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  • Fri July 01 2005
  • Posted Jun 30, 2005
LONG distance bike rides have been a fixture of summer for decades. You're likely to have heard of Ragbrai (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), the weeklong ride that started in 1973. It reached its limit of 8,500 riders months ago, but there are other rides going on across the country soon, and there's still time to take part. And in many cases, you don't have to commit yourself to the whole ride. Cycling the Erie Canal, July 10 to 17, bisects New York for about 400 miles from Buffalo to Albany. The ride, which started seven years ago, mainly uses trails along the old waterway and covers around 50 miles a day, as most long rides do. Open to 500 riders, the tour will stop at the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, and there will be boat tours along the canal. "It's kind of a combination of a rolling camp on wheels, is how I think about it, along with some nice little sprinkling of history and culture," said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York, the ride's organizer. Only about a third of the ride is on public roads, and riders spend the night at Fort Stanwix, a Revolutionary War re-creation in Rome, and at schools and parks along the route. And, yes, "15 Miles on the Erie Canal" is sung several times during the week, Ms. Dropkin said. Shorter weekend options at the start and the end are available. From July 16 to 22, the Michigander Bicycle Tour rolls along the former route of the Michigan Airline Railway about 270 miles east across the southern portion of the state from South Haven, on Lake Michigan, to Algonac, 53 miles northeast of Detroit. About half the ride, now its 14th year, is on rail trails - abandoned rail lines made usable by the ride's organizer, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy - with the rest on rural public roads. Since packed gravel makes up much of the route, the use of mountain bikes or hybrids is strongly urged. "The rail trails themselves are flat," said Barry Culham, the ride's organizer. "But when we get on the road a little bit, you know, there might be some rolling hills, but nothing real big." The ride will pass wineries in Paw Paw, and in Battle Creek, there will be tours of Kellogg's "Cereal City." Length options range from two to seven days, the most popular being the two- and six-day options, each with a 600-person limit. Nights, with local bands and D.J.'s for entertainment, will be spent at schoolyards along the route. Then there's Cycle Montana, July 16 to 22, which will cut 321 miles southeast across the state from Missoula to Bozeman. This somewhat smaller ride, which started in 1993, has a 170-person limit this year and will wind through vast valleys surrounded by hulking peaks. "There's a fair number of good mountain passes that we go over, but the nice thing out here in the West is that they're not steep," said Guy Barel, tours manager at the Adventure Cycling Association, a nonprofit company based in Missoula that organizes the ride. Entirely on public back roads, the ride passes through Virginia City, a Victorian gold mining town, and the Big Hole National Battlefield, site of an engagement in the Nez Perce War in 1877. For hardcore cyclists, there will be an optional 40-mile day trip from Bozeman at the end. And even though much of the camping will be in schoolyards, one night will be spent at steamy Jackson Hot Springs. Tours on Wheels, East to West NEW YORK Cycling the Erie Canal, (518) 434-1583; www.ptny.org/canaltour. Dates: July 10 to 17. The Ride: About 400 miles from Buffalo to Albany; open to 500 riders. Cost: The entire ride is $545; the two weekend-ride options are $240 each (both prices include a $50 fee for registration after June 24). There will be a shuttle before the ride, though space is limited, from Albany to Buffalo on July 9 ($80). Registration is due by July 7. MICHIGAN Michigander Bicycle Tour, (517) 485-6022; www.railtrails.org/field/michigan. Dates: July 16 to 22. The Ride: About 270 miles from South Haven to Algonac; a 600-rider limit for six- and seven-day rides and a 600-rider limit for two-day ride. Cost: The two-day option (July 16-17) is $100. The six-day ride (July 17-22) is $290, and the seven-day (July 16-22) is $325. Youth prices are also available. There will be shuttles both before the ride, on July 16 ($50, six-day ride only), and after, on July 22 ($45, open to six- and seven-day riders), from Algonac to South Haven. Registration is open until July 8. MONTANA Cycle Montana, (800) 755-2453; www.adventurecycling.org/tours. Dates: July 16 to 22. The Ride: Covers 321 miles from Missoula to Bozeman; 170-rider limit. Cost: $759. There will be a shuttle back to Missoula after the ride at no extra charge. Registration is available until the day before the trip. By NICK KAYE Published: July 1, 2005

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