Parks and Trails New York has just opened registration for their annual eight day bicycle tour of the Erie Canal from Buffalo, NY, to Albany, which is about 400 miles. I have done this ride twice with PTNY and I highly recommend it. My first ride on the canal was self-supported. The travelogue of my self-supported trip is here on the Edek’s Attic. Doing the ride with Parks and Trails New York is a less demanding way to go. This is also a great ride to test your desires to tour on a bicycle.
Riders sign up as groups or solo; there are usually about 500 people and getting to know many of them is a part of the experience. PTNY transports your stuff between campsites and provides breakfast and dinner on most days. All of the campsites have toilets (sometimes chemical toilets) and warm showers (sometimes the shower truck). Morning and afternoon rest stops are staffed with friendly and helpful people. A bicycle mechanic is available in case you have troubles and a ride is available if necessary. Bring your own tent or opt for the tent service for a little extra cost.
The route in upstate New York passes many historic and current Erie Canal features. The ride goes through Rochester, Syracuse, and Rome as well as a number of small towns. Between the towns the country side is peaceful and scenic. About 75% of the ride is off-road on dirt, packed stone dust, and paved trails that follow either the current Erie Canal or historic remnants of the older canals. The remaining 25% uses roads that generally are bicycle-friendly.
You don’t need a touring bike for this ride. Since PTNY hauls your stuff, you can successfully complete this ride with many types of bicycles. I have seen recumbent trikes and bikes, folding bikes, tandems, road bikes, mountain bikes, and touring bikes participating. You do need to be reasonably physically fit since you will ride over 50 miles most days.
See the PTNY web site for more details.