Frequently Asked Questions
What is Cycle the Erie Canal?
Cycle the Erie Canal is an eight-day, 400-mile, fully supported recreational bicycle tour from Buffalo to Albany, NY. It follows the historic and scenic Erie Canal. Nearly three-quarters of the ride is off-road on the traffic-free Canalway Trail.
When is the tour?
The tour starts Sunday, July 12, 2019 in Buffalo, NY. It finishes on Sunday, July 19, in Albany, NY. Because the tour starts at 8:00am on Sunday, participants should arrive on Saturday, July 11 for pre-tour rides, registration, kick-off reception and dinner. There are also four-day and two-day options available.
Who organizes Cycle the Erie Canal?
Cycle the Erie Canal is organized by Parks & Trails New York, a statewide nonprofit organization. Parks & Trails New York is dedicated to improving and protecting New York State’s parks and creating new opportunities for greenways and rail and canal trails. Parks & Trails New York organizes this annual bicycle tour to promote the Canalway Trail, the historic Erie Canal corridor and economic development through bicycle tourism.
What's included in the tour?
- Camping accommodations every evening with showers and toilet facilities. Some campsites include pools for swimming.
- Eight hearty breakfasts and six delicious dinners
- Two daily refreshment stops, stocked with fruit, snacks and beverages
- Evening entertainment, including music and historical presentations
- Guided tours of the Canal, historic sites, museums, and other attractions, including the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, Erie Canal Museum and Village, Fort Stanwix National Monument, and a boat tour through the Lockport locks
- Kick-off reception and end-of-tour celebration
- Cycle the Erie Canal t-shirt and high-quality Nalgene water bottle
- Baggage transport
- SAG wagon and mobile mechanical support
- Daily maps and cue sheets
- Painted and arrowed routes
- Pre-departure info packet, including training tips
- Recognition as a Cycle the Erie Canal End-to-Ender
- Amenities (for an additional fee) including fresh daily towels, gourmet morning coffee, tent and air mattress rental and set up, and evening massage
Are children allowed?
We love kids! Given the relatively flat terrain and so much trail riding, Cycle the Erie Canal is a very family-friendly ride. Old and young are welcome to join us on the canal tour, as long as they can reliably ride or be towed behind a bicycle for an average of 50 miles a day. Please consider your child's ability to bicycle this distance daily. We will provide sag wagon rides to the day's endpoint for physical or mechanical break-down, but not on a daily basis.
Note: Since children 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian at all times, if a child is too tired to continue bicycling, the parent or guardian must stop riding at that time, as well.
What if I can't do the full 8 Days?
If you can't commit to the full 8-day tour, there are two different 4-day ride options available. All options include dinner and camping accommodations the night before.
4 DAY OPTIONS:
- Buffalo to Syracuse, July 12-15: This option begins in Buffalo and ends in Syracuse. Riders should arrive in Buffalo for an overnight on the evening of July 11. Parking is available in Buffalo. If you would like to park in Syracuse you will have to make your own arrangements - visit www.downtownsyracuse.com/lifestyle/explore-downtown/ for more information about parking in Syracuse.
- Syracuse to Albany, July 15-19: This option begins in Syracuse and ends in Albany. Riders should arrive for an overnight in Syracuse on the evening of July 14. Parking is available in Albany. If you would like to park in Syracuse, you will have to make your own arrangements - visit www.downtownsyracuse.com/lifestyle/explore-downtown/
NOTE: You are responsible for your own transportation to the start of the ride and at the end of the ride.
Is there a Rider Handbook?
Yes. We strongly recommend that you read it through carefully as it will give you all the information you need to prepare yourself for the bike tour. View the 2019 Rider Handbook. (2020 version available in March 2020)
Can I purchase official merchandise?
The official 2020 bike tour jersey should be available for purchase in March 2020 and will be available for pick up at the beginning of the bike tour. NOTE: Jerseys are custom made and we order a limited quantity. To ensure your size is available, get your order in by 5, 2020. After that date there are no guarantees that we will have your size in stock. Check out our official bike tour merchandise page for jerseys and other items.
How can I volunteer?
Both riders and non-riding participants can volunteer to help out during the ride. Volunteers who commit to the entire tour ride for free. Time commitments are detailed here. There are many volunteer possibilities available, including SAG and luggage truck drivers, rest stop help, route marking and more!
What have participants said about the tour?
Best ride in my 13 years of doing multiple-day rides...The route was interesting, unusual and a pleasure to ride...The planning was outstanding....Lots of fun... I really enjoyed the canal history presentations...The swimming pools were so refreshing... The bus trips into town in the evening were perfect...Riders and volunteers were great...Everyone's stories were great to hear...We loved it...This was our first organized ride and we're now anxious to try others but we'll be back...Really enjoyed the brew tour and Remington Arms tour... Keep this event alive...I liked the combination of history and physical activity...Great memories...I am recommending the ride to friends and family.... Plenty of time to visit historic sites...Excellent ride, wonderful people...Nice mix of support and independence...So many museums and side trips-we couldn't do them all...Great group spirit...The canal museum in Syracuse was superb...The perfect way to visit upstate New York... I made many new friends...The ice cream social was fun...Volunteers were always helpful and friendly...I want to go again next year!
You can also read more here.
Why should I sign up?
Cycle the Erie Canal is an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful region of New York State, learn its unique history and travel at your own pace. Riders enjoy cycling and touring with family members, renewing old friendships and making new ones. Explore canal towns, quaint shops and historic sites along the way. Sign up today and start making plans for a memorable cycling trip along the Canalway Trail.
How can I stay up-to-date and connect with other riders before, during and after the bike tour?
Receive exclusive updates by email. when you sign up for our Cycle the Erie Canal bike tour email list. Connect with riders and share photos when you become a member of the official Cycle the Erie Canal Facebook Group. And, don't forget to mark yourself as GOING to this year's event via Facebook events..
Signing up / Registration
How much does the trip cost?
NOTE: Full payments required to secure your spot. All prices increase on June 8, 2020.
Riders need money for daily lunches and two dinners. Extra money is recommended for souvenirs and any emergency supplies or bike parts needed along the way.
Can I get my money back if I can't make the tour?
Cancelling the Ride
To receive a refund of your ride registration and, if applicable, shuttle reservation, minus a cancellation fee per rider (fees increase on June 8), you must submit a ride registration cancellation form no later than June 22, 2020. If your refund request is made after June 22, 2020 you may be eligible to receive a credit toward next years ride. No shuttle reservation refunds or credits after June 23, 2020. No ride registration refunds or credits after June 30, 2020. All refunds are issued by check.
After June 23, 2020, to receive a credit for your ride registration, minus a cancellation fee per rider (fees increase on June 8), you must submit a ride registration cancellation form no later than June 30. Credits can be used toward a future PTNY Cycle the Erie Canal bike tour. No credits after June 30, 2020. Fees vary by ride type (8 day or 4 day).
RIDE CANCELLATION FEES UP UNTIL JUNE 7, 2020
8-DAY RIDER:$100 PER RIDER
4-DAY RIDER:$50 PER RIDER
ride cancellation FEES AFTER JUNE 7, 2020
8-DAY RIDER:$150 PER RIDER
4-DAY RIDER:$75 PER RIDER
NOTE: To transfer an 8-day ride to a 4-day ride in the same year, there is a $50 fee and it must be done no later than June 7, 2020.
- ALL REFUNDS ARE ISSUED IN CHECK FORM
- CANCELLATION FEES INCREASE JUNE 8
- NO SHUTTLE REFUNDS AFTER JUNE 22
- NO RIDE REFUNDS AFTER JUNE 22
- NO RIDE CREDITS AFTER JUNE 30
What if I need to cancel just my shuttle reservation?
Cancelling Just the Shuttle
If you are still joining us for the ride, but need to cancel your shuttle reservation and receive a refund minus a cancellation fee per rider (fee increases on June 8), you must submit a shuttle cancellation form no later than June 20. No shuttle refunds after June 20. No shuttle credits.
SHUTTLE CANCELLATION FEE UP UNTIL JUNE 7
$10 PER RIDER
SHUTTLE CANCELLATION FEE AFTER JUNE 7
$15 PER RIDER
What if I need to add a shuttle reservation?
In order to add a shuttle reservation, please complete and mail the shuttle addition form, or call Margaret or Jonathan at 518-434-1583. If you are calling to add the shuttle, please have your credit card information ready.
Is there a waiting list to sign-up?
If the ride reaches capacity, there will be a waiting list. Each rider should provide a registration form and payment to be placed on the waiting list. We will contact you if you are added to the ride and you will not be charged if we cannot.
When is the ride registration day?
Registration is just before the kick-off reception and dinner on Saturday, July 11, from 2 - 6 p.m. If you are unable to attend on Saturday, there is registration on Sunday, July 12 from 6:30 - 7:30 a.m.
If I'm not riding, do I have to register?
Everyone must register and pay the fee for the event, whether you are riding or not. Everyone will receive a wristband at registration that allows access to all tours, campsites and meals.
Can I register by mail?
We strongly encourage you to register through our website. If you are unable to do so, please print, complete and mail this form to:
Parks & Trails New York CTEC
33 Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207
Transportation / Parking / Bus Shuttles
How do I get to the ride?
We have compiled a listing of Transportation Options.
How do four-day riders get to and from the ride?
Four-day rides take place July 12-15 (Buffalo to Syracuse), and July 15-19 (Syracuse to Albany).
Riders can use long-term parking, available in Buffalo and Albany.
NOTE: You are responsible for your own transportation to the start of the ride and at the end of the ride.
Where is the long-term parking?
Long-term parking is available in both Buffalo and Albany for all participants of the bike tour:
Buffalo long-term parking:
You can park your car free of charge in Buffalo for the entire week at our long-term parking lot at Buffalo State University, located 1.5 miles from Nichol's School. At registration you will be issued a parking pass and directions to the lot. We have a specific area where all cars must be parked. Please follow directions issued with your parking pass. Buffalo State does not take any responsibility for any loss or damage that may occur to your vehicle. You must park your car by 8 a.m. on Sunday, July 12. After parking, you can bicycle/walk (directions and maps provided) back to Nichols School or take the shuttle that will run Saturday afternoon on July 11. Shuttle schedules will be posted at registration.
The return shuttle from Albany on Sunday, July 19, will drop everyone at Buffalo State Long Term Parking Lot, restrooms and showers will be available.
Albany long-term parking:
To be determined.
How do I get my bike to the ride?
There are many options for transporting your bicycle to the starting point in Buffalo. Many people ship their bicycle ahead of time via UPS. For more information about your options and how to ship your bicycle see Transportation Options.
Do you offer a return bus shuttle from Albany to Buffalo after the tour?
Yes. We are offering a return shuttle from Albany to Buffalo on Sunday, July 19 for you and your bike (see Transportation Options) for an additional fee of $90 ($100 after June 7). The shuttle will depart from the finish line at 1:30 p.m. with a brief stop midway and an approximate arrival time of 7-8 p.m. at Buffalo State University. There will be lunch options available at the finish line in Albany prior to boarding the shuttle. If you choose this option, you can park your car in Buffalo (long-term parking available—see Frequently Asked Questions), bicycle to Albany, and take the shuttle back to Buffalo.
You can sign up for the shuttle on your registration form. Since there are two shuttles offered, make sure you choose the right one.
During The Day
What do we do during the day?
Each morning, a truck will be waiting for your luggage. You are then free to travel the established route, riding at your own pace, stopping along the way to visit attractions and arriving when you wish. Parents and minors participating together are required to stay together during the day's ride. Along the way you'll find helpful volunteers, offering snacks, drinks and support; and repair vehicles to take care of your daily needs.
Where can I get information about the areas we will be biking through?
View the trail and points of interest on our interactive map or check out our list of attractions located in the different regions. Learn more about the small town charm you will encounter along the way.
Check out the following websites for even more information: The Buffalo-Niagara Region, Orleans County, Rochester, Wayne County, Syracuse, The Finger Lakes, Seneca County, Tour Cayuga, Oneida County, Montgomery County, Schenectady, and Albany.
Where do we stay?
Cycle the Erie Canal is a camping tour. Each night, you'll set up camp at the official campsite. Trucks will transport your baggage each morning to the next evening's campsite. Check out the itinerary for the list of overnight locations and addresses.
Comfy Campers provides rentals of tents, air mattresses, camp chairs and clean towels (fee includes setup and break down). For more information, or to reserve a tent, visit the Comfy Campers website.
What are the campgrounds like?
Each campground has an Information Tent, to learn about the town and tours available, as well as the next day's routes and tours. There is a medical services tent, including massage (for additional fee). Most tent cities are located on school or college campuses. Many have swimming pools. Restrooms and showers are provided each night, with additional port-a-johns, as needed. Alternative shelter is available in the event of an emergency (e.g. high winds, electrical storm).
Check out the itinerary for the list of overnight locations and addresses.
What if I don’t want to camp?
You can make your own arrangements to stay in motels or bed & breakfasts. A list of accommodations is available on our website or by request.
What is your policy on RVs/Trailers?
You must call PTNY at 518-434-1583 to inform them of your RV/Trailer size and your intentions of bringing it on the bike tour. Parking passes will be issued and must be displayed in the window of your RV. You can park only in CTEC authorized parking areas. If you aren't sure where that is, check at the overnight information booth. RV parking opens after 1pm each day. Generators are not allowed after 9pm or before 7am. In addition, there may be sites where we ask that you not operate the generator at all. Please do not take your RV on the route. If you want to meet your riders at rest stops or along the route, find an off-route access. There are no services for RV’s at the campsites. ie, electric, sewer, water. Please be aware that there is very limited parking at the Syracuse and Rome overnights.
What if I need to bring a CPAP device?
If you are bringing a CPAP device with you, we recommend a battery-operated device with two batteries. (One to use and one to charge overnight). If using a CPAP that you need to plug in, all overnight sites have indoor camping areas with electrical outlets. We recommend bringing an extension cord with you to access the outlets. We do not have areas set up outdoors with an electrical supply. Luggage Truck Drivers will transport your device in the cab of the luggage truck from site to site.
How many miles does the tour average per day?
50 miles per day.
An average of 50 miles a day seems like a lot!
You can bicycle 50 miles in about five hours or less. This leaves plenty of time each day for sightseeing and visiting historic sites. Sag wagon rides are available for physical and mechanical breakdowns.
50 miles a day doesn't seem like much!
Additional rides can be added during the week for those seeking more distance. However, Cycle the Erie Canal is designed for relaxation, learning about Erie Canal history and having fun. We encourage riders to take a leisurely pace, see the sights, and finish the week rested.
What sort of terrain will we ride on?
Much of the Canalway Trail is built along the historic right-of-way of the Erie Canal, with a very gentle to flat grade. We ride on the Canalway Trail for about three-quarters of the ride. In addition to trail riding, there are short sections of urban riding as we make our way thru the cities along the Erie Canal. The remaining time we are on rural roads with good shoulders. For several days in the Finger Lakes, we ride rolling hills and there are some climbs in the Mohawk Valley.
Are road bikes suitable for the ride?
Remember the tour covers 40-65 miles per day, so we highly recommend hybrid bikes for comfort and versatility. For participants who choose to use their road bikes, we suggest using the widest possible Kevlar-belted tires for the bike frame. This helps prevent flats. Remember, the ride is not designed for speed and Cycle the Erie Canal is not a race. It is designed with stops along the way because you will be traveling through one of the most historic and beautiful areas in New York State!
Are child carriers, tandems or trailers allowed?
Yes. All are allowed.
What if my bike breaks down?
Mobile mechanical and SAG wagon support are available every day to fix problems or get riders and bikes to bike shops for help. Riders are responsible for all repair and part costs.
What if I can't bike the whole way one day?
Bicyclists are expected to train to a fitness level where they are able to bicycle 50 miles every day. However, when assistance is needed, the sag wagon will bring riders and bicycles to the Tent City at the end of the day. See Preparing for the Tour.
Are e-Bikes allowed on the tour?
Currently, New York State Law prohibits the use of electric-assist bicycles (e-bikes) on public roadways and trails (e-bikes can only be used legally on privately owned land). Therefore, we do not support the use of an electric-assisted bicycle on the tour.
However, PTNY supports and has been leading advocacy efforts in the New York State legislature to legalize Class One (pedal-assist) electric bicycles. We believe that cyclists of all ages and abilities should be able to safely use our roadways and trails. For more information on PTNY’s advocacy efforts, including our Trails Across New York campaign, see: https://www.ptny.org/our-work/advocate/priorities/trails-across-new-york.
Are there GPS directions for each day?
Yes, the routes to input to your device are typically release a week before the tour begins in order to provide the most accurate route and account for any last-minute construction or trail changes. You can access the route files on the Interactive Daily Route Maps page.
Where do we eat?
At the beginning and end of each day's ride, Cycle the Erie Canal and host communities provide a delicious and nutritious meal, except for two evenings, when you are able to enjoy local restaurants. Vegetarian meal options are available and we do our best to accommodate gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan dietary requirements. Rest stops with snacks and drinks are provided twice a day. Lunch is on your own.
What will we eat?
An assortment of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, toast, fruit, bagels, pancakes, French toast, waffles, juice and coffee. The menu varies from day to day.
Lunch is on your own each day.
Morning and afternoon rest stops include fresh fruit, energy bars, snack food, water and Gatorade.
Typically chicken, rice, pasta, veggies, etc. There is always a wide variety of menu items. In Canajoharie, participants enjoy a Brooks' BBQ, with ribs, chicken, corn, and various sides (and a vegetarian option). A listing of restaurants is also available each night at the tent city information booth, staffed by local volunteers who can make recommendations and provide directions. The location of each night’s tent city is also listed in our Rider Handbook.
Dinner on your own nights:
A shuttle in Seneca Falls will be available to bring riders to area restaurants. In Rome, there are many restaurants within walking distance.
In many cases, separate food items are prepared for those who select the vegetarian option on their registration forms. You may be asked to display your “vegetarian option wristband,” provided at registration.
We do our best to accommodate gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan dietary requirements. Please indicate your dietary needs on your registration form.
Will there be a non-meat meal option?
Yes, non-meat meal options are provided for the breakfasts and dinners that Cycle the Erie Canal provides. We will do our best to accommodate gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan dietary requirements. Lunch is on your own.
Luggage / What to Bring
Will my luggage and bicycle be safe?
Theft of baggage or bicycles is extremely rare. More often, someone mistakenly picks up the wrong bag. Bags should be distinctively labeled, painted or decorated with ribbons to find them easily. All bags should have name tags. We suggest locking up your bicycle when not riding. Cycle the Erie Canal does not guarantee the safety of your baggage, bicycle, or other equipment.
What do I need to bring for the tour?
- Bike: A multi-geared, better quality bicycle, with tires in good condition, always makes the tour more enjoyable. We highly recommend using a hybrid bike. A second choice would be a mountain bike with non-aggressive tires for on-road travel. Riders do use road bikes with wide tires (at least 25mm). We have found that older tires cause many tire repair problems. If in doubt, we recommend getting new tires for the ride.
- Helmet: You must have a helmet - you won't be allowed to ride without one.
- Gear: You'll need a small tent and other basic camping gear, including sleeping bags. An odometer on your bike will be helpful, as all route directions use mileage. The route is also marked.
- Clothing: Comfortable clothing for a variety of weather conditions.
- Luggage: Everything should fit into one large or two small bags. Each bag should weigh less than 40 pounds.
- More information: See Preparing for the Ride.
How many bags can I bring?
All belongings should fit into two bags. Each piece of luggage should weigh no more than 40 pounds.
How can my family reach me in an emergency?
Family members should contact Parks & Trails New York from 9am to 5pm on weekdays at 518-434-1583. They can also contact Al Hastings, Ride Director, at 607-423-2769, anytime. Family members should have a copy of the ride itinerary and can contact local police in that day’s tent city community, if they need to reach you. Cell signal is generally good, but not perfect and will depend upon your carrier.