Erie Canalway Trail - 2021 Ride

Trip Preparations

Bicycling the length of the Erie Canal is something I have wanted to do ever since learning that a bike route existed along the old towpath. I was mostly interested in the route because of the chance to learn about the history of the canal. My great-grandfather and his brother and sisters lived in the Albany, NY, area for a brief time after they immigrated from Ireland, and Great-Grandpa worked along the canal leading the mules who towed the boats. Many Irish immigrants were involved in building the canal, but he arrived later. By the time he came to America in 1851, the canal had been in use for nearly 25 years and had already been enlarged from its original width of 40 feet.

My husband and I have completed several self-supported bicycle trips, and three of those have included miles along a canal towpath (in France along the Marne River, Champagne et Bourgogne Canal, and a short segment of the SaƓne-et-Loire Canal, and in Germany along the Main River from near its source to its confluence with the Rhine.) Such routes are often removed from the noise of car traffic and offer a chance to reflect and enjoy nature.

We are both 65+ years in age and experienced cyclists. For several years, we participated in the annual great bicycle ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI). That ride generally attracts more than 15,000 cyclists. Its route varies each year, but it usually covers around 450 miles in the last week of July. During the years we rode, the average daily mileage was around 67 miles. We enjoyed the community of cyclists on RAGBRAI but grew tired of the masses and the heat. We learned, however, that self-supported touring is more to our liking.

We aren't as young as we were when we began cycling some 17 years ago, and we now ride heavier bikes built for carrying what we need for overnight stays - i.e., a change of clothing, basic toiletries, our iPads, snacks, etc. Our preference is to plan our route in advance and to ride about 40 miles or less each day. We also make lodging arrangements in advance and get most meals at a grocery store or restaurant. This suits our fitness levels and our wish to embrace opportunities for spontaneous stops at a cafe, a particularly picturesque spot, or simply because we need to take a break.

Before each trip, we study the map and get advice from others who have ridden the route and then break the trip up into the daily segments that suit our needs. For the Erie Canalway Trail, it was not always possible to keep the daily mileage under 40 miles simply because the desired stopping point wasn't always a place with a hotel. We also wanted to maintain flexibility in our plan and opted not to use B&B's for this ride since most of B&B's are private establishments with policies that do not permit changes or cancellations on short notice (i.e., less than a week).

Whenever possible, we sought out local establishments for our meals (cafes, diners, pubs). Many of these places are struggling mightily to stay open during the pandemic, and they often represent the best of the local flavors of a place.

Our plan to ride from end-to-end is shown in the table below. Click on the route for each day to read a report of that day's ride.

Click here to view our daily route maps.

Day Route Mapped
 Actual miles ridden
  Getting to the starting point - arriving in Buffalo    
 1  Buffalo to Lockport  34.0 38.09 
 2  Lockport to Brockport  45.1 48.44 
 3  Brockport to Palymyra  48.1 51.31 
 4  Palymyra to Weedsport  44.3 48.17 
 5  Weedsport to Syracuse  26.3  24.7
 6  Syracuse to Rome  46.2  49.22
 7  Rome to Little Falls  39.5  40.85
 8  Little Falls to Amsterdam  42.7  50.6
 9  Amsterdam to Albany  48.9 49.62 
  Total  375 401 
  Albany (sightseeing) and reflections    

Click here for an interactive map.

Or click here to learn about the trail.