Preparing for the Tour
Below is a link to a useful list of what to pack for the ride, as well as information on choosing a bike, accessories and proper clothing. Please note: Use of an ANSI or Snell approved helmet is required.
You’ll also find helpful tips on training, to get in shape for the 50+ miles each day. While this is not a strenuous trek, it is much more enjoyable if you are conditioned to handle the distance each day.
Training for the Ride
To prepare for the Cycle the Erie Canal Annual Bike Tour, there is no substitute for miles and minutes. People who spend time conditioning themselves have the most fun. Waiting until the last minute to train your body and tune up your bike usually means you’ll find the daily ride hard enough that you won't have the energy to enjoy the historical sites and evening activities.
Training is especially recommended for families with children.
A 10-year- old simply won’t be ready without some practice rides. Set a reasonable goal given your schedule, and stick to it. The work will pay off. Beforehand, you might participate in an organized tour to get used to traveling by bike with a group. Or 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
APRIL: The plan is simple: ride five miles. This should take less than an hour. Start taking five-mile rides in April. By making several short rides at this time of year, you can build up gradually. Once you are comfortable riding five miles, do it twice in a row.
MAY: Begin with ten mile rides for the first couple of 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, doing 20 or 25 miles at a time. The weather is great, so you'll want to be outside anyway.
JUNE: Move up to 30-35 mile rides. Then, a week or two before Cycle the Erie Canal, go for it. Try to complete at least two 50-mile rides, Cycle the Erie Canal style. This means stop frequently, incorporate some sightseeing, and pace yourself to have the energy to enjoy the rest of the day.
Training with Children
It is critical that children train for the tour, too. They need to be reminded to drink often. They also need to learn when to eat and proper road etiquette. Practice helps them ride in a straight line and obey traffic laws. These are crucial safety skills—not just for the tour, but every day. It is also important to find out how children handle riding in a trailer. No one wants to discover on the first day, 30 miles from the start, that your child cannot tolerate the motion.
Choosing Your Bicycle
Everyone knows that higher quality, lighter weight bicycles ride more easily and are less likely to break down, during the ride. And easier riding translates into a more energized rider by the end of the day. A light bike is not the only solution, however. Having a wide selection of gears will also make your journey more pleasant. Finally, a bicycle sized to your body is crucial for safety and comfort. Bicycle shops can best fit you to the appropriate size. But if you don’t have the budget for a new bike, don’t despair. Every year, people complete the tour on bicycles of all kinds. Just be sure to get your bike top mechanical condition before the ride and do some training.
Buying a bike isn’t your only cost. The most important accessory is a good helmet. And they are increasingly affordable. Find one that fits well and has been certified by the Snell Institute and passes ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards. Helmets are mandatory for the Cycling the Erie Canal bike tour, but you should wear it every time you ride. This is especially true if you are setting an example for children.
Important gear includes:
A frame pump, patch kit, tire tools and a spare tube. Don't know how to change a flat tire? Don't worry – most people don’t. Just visit your local bike shop on a weekday morning (when they aren't busy) and ask them to show you. Or, call the local bike club and ask for help.
Other tools: Many riders bring along a chain tool, spoke wrench, adjustable wrench, Allen wrenches (metric, 4, 5, and 6 mm), and duct tape. Even if you're not sure how to use these handy items, someone on Cycling the Erie Canal will be able to help.
Bag: You'll need a place to carry repair items, along with money, glasses, sun block, and food. A belt bag or fanny pack work well, as do the variety of bicycle-mounted bags. Remember: you won't be have access to your luggage until the end of the day. So you may also want rain gear or a windbreaker.
Water: Water bottle cages and multiple water bottles are key. Nothing stops you faster than dehydration.
For an entire week, the full weight of your body is going to be pressing down on three places where your body meets your bike: hands, feet and posterior. Proper clothing can make a huge difference, when it comes to your comfort.
Gloves help with pressure and chafing. Consider a washable style.
Shoes come in many styles, from “ski-binding” styles that attach to the pedal, to a “sneaker” touring shoe. Touring shoes work better for all the sightseeing you will do off the bike.
Shorts: Bicycling shorts help combat the rider’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 contact and absorb moisture. Good pads dry quickly and Lycra fabric also allows perspiration to dry quickly, keeping you cooler. By conforming to your skin, 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. No matter what type of shorts you use, applying diaper cream to the contact areas before riding can help avoid problems.
Shirts: While people wear all kinds of jerseys, you can cycle in anything on a dry summer day. In cool or damp conditions, some wicking materials are preferred. New performance materials keep you warm even in wet and cold conditions – both of which are possible during Cycling the Erie Canal. Always carry a raincoat or poncho on your bike.
A good rule of thumb: drink before you're thirsty! This rule applies no matter what the weather. Some people claim they don't perspire while cycling, but the truth is, you are creating a 10-20 mile-per-hour wind across your skin. You may be sweating, but the wind dries it almost immediately. This fools people into thinking they aren't sweating and they don't drink adequate water. Worst case scenario, they face heat exhaustion, followed by 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 how much better they feel.
A common mistake is under eating or eating at the wrong times. On the tour, expect to burn an extra 10,000+ calories. If you skip a meal, your body will run out of fuel and start burning fat reserves. This sounds good, but when your body shifts to burning fat, riders suffer what is known as "the bonk." This isn't just normal fatigue. It is like falling into an emotional chasm, with depression, anxiety and plenty of tears. After a few fig bars, however, their entire personality can change. It is common for those that "bonk" to be crying, unable to even lift their arms. But an hour later, after a good meal, they are leading a pace line at 20 miles per hour.
We look forward to you joining us for the Cycle the Erie Canal Annual Bike Tour. Take the time to train, because conditioned riders are happy riders—the kind we like to travel with. See you in July!
For even more packing and preparation tips, check out long time tour volunteer Buzz Gamble's 20 Tips to Make the Most of Your Bicycle Tour.