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Finding the right wheels and gear

Empire State Ride is the adventure of a lifetime for many types of athletes. This unique challenge proves that, with two wheels, you can change the world and save lives. We have the answers to frequently asked questions about your two wheels.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of bike can I use? 

A road bike is the best type of bicycle to ride during Empire State Ride. Road bikes are light weight, have a shifting system to take on distance and hills, narrow tires for pavement and precision braking systems. 

Some riders opt for a touring bike, which is heavier but built for long distance riding with gear.

Regardless of the make and model of your bike, we highly recommend you take your bike to a local bike shop for a fitting and tune up before setting out on this adventure.

Can I use an e-bike?

For Empire State Ride, we allow Class 1 and Class 2, pedal-assist road or touring bikes. We cannot accommodate throttle-assist e-bikes. E-bikes will need extender batteries to achieve the daily 70+ miles per day. E-bikes are charged each night at the campsite. Owners are responsible for charging the batteries. Before registering, please call us at 716-845-3179 to confirm your type of e-bike and charging requirements. 

Do I need clips and cycling shoes?

Many of our riders prefer to clip into pedals with cycling shoes, which allows for power on both upstroke and downstroke. Riders have completed Empire State Ride on touring and fitness bikes with clip-in or flat-pedal shoes. 

What do I wear?

High visibility gear! We suggest packing a fresh pair of cycling shorts and jersey for each day. Registered riders receive an Empire State Ride custom cycling jersey to wear on the first and last day of the weeklong ride. Don’t forget to pack cycling socks, cycling cap, shoes, gloves and a rain jacket. Empire State Ride happens rain or shine!

What do I need for my bike?

Riders need a seat or handlebar bag for their bike. Bike bags should carry a patch kit, tire levers, spare tubes, inflator and co2 cartridges (threaded or unthreaded dependent on type of inflator) to inflate tires and a multi-tool for quick repairs. A GPS unit is necessary for navigating our route, and we suggest carrying two water bottles for hydration. Certified helmet (CPSC or ASTM) and flashing front and rear bike lights are required for safety.

To be prepared for an average of 80 miles each day, riders should train to ride 20 to 30 miles outdoors at a brisk pace without stopping. Riders need to be comfortable while riding on bike paths and with traffic. Getting plenty of “seat time” will help your body adjust to the feel of long-distance cycling. It’s important to start using anti-chafing personal care products early in training to figure out what works best for your body. We suggest using chamois butter and Desenex proactively. 

The Empire State Ride is an experience for any cyclist who can commit to take on the adventure of a lifetime to end cancer. If you have additional questions, contact our team at empirestateride@roswellpark.org .

Alumni ESR rider advice for first-time riders

Hello first time #ESR rider, 

For a first-time rider, the Empire State Ride can seem intimidating. But, ask any of our alumni and they will remind you that this ride isn’t just a fitness challenge. They will proudly tell you that the Empire State Ride brought them a new perspective on the world, their life and each other.

If are a novice rider, or on the fence about accepting the challenge, look no further – our alumni have you covered.

 

You can do it!

“Your body can do anything… it’s your brain you need to convince.”Tracey M.

Studies have shown your body releases early signs of fatigue to keep you from overexerting yourself. With proper training you’ll find you can push through anything. 

 

“Humility. Accepting, with grace, my limitations.”Arlene K.

Sometimes enough is enough. While it is good to test your limits, you need to listen to your body. Your health and safety is our top priority. When you choose to go on the road with us, we have a team of professionals to support you every pedal of the way. 

 

Pace yourself, and get it done.

“It doesn’t matter how fast you pedal, just freaking pedal!”Sal T.

If you haven’t done a long-distance ride before, 500+ miles can seem impossible. One push at a time, one stretch at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have crossed that finish line.

“Pacing is key. I can hang on the back of a train at 23 mph for a day and then struggle to ride 10 mph for the next two days. Or I can ride 13 mph all day, every day.”Matt G.

Find your flow and stick to it. This is not a race, it’s an adventure. 

“For me, there are three: 

  1. Bring a battery powered oscillating fan for your tent! 
  2. It’s not a race, always take the time to stop for a picture or explore something cool 
  3. Make SURE to use the bathroom before going to bed every night. Nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night when you are exhausted and can’t see anything.” – Jason M. 

“Ride your own ride…and enjoy it.”Rick J.

No matter what, this challenge is about you and the cancer patients you are riding for. Enjoy yourself and do what you need to do to prepare so you are ready for the ride of your life.

Meet Your New Close Friends.

“Who knew in those 7 days of cycling you would inherit a family. ESR family for life.”Maurice A.

“You will have yourself another family. Ride with others but ride by yourself…you’ll have to dig in and it’ll all make sense.”Nicholas R.

At the beginning of the Empire State Ride, a group of strangers begins their journey across New York. By the time the riders cross the finish line, they have made lifelong friendships. And nothing will break that bond.


“Enjoy the moment and the great sights and people around you. It doesn’t matter if you ride 12 mph or 20 you are moving forward for a great cause.”Daisy H.

Look at the bigger picture. You are completing a ride of a lifetime to advance cancer research. Cycling is a celebration of health. We must do our part to end cancer. 


“Started as a “me” thing. Ended as a “we” thing.”Chris H.


“Putting yourself out there, challenging yourself and supporting a cause will inspire others to do the same.” 

– David V.

Road warriors are courageous. Choosing to ride the Empire State Ride is choosing to lead. Your hard work contributes to the world of cancer research and the patients at Roswell Park. 

Don’t forget your butt!

“Develop your chafing prevention protocol early and stick with it.”Chris H.

Saddle sores hurt. We suggest training for a long-distance ride, as much as possible, and finding the saddle that works for you. 

“Extra strength Desitin = Liquid Gold.”Michelle B. 

The food is fantasitic.

“Snacks!”Jose V.

Everything you need to keep you going on the road will be provided with a smile from our team. 

“I learned I can gain weight over the same seven days I rode 540+ miles. The food was excellent!”Jim M.

You have been warned. Riders enjoy catered breakfast and dinner every day

You’re shaping the future of cancer by fueling research

Every day, Roswell Park is pushing to eliminate cancer’s grip on humanity. Thanks to generous funds brought in through the Empire State Ride, we’ve seen the genesis of groundbreaking and lifesaving advances right here in Buffalo. Those new treatments and findings all have their start with new questions and ideas from Roswell Park scientists.

That’s where Roswell Park’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) comes in. Researchers submit their project proposals, all looking to continue to learn more about cancer. Through a competitive and rigorous process, these investigators and their work have been funded. These grants are made possible by the generosity of ESR road warriors and their donors, without whom, these projects could not get off the ground and make their marks on cancer as we know it.

Gurova, Katerina

Study of the role of immune system in anti-cancer activity of novel chemicals causing unpacking of DNA in tumor cells

Led by Katerina Gurova, MD, PhD, Department of Cell Stress Biology

This investigation expands on existing work of Dr. Gurova’s currently in clinical trial. She and her team developed a group of chemicals called curaxins which kill tumor cells without harming DNA; something many anti-cancer drugs unfortunately do. Curaxins are able to preserve DNA and healthy cells, because they disrupt the binding of DNA into chromatin instead of the DNA itself. Since tumor cells are more susceptible to that damage, they are the cells that are destroyed.

These curaxins, in addition to actively killing cancer cells, are believed to also have the power to boost an immune response that will cause immune cells to attack tumor cells. This would unlock the maximal anti-tumor efficacy of curaxins, cutting off both mechanisms through which cancer evades the immune system.

Dr. Gurova and her team intend to study type 1 interferon responses as a potential biomarker of curaxin’s efficacy in activating an anti-tumor immune response. This success of this research will help scientists give cancer patients their best chance.

Hahn, Theresa

Study of a new blood test that may predict fatal cancer relapse after allogeneic blood or marrow transplantation

Led by Theresa Hahn, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Allogeneic blood or marrow transplantation (AlloBMT) has been used for over 60 years to cure blood cancers. The process involves collecting cells from a healthy donor and infusing them into a patient with blood cancer so those new cells can recognize the cancer cells and destroy them. Sometimes, that process doesn’t work and the cancer relapses.

Dr. Hahn will study one gene that may be responsible for allowing those donor cells to attack cancer cells. That gene produces an enzyme that has a marker, which can be measured in someone’s blood. When there’s a high level of that marker, it acts as one “brake” on the immune system. When there’s a low level, this “brake” does not seem to be activated.

Dr. Hahn and her team believe cells with this “brake” are better at killing cancer cells. They will investigate a new blood test to determine if there is an association between the amount of those markers and fatal cancer relapse.

This project will potentially directly impact the choice of donor for AlloBMT and will hopefully provide a new pathway to study how cancer cells can escape the immune system. If this study is successful, it has the potential to predict fatal cancer relapse and improve survival after this kind of transplantation.

The following investigations were funded in November 2021:

McGray, Bob A “Tag Team” approach to T-cell therapy in ovarian cancer. Engineering long-lived T-cells that attack tumors AND instruct the T-cells already in the tumor to fight cancer.

Led by AJ Robert McGray, PhD, Departments of Translational Immuno-Oncology and Immunology

Immunotherapies have been helpful to so many cancer patients, but ovarian cancer patients have only seen modest success through immunotherapy treatment options. Dr. McGray and his team seek to meet this need for more effective options to treat ovarian cancer. One reason existing treatments might not be as effective as could be hoped is that many of the T-cells that infiltrate ovarian cancer cannot effectively target the cancer cells.

This team of researchers aims to engineer T-cells that would release bi-specific T-cell engagers (BiTEs), which would specifically target folate receptor alpha, found in ovarian cancer. The proposed study would address fundamental gaps in knowledge and potentially improve clinical outcomes for ovarian cancer patients.

This approach has the potential to be combined with and improve upon current treatments that are being evaluated in ovarian cancer, as well as other cancer types that do not routinely benefit from immunotherapy.

Tang, DeanHow does a non-protein encoding long RNA called MEG3 function as a prostate tumor suppressor?

Led by Dean Tang, PhD, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics

More than 70% of human tumors have a low rate of maternally expressed gene 3 (MEG3), a gene which functions as a tumor suppressor in many cancers. Still, little is known about MEG3.

Dr. Tang and his team will study MEG3, particularly in prostate cancer. It is believed that MEG3 does its work by maintaining genome and chromosome integrity through regulating checkpoints and DNA damage repair.

They intend to learn more about the underlying tumor-suppressive abilities of MEG3 and discover how and why it is lost in prostate cancer. The ultimate goal is to fill a critical knowledge gap in the functions, mechanisms and regulation of MEG3 in prostate cancer, which will potentially shed light on the tumor suppressive powers in other cancers, as well.

Wang, HaiTarget the nutritional interplay between cancer cells and bone cells to limit prostate cancer bone metastases

Led by Hai Wang, PhD, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Most cancer patients die not because of complications from their original tumor but because of the problems that arise when the tumor has metastasized to other sites. Bone is the predominant site for metastases of prostate cancer, causing skeletal complications and marked decreases in quality of life and survival rates.

Dr. Wang and his team hypothesize that prostate cancer cells that spread to bone change the way nutrients are converted into energy there. They will investigate exchanges of nutrients between cancer cells and bone-forming cells called osteoblasts, to better understand the metabolic processes and molecular signaling when prostate cancer metastasizes to the bones.

Through this work, these researchers hope to impede the progression of the metastatic disease process and expedite future clinical trials. This could potentially lead to the development of new treatments to alleviate skeletal complications for these patients and improve survival rates.

ESR rider spotlight: Maria Thor

Why this year’s ride matters more than ever

For 59-year-old Maria Thor, enjoying nature, being surrounded by loved ones and taking care of her health are three of life’s greatest blessings. She cycles six days a week and adds an hour of weights whenever possible as part of her training for Empire State Ride, which she has proudly done every year since 2017. She rides to honor her parents who both lost their battles to cancer.

Through everything, Maria’s strong faith sees her through life’s ups and downs. In recent years, this faith has become more important than ever as she’s been faced with new challenges.

Early warning signs

In February 2021, Maria was diagnosed with dyslexia, a condition that affects how she processes written language. The diagnosis shed light on the struggles Maria faced throughout her life. Armed with a new perspective, she set out to learn how to navigate her condition by spending time with a specialist in New York City. It was during training that she started to notice something in her stomach didn’t feel right. 

“I know my body so well, and that’s really important,” Maria says. “I always stress that if there’s something wrong, you should go to the doctor.”

And she did. She called her doctor right away and had an appointment as soon as she returned home in November. After a sonogram and a CT scan, she received a phone call that no one ever wants to receive.

“I’ll never forget it. I was riding my bicycle when the doctor called and said I had a fatty mass. I almost fell off my bike.”

On November 22, Maria’s diagnosis came back: Leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that grows in the smooth muscles.

Maria Thor-020822-070

Alongside her niece, Rebecca, close friend, Terry, and the staff at Roswell Park, Maria started chemotherapy. For each round of treatment, she stays at the hospital for days at a time, hooked up to an infusion pump on an IV stand that Rebecca has fondly named Wanda. Despite any limitations, Maria completes three miles, or about 99 laps around her floor, with Wanda in tow.

Not all days are good, but she does what she can to keep herself moving. That includes participating in her sixth Empire State Ride.

“It’s in God’s hands what I’m going to be able to do this year [at ESR],” Maria says. “If it’s just a mile, I’ll do a mile. But I will be at the Empire State Ride, heck or high water, sleeping in a tent and joining everybody in celebration.”

 

 

Remembering her first ride

Maria’s journey makes raising funds to end cancer more important than ever.  She thinks back to her first Empire State Ride in 2017 and remembers not knowing what to expect. A self-declared “Holiday Inn girl,” she avoided camping for most of her life and had limited experience with distance cycling.

“I really had no idea how to ride my bicycle. I just rode,” she said. “It’s a game — getting the rest, taking the supplements you need, drinking water every 10 minutes, finding a support group to cheer you on. That first year, you really learn.”

As she prepares to embark on her sixth Empire State Ride with her team, GBY9 (“God Bless You” followed by her parents’ favorite number), she looks forward to doing what she can on her bike and cheering everybody else on. Like years past, she’ll stop when she sees a penny or quarter and pocket what she calls her “wings from heaven.” Later, she’ll add the coins to her fundraising total.

Most importantly, Maria will keep a list of people who have donated to her fundraiser and send them prayers from the road. They’re part of her team, and she can say firsthand that what they’re doing makes a difference in the lives of patients like her.

“Your whole life changes in a blink when you hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’” she said. “You don’t take anything for granted.”

That, Maria says, is reason enough to keep moving.

Join Maria at this year’s Empire State Ride. 

Proceeds directly benefit