From the roads you’ll travel on to the sights you’ll see, there’s a lot to know about the Empire State Ride route. Greg, one of our partners at BIKEternity who is helping us plan this year’s ride, answered a few key questions about this year’s journey:
1. First off, the question on everyone’s mind: How are the hills?
Everyone has a different opinion of what a hill is. If you are accustomed to riding in Florida, you will think the Empire State Ride is hilly. If you are from western Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania or the Rockies, you will think the ride is a breeze. Let me try to sum it up this way: some of the hardest rides in the country average 80 to 110 feet of elevation gain per mile, while moderately hilly rides are generally 60 to 80 feet of elevation gain per mile. This ride gains 18,713 feet over 539 miles. That is an average of only 35 feet of elevation gain per mile, so overall, it is not a terribly hilly ride.
You will do the bulk of the climbing the first three days — 10,012 feet. Day one tends to get hillier as the day goes on, averaging 60 feet per mile. On Day two, the hills are spread out, averaging 45 feet per mile. Day three is the toughest. You’ll gain 4,055 feet over 89.4 miles. Much of that elevation gain comes in the last 20 miles with grades as steep as 9 percent. But no need to worry, we have four rest stops that day, and if you need a break, we will always be able to pick you up. There is even a rest stop 12 miles from the end to keep you fresh on the climbs. After day three, the ride is not hard at all. There are a few short climbs early on day four, but for the rest of the ride, you will never gain more than 2,100 feet per day. In summary, the first three days will be a climber’s dream, with rollers that a strong climber can blast up and over. Flatlanders will be in heaven the second half of the tour, especially if they can conjure up a tail wind.
Well, there it is, my opinion on the hills, but you know what they say about opinions. Just remember, hills are only as hard as you allow them to be. Train, have the right gears and ride within your ability. We will be there to encourage you, and even provide SAG if the hill wins. You can see the daily elevation profiles on the Route page.
2. Much of the route is on shared roads. What is the traffic like? How are the shoulders? There will be a few sections of the route with minimal shoulders and heavier traffic, but these are in areas that are commonly traveled by cyclists and motorists who are accustomed to sharing the road. For added safety, I recommend you become to riding in similar conditions; obey traffic laws, ride predictably, learn to stay alert and observant, to anticipate the actions of drivers, wear bright colored clothing, use a mirror so you can see behind you and ride with a red flashing light on your bike. Each evening we will alert you to any areas of concern for the next day.
The majority of the route has good shoulders and is on lightly traveled roads. A lot of time and effort has been put into identifying the best routes possible to ensure safe and scenic riding. Greenways and trails are used as often as possible to avoid heavy traffic areas. For example, we are using the Henry Hudson Greenway, the Henry Hudson Drive through Palisades Park and paved trails through Tallman State Park and near Nyack on the first day to avoid the busy NYC traffic. On day two, we venture onto the Dutchess Rail Trail, various back roads, and scenic route 103. From Albany to Schenectady, you won’t even be able to tell you are near the city. We are using the Albany County Rail Trail and some farm roads. It is beautiful. From Schenectady to Niagara we use almost every paved section of the Erie Canal trail to avoid congestion around cities such as Syracuse and Rochester. You will be amazed how well we have routed you away from congestion.
3. What is the most scenic portion of the ride?
From the amazing architecture and river views of the Hudson River Valley, to the farmland and hill-top views from Albany to Utica, it is surprisingly scenic. Then we finish off the tour with Niagara Falls. What’s not to like? I suppose if I had to pick, I would say the stretches from NYC to Schodack Landing State Park, Albany to Fort Plain and the finish line in Niagara Falls are my favorites.