Riding My Bike on the Empire State Trail
I spent most of 2020 sat in an apartment in Birmingham, UK. This solitude gave me plenty of free time and a hunger for adventure. The internet fed me just what I needed…bike touring.
I stumbled onto Ryan Duzer’s YouTube channel and was inspired by his passion for traveling by bike. I even bought a Priority Apollo after hearing about Ryan’s partnership with Priority.
The YouTube algorithm must have recognized my interest and quickly started feeding me other channels like Path Less Pedaled, Rad Bike Adventure, and Rides of Japan.
With my interest piqued, I began planning my bike tour.
Mapping the Empire State Trail for Bike Touring
I began planning my bike touring route along the Empire State Trail in late 2021 using Komoot. Komoot is an excellent tool for planning bike routes and staying on track in the field. I used it for a handful of day trips in 2021 and was confident it would work well for my trip.
NYS has complete GPX files of the Empire State Trail available to help you map your trip. I started with that GPX file and made modifications along the way in Komoot.
Ultimately, I planned to take seven days to make the trip.
After planning the timeline and route, I decided to pick memorial week 2022 as my timeframe. That allowed me to sneak an extra day between the trip and my return to work. The timing also helped me escape the summer heat.
With planning out of the way, let the trip begin!
Supporting Multi-Modal Transportation in Rochester
But wait! As part of my trip, my goal was to raise awareness and funds for Reconnect Rochester.
Reconnect Rochester is a local non-profit focused on helping Rochester develop a connected transportation network that meets all its citizens’ needs. They help Rochester by conducting educational programs, providing community advocacy, organizing guided bike rides, installing bus stop cubes, and more.
Their mission is critical to me as someone who lives in the city without a car. Car dependancy is bankrupting our cities, putting an unnecessary financial burden on many community members, and limiting our city’s potential. We CAN do better! Connected, pedestrian-friendly cities and towns are better for everyone.
Please take a minute to check out Reconnect Rochester’s website and consider supporting them with a donation. They are doing great work, and I would like to see it continue.
Day 1: Buffalo to Medina
I started my first day outside of the Tifft Nature Preserve that borders Lake Erie. My father dropped me off, and I began my trek through downtown Buffalo to Medina.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the Niagara St. bikeway on my route. The bikeway is an excellent piece of bike infrastructure that the city installed just a few years ago. Hopefully the Niagara St. bikeway is just one of many pieces of bicycle infrastucture that we will see spring up in the future.
I arrived in Medina that afternoon and stayed at the Hart House Hotel on Main Street. The hotel shares a building with the Shirt Cafe and 810 Meadworks. To finish my day I got a flight at 810 Meadworks and a pizza from Avanti’s.
Day 2: Medina to Rochester
The second day of my trip was smooth sailing. There was the threat of rain, so I left my hotel around 8 AM to get a quick start on the day. The path is part hard-packed gravel and part pavement.
I live in Rochester, so I stayed at my apartment instead of booking a hotel or campground.
I made it to the trailhead dry as a bone and had a relaxing evening before my 65-mile segment the following day.
Day 3: Rochester to Savannah
I originally planned to stay at the Clyde Lock on day 3, but the operator told me I was not allowed to. Not to be defeated, I found a campground just a few more miles down the road called River’s Crossing Campground.
The campground had everything I needed, and the staff was very friendly. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay again.
Day 4: Savannah to Syracuse
On my way out of Savannah, I got lost and stumbled onto this patch of protected wetlands. It was a pretty sight, so I wasn’t too upset about losing my way. I quickly found my way back onto the trail and only rode a short 40 miles to Syracuse.
The bridge that leads you from the bike path to Downtown Syracuse gives you a fantastic view of Onondaga Lake.
I grabbed a beer and ate at Talking Cursive Brewing Company. One of the brewers happened to be at the bar, and he gave me a great recommendation on what to try.
I stayed at the Tru Hotel near the airport. My room was clean, and it felt great to get a hot shower in after a night of camping.
Day 5: Syracuse to Utica
My original plan for day five was to stay at the Marcy Lock, but with rain in the forecast I decided to stay at a hotel just off the trail instead.
I grabbed dinner and a beer at Bagg’s Square Brewing and chatted with another patron about work and safety.
Day 6: Utica to Fort Plain
My second to last day was a beautiful ride. I camped at Lock 15 in Fort Plain, NY.
I met a fellow bike tour enthusiast who was also traveling from Buffalo to Albany. That was the only time we crossed paths, but I enjoyed our brief interaction and hearing about his other trips.
Unfortunately, there were no bathroom facilities at the lock. Fortunately, there was a Stewart’s less than a mile from where I camped.
I paid Stewart’s a quick visit in the morning and grabbed a cup of coffee. This was the first Stewart’s I’d been to since I lived in the Adirondacks 8 years ago and I had a ping of nostalgia.
Day 7: Fort Plain to Albany
My last day was also my longest day in the saddle on my bike tour. I rode almost 75 miles from Fort Plain to Albany. It was a pleasant trip that took me through some historical areas of Albany. Most of the ride took place on the Mohawk-River Bike & Hike Trail and weaved along the river to downtown Albany.
I spent the night in a hotel and had dinner and a beer at The City Beer Hall. The Hall has a cool interior and a great tap list. They are the first bar that I’ve seen carrying something from J Wakefield this far north.
Bicycle Tour Summary
My final leg of the journey was a train ride back home. I took the train from Albany back home to Rochester, NY. The train trip was only a few minutes longer than the drive would have taken and cheaper than a rental car + gas.
I would make this trip again in a heartbeat and would encourage more people to make the trek. New York has a lot to offer in natural beauty and scenic small towns, but many don’t get out and experience it.
What I Would Do Differently on My Next Bike Tour
- Start applying sunscreen on day 1 (bike touring 101? 🤦)
- Wear a bucket hat
- Wear a long-sleeve merino wool base layer for UV protection
- Bring casual over-shorts, not basketball shorts
- Bring an ultralight backpack to carry food to the campsite
- Consolidate charging cables