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Need some advice about riding in the Finger Lakes region

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Need some advice about riding in the Finger Lakes region

Old 07-07-14, 09:46 AM
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Need some advice about riding in the Finger Lakes region

I am planning a ride from Rochester, NY (instead of Cleveland) to Lambertville, NJ. My current idea is to use the Erie Canal path from Rochester and then turn south to ride through the Finger Lakes area on my way down to NY State Bike Route 17.

I won't be carrying camping gear so need to find places for the night, either couchsurf/warmshowers hosts or motels. One idea is to ride to Geneva the first night, down Seneca Lake and on toward Horsehead/Elmira for the second night. Both places appear to have both potential hosts and motels.

But, I've never been in this area and am wondering if riding down Seneca Lake is the best way to see it. I will be leaving Rochester in mid-August.

Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 07-07-14, 11:20 AM
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My only familiarity is driving through the area this past spring. I would suggest contacting the folks at the Geneva Bicycle Center for more information. I stopped into the shop and was asking about the NY bike route signs I had seen and they said they usually advise alternative lower traffic routes through the area. They seemed very knowledgeable and helpful so I would suggest trying to contact them for some tips.

It was a beautiful area even though it was very early spring with no foliage when we drove through. Please continue to post about your ride and results or PM me because I would love to go back there for a tour some day and would be interested in your comments and experience. Many, many stops for wine and beer tasting in the area if either is to your liking.
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Old 07-07-14, 12:05 PM
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The east shores of each lake are less hilly than the west shores. The south ends are hillier than the north end, so you will do a fair amount of climbing no matter which side you choose.

Route 5/20 is listed as a bike route, but it is a 55 mph road with a huge amount of road debris. I prefer NY 31 to head east west on. Also, there is a really nice fast road from East Bloomfield into Geneva, that bypasses all but the fringe of Canandaigua.

The Erie Canal trail is tough. Some like it, others don't. I am in the don't camp. The crushed limestone doesn't like tires narrower than 28's, and it barely likes those.
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Old 07-07-14, 12:11 PM
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The year I did the Bon Ton Roulet, we stayed in Dundee one night. The next morning, we rode over to the west shore of Lake Geneva, rode north to Geneva and then came down the east side of the lake, ending up Watkins Glen. The ride up the west shore was gorgeous, although I don't remember seeing the lake. Still it was pretty. Lots of farm land. (Just note that there is a nasty angled RR crossing.) Sadly, it's not shown on Google Maps Street View. Niether is most of the east shore.

If you look at Google Maps, you will see that the through roads on both sides of the lake don't hug the shoreline. I don't recall seeing much of the lake heading south along the east shore either. I do remember that the run into Watkins Glen had some up and down hills. I also remember stopping at some wine place with a restaurant that had a view of the lake. It may have been Hazlit in Hector, NY.

Be careful going through Watkins Glen. Bit of a dump with some heavy traffic. Coming into town on NY 414 there were some nasty RR tracks at the Cargill salt plant. Look at Street View of NY 14/414 in the center of town. I remember sitting in a nice bar on that street. The large, front windows were open but the sound of trucks rumbling through the center of town made it unpleasant. Unless you need something from the main drag, I would hang a left off NY 414/4th Street onto N. Decatur and take that south to bypass NY 14.
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Old 07-07-14, 12:34 PM
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I remember especially liking the biking along Keuka Lake. Watkins Glen the town was a dump, but Watkins Glen the state park was surprisingly pretty.

The glass museum in Corning is excellent.
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Old 07-07-14, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by RollCNY
The east shores of each lake are less hilly than the west shores. The south ends are hillier than the north end, so you will do a fair amount of climbing no matter which side you choose.

Route 5/20 is listed as a bike route, but it is a 55 mph road with a huge amount of road debris. I prefer NY 31 to head east west on. Also, there is a really nice fast road from East Bloomfield into Geneva, that bypasses all but the fringe of Canandaigua.

The Erie Canal trail is tough. Some like it, others don't. I am in the don't camp. The crushed limestone doesn't like tires narrower than 28's, and it barely likes those.

I actually prefer the western shore of Seneca. Its not horrifically steep and IMO its much more scenic. Route 14 has fast moving trafffic but also has a very wide shoulder. If you just go one road up off of 14, there are beautiful alternatives (Swarthout, Hazard, Norris, pre-emption road etc). There are plenty of places up in Geneva to stay. there are also other options like using homeaway.com to find small cottages on the lake. They are usually pretty flexible.
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Old 07-07-14, 12:50 PM
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Keuka lake north to south has one of the closest roads to the water, so the least amount of hills, but the roads are narrow and the traffic can be hairy, especially summer weekends.

Canandaigua Lake west side is a great ride, but insanely hilly, The views come in from the top of the hills, so you don't have them long, but they are majestic.

Seneca is one of the better lakes to ride, either side. West side is closer to the water, but more hilly.

For towns on the south end of the lake, Hammondsport tops Watkins, and has an absolutely fabulous restaurant on the village green, north side, west corner. It is labelled "Bar" or "Inn" and it has fine cuisine. Corning is also a fabulous place to stop for the night, and spending an evening on Market Street is very pleasant. Probably six good restaurants to choose from. If it is still there, The London Underground is very good food. And had an excellent pianist.

Horseheads & Elmira can be chaotic to navigate if unfamiliar. All the work they did ruining Rt 17 did some serious confusion to the surface roads. But if you do end up there, find Lights Bakery for breakfast, right in the center of Elmira. As diners go, it is an 8.
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Old 07-07-14, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by kaisersling
I actually prefer the western shore of Seneca. Its not horrifically steep and IMO its much more scenic. Route 14 has fast moving trafffic but also has a very wide shoulder. If you just go one road up off of 14, there are beautiful alternatives (Swarthout, Hazard, Norris, pre-emption road etc). There are plenty of places up in Geneva to stay. there are also other options like using homeaway.com to find small cottages on the lake. They are usually pretty flexible.
I actually agree with you as far as west shore Seneca being one of the best rides, especially if going north. I just don't know what folks consider too hilly or not too hilly.
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Old 07-07-14, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl
I remember especially liking the biking along Keuka Lake. Watkins Glen the town was a dump, but Watkins Glen the state park was surprisingly pretty.

The glass museum in Corning is excellent.
Indyfabz/axolotl--- Not sure when the last time you guys were up to Watkins Glen--- its not a dump. Its not a sprawling, gleaming spotless metropolis but calling it a dump is unfair IMHO. I go up there about twice a year. Quite a few decent restaurants/breweries. If you are there at the right time of year (if you are interested in this kind of thing...which I am) they have a massive classic road race/carshow. I dont know much outside of Seneca lake area.

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Old 07-07-14, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by kaisersling
Indyfabz/axolotl--- Not sure when the last time you guys were up to Watkins Glen--
'06. We stayed at one of the schools near the auto racing library or whatever it's called. Some friends of mine got hotel rooms in a flea bag of a place. There were cobwebs in several of the rooms and the toilet in one room was hopelessly clogged upon check in, forcing a room switch. Downtown was noisy as noted, and motorists were driving pretty fast up and down Decatur St. The park, however, was nice. Made the walk up the falls and went for a swim in the large pool.
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Old 07-07-14, 09:57 PM
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We rode Highway 20 across the north end of the region. It was a decent route.
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Old 07-08-14, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by kaisersling
Indyfabz/axolotl--- Not sure when the last time you guys were up to Watkins Glen--- its not a dump.
Let's ask Bette Davis:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3zShjyaTr8
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Old 07-08-14, 06:24 AM
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We rode from Rochester to Watkins Glen as kids. I don't recall it as being anything but a normal small town in the 70s. But I've noticed a lot of western NY seems to have slowly declined since then. Still an area of great natural beauty though. Haven't ridden the area since I was a kid, but there weren't many roads we didn't ride on at some point in my teens. Brings back great memories thinking about it.

Have fun!
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Old 07-08-14, 07:57 AM
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Watkins glen,which is still just a small town, has greatly benefited from the explosion in the winery/distilling industry. There are still some run down areas/hotels but the times they are a changing. As a result, its getting more expensive to rent vacations homes up there.
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Old 07-08-14, 07:25 PM
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I think your plan is sound. I would travel down the west side of Seneca (Rt. 14). You'll have good views of the lake close to Geneva and then at many spots along the way. This part of the trip might be slow going for me as there are at least 15 wineries along that stretch. Most of them have tasting rooms, BTW.

Do you like hills? The easiest way to connect with NY Bike 17 would be to take Rt. 414 out of Watkins Glen to Corning. This includes a climb that is a steady 7% for about a 1.5 miles. Corning would be the best place to stay in the area or you could pick up Bike 17 (Rt. 352) for an easy 12 miles into Elmira.

If you don't want the climb out of Watkins on 414, you will have stay on 14 through Horseheads and Elmira Heights into Elmira. Part of 14 is very busy, 4 lanes, congested area, lots of retail. Rt. 14 eventually meets 352 in Elmira.

The Nascar race in Watkins is August 9 - 10 this year. Traffic in Watkins will get bad at times and it will be hard to find a room anywhere in the area.

Safe travels!
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Old 07-08-14, 07:32 PM
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Rode Dresden to Watkins Glen and back today, and hills are very manageable, especially with a tailwind (on the way back). Good wide shoulder all the way and respectful drivers.

State park is lovely, and there's no charge if you go in by bike.
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Old 07-09-14, 06:05 AM
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Registered for Bon Ton last night. I think we will pass through Watkins Glen one day. I will take another look, but note that I referred to the town itself, not the surrounding area. I think those of us who live in major cities consider geography a bit differently. When I was in Montana a few weeks ago, someone asked me where I was from. I told him Philly. He said one of his relatives lived in Philly. I asked him which part. He told me Jenkintown, which is a suburb that doesn't even abut the city limits.
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Old 07-09-14, 08:31 PM
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The Erie Canal path sort of stops in Newark, it comes out by a motel on rt 88. Take rt 88 south to phelps, then get on rt 96 east, I think it is about 3 miles east of phelps take a right on to preemption road. That takes you right into Geneva, on the west side of Seneca lake, when you get to Geneva, stay on top of the drumlins for a few miles before you turn down to rt 14, less traffic, better road and scenery.. Having ridden up and down both sides of Seneca lake, have to say I liked the east side better because the shoulder was better, road smoother and view more panoramic. Down side, if you are coming from the west, you have to go through Geneva to start down the east side.
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