by Dave Warner

After holding the tour at reduced capacity in 2021 due to the pandemic, the annual eight-day, cross-state Cycle the Erie Canal bike tour returned at full capacity this year, departing from Buffalo on July 10 and arriving in Albany eight days later on July 17.

Seven hundred fifty cyclists from 40 states crossed New York State as part of the 24th Cycle the Erie Canal tour organized by the statewide nonprofit Parks & Trails New York.

Covering 40 to 60 miles daily, cyclists traveled along the Erie Canalway Trail, which is now more than 85 percent off-road. Since 2020, the Erie Canalway Trail has also served as the east-west section of the 750-mile Empire State Trail. Recent studies by Parks & Trails New York have revealed that the Erie Canalway Trail receives over 3 million visits yearly and generates an economic impact of over $253 million.

In Little Falls, riders explored Rotary Park and the Marina, the glacial potholes of Moss Island, a National Natural Landmark, and shopped at Canal Place.

Louis Dimock from Bolton, Connecticut, one of the volunteers from the event, said, “I’ve been doing this ride for maybe 15 years now as a volunteer. I’m the afternoon guest stop coordinator. I check to ensure everybody gets what they need and keep my workers going.”

She said the ride this year has been great. “Very few incidences and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves, and the weather has been fantastic compared to last year. They’re all doing well and moving right along.”

Jonie Brickman, a first-time rider on the Cycle the Erie Canal event, stated, “So far, the weather has been great, which is always nice. The rides have been very interesting, the towpaths have been fascinating, and the lectures on history are really good. No matter where you are, you’re on the Erie Canal. Old canal, new canal, and newest canal, which is great.”

She said you read things out of some of the information along the way, giving a unique perspective on the journey. “The volunteers are superb. All these people pitching in and donating their time to the National Parks are pleasant and helpful.”

“Cycle the Erie Canal tour is a wonderful way to experience the Erie Canal. It’s fun, healthy, and good for the economy,” says Parks & Trails New York Executive Director Robin Dropkin. “We have cyclists aged 10 to 83, and they all get to experience what makes the Erie Canal and upstate New York so special.”

The New York State Canal Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York Power Authority, has partnered with Parks & Trails New York on Cycle the Erie Canal since its inception. The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is the premier heritage sponsor of the event. Nine regional tourism agencies also sponsor the ride.

Parks & Trails New York is New York’s leading statewide advocate for parks and trails, dedicated since 1985 to improving health, economy, and quality of life through the use and enjoyment of green space.