July 02, 2015 Healthy Living

Cycle the Erie Canal: A Bike Trek for the Whole Family

Each July, Parks & Trails New York organizes a bike tour along the Erie Canalway Trail that attracts bicyclists from around the country and the world. This year’s canal tour, now in its 17th year, extends from Buffalo to Albany. The 2015 event, which will take place Sunday, July 12 to Sunday, July 19, is the largest ever, with more than 600 riders, ages 2 to 91 years, representing 35 U.S. states, Canada, Scotland, Germany, and Australia.

Tour Duration and Level of Difficulty

The bike trek is an eight-day, 400-mile ride. But if you’re squeezed for time, there are options of shorter duration:

  • A four-day trek from Buffalo to Syracuse July 12 to 15, or Syracuse to Albany July 16-19
  • A two-day weekend ride from Buffalo to Pittsford July 12 to 13, or Canajoharie to Albany July 18 to 19.

The tour is suitable for riders of all ages and abilities, with 75 percent of the ride traversing well marked, traffic-free trails that are predominantly flat or with gentle slopes. The remaining portions of the trail are on local roadways with wide shoulders, with a few rolling hills and a climb or two in the Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley. The tour is not a race. Cyclists can expect to cover approximately 50 miles per day. At that pace, there is ample time to visit historical sites, shops, and museums along the way, to marvel at the natural beauty of the waterway and waterfalls, and to explore the quaint communities that sprouted up along the canal when it was first built.

Rider Support

Cyclists on the tour enjoy full logistical support, including the following amenities:

  • Camping facilities with running water, showers, and restrooms. Alternatively, you can arrange for motel or bed-and-breakfast accommodations on your own.
  • Hearty breakfasts and dinners, with refreshment stops along the way
  • Guided tours of historic sites such as the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, Erie Canal Museum, and Fort Stanwix National Monument, as well as a boat tour of the Lockport Locks
  • Baggage transport, rides for those experiencing physical or mechanical breakdowns, and a mobile bike repair unit
  • Maps, cue sheets, official tour jersey, and water bottle
  • Evening entertainment
  • Shuttle transportation from Albany to Buffalo (available for an additional fee)


All participants must have a bicycle and helmet, and those who are camping will need a tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, and other basic camping gear. The tour organizers recommend hybrid bikes because of their relative comfort and ability to handle a variety of terrain and road surfaces, but road bikes with heavy-duty tires, or mountain bikes equipped with tires of low rolling resistance, may also be suitable choices.

Volunteers Welcome

Cyclists and non-cyclists alike are invited to lend a hand during the ride in exchange for a reduction in their registration fee. Volunteer roles include rest stop helper, route marker, driver of gear trucks and support vehicles, information booth staff, and photographer/videographer, among others.

Additional Information

Further details about the Erie Canal cycling tour, including routes, training tips, transportation options, cost, and the official 2015 Cycle the Erie Canal tour handbook, are available online. Check out The Daily Dose for more tips on fun outdoor summer fitness activities such as hiking, biking, and swimming.

Adele O'Connell
About the Author

Adele joined CDPHP in 2004 as an internal communications and event specialist. She then spent eight years coordinating the company’s community relations and corporate events program, in which capacity she worked with a host of non-profit organizations and co-chaired the CDPHP annual Charity of Choice campaign. Currently, she is a communications specialist and coordinator of corporate member engagement and serves on the boards of two local charities. Prior to CDPHP, Adele served as a legislative assistant for a trade association and as an acquisitions and developmental editor, specializing in educational and medical publishing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Rosemont College.

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