400 Miles, 400 Smiles
Twenty-three Cycle the Erie Canal tours have rolled across NYS but this one might win the “most appreciated” award. After taking a year off in 2020 because of COVID-19, PTNY staff made the bold decision to proceed with the 2021 tour, albeit at reduced capacity. The many smiles and compliments at the finish line from the 400 riders, ranging in age from 12 to 88 and hailing from 39 states (and Israel,) confirmed it was the right decision.
This year’s ride still showcased 400 fabulous miles and eight adventure-filled days days but featured some new locations and attractions.
NEW TENT CITY LOCATIONS
In Rome, NY, at the end of Day 5, bicycles were carefully placed in designated bike corrals at Fort Stanwix National Monument (traditionally where the Day 5 tent city occurs but not available this year because of COVID-19) for safe overnight storage. Riders were shuttled to a new overnight location at Verona Beach State Park. After a 50-mile pedal from Syracuse to Rome, cyclists greatly appreciated dipping into the refreshing waters of Oneida Lake, then heading into the lively vacation town of Sylvan Beach for dinner.
This year’s participants also experienced two other new camping locations. At the end of Day 2, riders were treated to the open green fields and indoor pool facilities of Center Park—a municipal park in the canalside town of Fairport just southeast of Rochester.
The recreation and parks commission of the historic Finger Lakes town of Seneca Falls opened one of their locations, Vince’s Park, for our participants to camp after a 51-mile pedal from Fairport. Hungry cyclists descended upon the town that evening to enjoy the many restaurants and pubs, fueling up so they could reach the monumental halfway point just west of Syracuse the next day.
MORE TRAIL, LESS ROAD
Cyclists were particularly pleased at the remarkable amount of new trail on the route. Returning riders (about 30% of participants this year) referred mostly to the new trail sections near Ilion and Syracuse, where they recalled the anxiety of riding on the shoulders of busy roads. The smooth pavement and worry-free trail was an absolute joy for the cyclists of all levels of experience.
The new sections of trail had been completed as part of the state's historic investment in creating the Empire State Trail. In total, more than 50 new miles of Erie Canalway Trail have opened as part of the completion of750-mile statewide trail, and all to the highest design standards. The fresh pavement, trailhead improvements, and safe crossings at roadways hugely improved the quality of the experience for riders.
COMMUNITIES AND MEDIA
From local organizations to Amish families, from radio to television, diverse communities and media outlets from Buffalo to Albany came out to welcome and celebrate the riders. The St. Johnsville Chamber of Commerce placed welcome signs at the trailhead to encourage riders to pop into their small Montgomery County village. Amish families set up stands along the route offering baked goods and lemonade.
Dozens of cyclists, volunteers, and staff gained their 15 minutes of fame from the frequent video cameras, photographers, and microphones of numerous media outlets that recorded the event throughout the eight days. Some of these snippets can be viewed in the In the News section of our website
Cycle the Erie Canal planners are already looking forward to 2022 with hopes that any of the limitations faced in 2021 will be lifted and we will return to the ride that has made this event a must-do for thousands of riders over the past two decades. Stay updated on the latest announcements by joining our Cycle the Erie Canal Tour email list.