows perspiration to dry quickly, keeping you cooler, and by conforming to your skin the shorts are more aerodynamic as well.
If you don't like lycra, however, consider touring shorts. These have the appearance of normal shorts, but are constructed with a pad, and are sewn so that seams don't overlap in any sensitive areas. Anyone who has ridden in jeans knows what that can feel like.
Regardless of which type of shorts you use, applying diaper cream to the area of contact before riding can help avoid problems down the road.
While people wear all kinds of jerseys, the truth is you can cycle in most any top on a dry summer day. In cool and/or damp weather, though, some materials have a clear advantage. The new miracle fibers will keep you warm even when wet and cold, which can happen on Cycling the Erie Canal. Carrying a raincoat or poncho is highly recommended.
Thinking Ahead About Water and Food Water
Drink before you're thirsty! Drink before you're thirsty! Drink before you're thirsty! We can't emphasize this enough. This rule applies no matter the weather.
Some people will tell you they don't perspire while they bicycle, but take a look at the white stains on their clothes at the end of the day - salt! While you bicycle, you create a 10 - 20 mile-per-hour wind across your skin. You may be sweating like a faucet, but this wind dries it almost immediately. This fools some people into believing they aren't sweating, and therefore they don't drink the water
their bodies need.
So what happens to them? The worst is heat exhaustion, followed by a heat stroke. More often though, these riders stagger on, wondering why they feel terrible, and why the biking seems so hard. If they would just stop and drink a quart of water, they would be amazed at ho much better they feel.
One mistake almost everyone makes on their first multi-day ride
is under eating, or eating at the wrong times. On the tour, you will burn up an extra 10,000 or more calories. If you don't eat breakfast, or if you skip lunch, eventually your body will run out of easily consumed fuel and will have to start burning fat reserves. This sounds wonderful, but it isn't. When your body shifts to burning fat, riders suffers what is known as "the bonk." This isn't just fatigue, which is normal. This is like falling into an emotional chasm. People get depressed, anxious, break down in tears, and are suddenly convinced that life is awful. A few fig bars, though, and their entire personality can take an amazing change. It is common for those that "bonk" to be crying, unable to even lift an arm, and an hour later, after a meal, be leading a pace line at 20 miles per hour.
We hope that you join us for Cycling the Erie Canal. Please take the time to train. Trained riders are happy riders, and the kind we all like to travel with. See you in July!!