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Erie Canal Trail - 360 miles, 24 hours

Old 06-11-19, 10:27 AM
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billyymc
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Erie Canal Trail - 360 miles, 24 hours

Coming to the well of experience to ask your thoughts on this ride. Putting in some decent rides this year, with a couple doubles planned soon, plus several quite climby centuries.

Longest ride I've done was a double last year with about 5500 feet of climbing, solo in about 11:45 moving time, and 12:30 total time out including breaks. Planning to repeat that ride in a month, this time with a couple other riders.

Today the idea of riding the Erie Canal trail from Buffalo to Albany in 24 hours or less came into my head. I have no idea what being on the bike that long feels like. The route is mostly flat, with a few sections of climbs where the route takes to the roads instead of a MUP type trail. The trail is mostly crushed limestone, with some pavement. Going to check out some sections over the next few weeks.

I know 360 miles in 24 hours is doable for some. What are the issues when you push that far? Any concerns about medical problems besides dehydration from not drinking enough / correctly?
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Old 06-11-19, 11:40 AM
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Riding that far is all about eating. Not sure how you would feed yourself on a ride like that, what's your plan?
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Old 06-11-19, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Riding that far is all about eating. Not sure how you would feed yourself on a ride like that, what's your plan?
I'd carry a fair amount with me - either in a lumbar pack or an on-bike bag of some type. The trail passes through towns (and some of it is on roads), but obviously wouldn't want to go searching for food so I'd have to scope out where I could get off and on the trail easily to stock up on food.
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Old 06-11-19, 01:06 PM
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It may seem obvious, but crushed limestone or anything unpaved will definitely sap more out of you than riding the same distance on road. I don't know what tire size you run but maybe bumping up a size or two will help with long-term comfort.

And yes, seconding what @unterhausen said about keeping yourself fed. I burn calories so quickly that it's hard for me to stay out of the red. It would be impossible for me to carry enough on the bike so that route homework of identifying services is really crucial.

Have you ridden over a double before? How does your body feel after those rides? Is there any minor fit adjusting you could do to make it more comfortable? What starts as a minor issue at 200mi could really turn major over 360mi. That being said, for me a 200k or 300k is enough of a litmus test for me to know whether something works or not, so you will probably be fine. I would also be somewhat concerned about are getting sleepy in the wee hours (have a plan for caffeine or music or chatty riding buddies), but you are much faster than me and seeing sunrise on the second day always provides a huge boost, so again you will probably be fine.
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Old 06-11-19, 01:36 PM
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I did my first 24 hour solo ride (324 miles) on a paved rail trail (East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island). I had done a double century with a buddy a few weeks earlier without issues, so I knew I had my fit and fuel nailed down, but I didn't know how my body and mind would fare with adding another 100+ miles, this time solo, and with 12 hours of total darkness (mid October in New England) so I decided to reduce the number of variables, and do a 30 mile out-and-back loop, 13 times. If for some reason I needed to bail, I wouldn't be more than 15 miles from my car. And passing my car every 30 miles, allowed me to carry minimal hydration, fuel, and clothing changes (50 degree temperature swing from day to night). After 20 hours (and 270 miles), the hardest part became convincing myself over and over to not get in the car and just go home with a good ride under my belt. When I was done, I knew I could've done more, but instead I went home with a good ride under my belt, and no regrets.
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Old 06-12-19, 03:07 PM
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360 miles in 24 hours would be an impossible pace for me. A Flèche is 360 km in that time, a very moderate pace even with stops, but 360 miles is a whole lot more. Last July I rode 275 miles in a 24 hour period. That includes several long food stops, walking over two bridges, a ferry, and a nap; so I could have gone a bit farther if conditions had been different. But I don't think there's any way I could maintain a 15 mph average speed for that long.

As for the Erie Canal path, the parts of it I've seen were nice, but not conducive of fast riding. The busy sections are busy, and some sections are poorly maintained. There are sections where you have to take the road. These are not always marked. We had to turn around a few times to get around an obstacle of one kind or another.
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Old 06-12-19, 04:43 PM
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Even a well maintained, hard packed crushed stone trail takes more energy than a paved road. And sandy or gravelly trails are much slower still. Wider smooth tread tires can help.

Your test rides will be useful. Keep track of your perceived effort vs average speed, and compare to similar fairly flat road rides.

Late night food and water might be difficult to find.
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Old 06-12-19, 09:52 PM
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Check if the trail is open 24 hours.
And if there's much traffic on it, at may slow you down.
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Old 06-13-19, 05:31 AM
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Thanks everyone - all good points an info.

I have a couple other riders who are considering this nonsense! We've decided that we need some substantial planning and scouting if we are going to attempt this, so we're targeting next summer. In the meantime we will ride much of the trail in shorter rides and determine if we think it's even possible given factors like trail condition, crowded areas where we'd have to slow down, confusing sections we'd want to know well especially in the dark, food and hydration, etc.

I think a lot of factors would need to fall neatly into place to be able to pull this off. A nice 20mph tail wind would be helpful!
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Old 06-13-19, 08:19 AM
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You might consider attempting a 24 hour 600k or a 24 hour race first to see if you can do it. I can ride a 300k at about the same pace as your double, but I have never been able to come even close to a 24 hour 600k. Things just really slow down in that second 12 hours, and that's on pavement. The trail would be even harder. I'm attempting a 600k with no sleep stop this weekend, and I'm very confident it will take me a lot longer than 24 hours.
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Old 06-13-19, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by rhm View Post
As for the Erie Canal path, the parts of it I've seen were nice, but not conducive of fast riding. The busy sections are busy, and some sections are poorly maintained. There are sections where you have to take the road. These are not always marked. We had to turn around a few times to get around an obstacle of one kind or another.
I was going to say something similar -- I would not want to use it for a nighttime speed trial. Not always marked, jumping on and off roads and not always a nice clear curb-cut, etc.
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Old 06-14-19, 04:31 AM
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Well it would seem we have more than a little homework to do, and based on the feedback in this thread this is a low probability of happening.

Not giving up without doing some on the ground research though. One of my riding buddies and I are going to do a long ride on the trail next weekend to scout. Assuming that goes well we will continue to check out various sections of the trail throughout the next several months.
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Old 06-14-19, 12:00 PM
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ACP/RUSA allow up to 40 hours for a ~360 mile ride, and that's on paved roads. I think doing your ride in two days over a weekend is probably way more feasible than one.
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Old 06-15-19, 07:06 AM
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I know 360 miles in 24 hours is doable for some. What are the issues when you push that far? Any concerns about medical problems besides dehydration from not drinking enough / correctly?
You don't say enough about yourself for me to form much of an opinion about your chances for success. Many cyclists can ride great distances - but to do 360 miles "solo" - and without support or strategic aid stations already in place - I'd have say your "ride around the lake" would be epic indeed.It might be a better idea to map out the safest, smoothest roads available - then tell yourself you are going to see how many hours and minutes you can stay on the bike out of 24-hrs. Try and get friends and family to come out ride with you and cheer you on and differing times. If that doesn't appeal to you - I'd suggest you find an organized event to discover the ends of your abilities.Even at my first 24 hr event I was on the bike nearly 22hrs out of 24. At my last one - I was on the bike 23:40 out of 24hrs. (most of that for a bowel movement) Riding really long, long distances is an acquired taste - and few cyclists are really ready to "swallow" an entire day of their lives.Good luck..
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Old 06-17-19, 10:46 PM
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I think it's pretty close to impossible. The crushed limestone will slow you down too much. The trail also breaks up in places, and it can be annoying - and slow - to navigate.
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Old 06-18-19, 03:39 AM
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Two of us are going to do a test ride this weekend to begin checking out the trail. From the posts here, doing the 360/24 seems unfeasible if not impossible. Perhaps this weekend's ride will put an end to this folly!
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Old 06-20-19, 12:34 PM
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Splitting the ride up over two days might be a good first goal, but I won't belabor the point. Some folks will only "go big or go home."
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Old 06-21-19, 03:48 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Splitting the ride up over two days might be a good first goal, but I won't belabor the point. Some folks will only "go big or go home."
TS - if we find the route to be unsuitable for the described attempt (which based on the info collected here is very likely the case), I'd plan to ride it in a two or three day ride anyway.
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Old 06-23-19, 04:32 AM
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One of my regular riding partners and I started on the trail in Dewitt, NY yesterday (eastern Syracuse) and headed eastward. The trail started as smooth paved surface, then after a few miles turned to the crushed limestone. My guesstimate is that riding the limestone - where it was nice and wide and flat and well packed - probably robbed a couple mph off of our speed at the beginning of our ride for the same perceived effort. So maintaining about 18mph on the limestone felt like 20 on the road.

As we progressed further eastward we encountered sections where the nice limestone path became narrow sets of double track with grass between, or narrow single track less than a foot wide, or mud-covered, or looser limestone, or the pathway had branches encroaching, etc etc. All things that obviously slowed us down. We also did lose the route in a few locations where it went onto roads, or where other paths connected. For want of a few well placed arrows we rode a couple extra miles by the time we got to Utica.

We'd considered doing a double century out and back. But at Utica, with about 64 miles on the bike and the wind blowing steadily from N/NW (the direction we had to ride back into) we decided to turn. The wind hurt us going back pretty bad, and the decision to turn early was a good one. We finished with 123 miles, at an average riding speed (excluding several stops) of 16mph. I think before the turn back into the wind our moving average was between 17 and 18.

So that idea - riding 360 in 24 hrs - has been laid to rest. We both agreed that doing it in a three day / two night trip would be very enjoyable though, and plan to do that next year.

One of the strange parts for me was riding such a flat route...you never get to coast!!

Anyway - thanks for the input and thoughts, all of which proved accurate.
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Old 06-23-19, 06:23 AM
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That is pretty much exactly what I expected!

Even so, I expect by scouting out the route really thoroughly you could escape the bonus miles. What size tires were you using?
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Old 06-23-19, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by rhm View Post
That is pretty much exactly what I expected!

Even so, I expect by scouting out the route really thoroughly you could escape the bonus miles. What size tires were you using?
Yes - more thorough scouting and being intimately familiar with the entire route would be a pre-requisite to ever attempting to do it in 24 hours. There were places we rode where some serious lights would be needed at night just to avoid getting stabbed in the face with branches that were overhanging the trail. Some parts are clearly more well travelled than others.

I was on a cyclocross bike with 28's, and my buddy was on his road bike with 25s. Made keeping speed through the muddier parts quite interesting. He has a gravel bike which would have been a better choice but wanted saddle time on his road bike before heading to RAGBRAI soon.

I think the 360 in 24 would be possible, just not by me!
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Old 06-23-19, 09:44 AM
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Nor by me! But if I were riding that route I'd definitely be on much wider tires. Probably 53 mm or so. Really makes a difference in soft stuff, doesn't seem to have any downside at all.
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Old 07-16-19, 09:12 PM
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If you're planning on doing this, I'd say start in Lockport instead of the actual beginning in Tonawanda, only because parking your car for a couple days in Lockport will probably be easier. Heading east the trail is all nice west of Rochester with maybe a 10 ft gradient the entire time. The best places to turn off heading east from Buffalo for food, shelter, etc would be Lockport, Medina, Brockport, Spencerport, Fairport, Palmyra, Newark, Lyons, Seneca falls, Port Byron, Weedsport, Syracuse, then into your neck of the woods.

Also NY just put on some kind of big cycle tour last week, you can check out ptny.org, it has maps of the entire canal an gives mile by mile altitude etc (https://www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal)

Oh and I ride 32mm with no real problems up there on the gravel(gatorskins and armadillo elites, one ride for 74 mi w/ gp4000 all seasons). plus more stores have 32's in stock up here if you have a blow out, whereas people might not have 35's or 37s.

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Old 07-17-19, 06:39 AM
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Of course, you can always replace a 38mm tire with a 32 if it comes to that. I used to carry a spare that was considerably smaller than the tires I normally ran. Never used that one though, I just saw it, I should probably get rid of it somehow.
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