If my last post was a homer article, this one is a hometown article. Upstate New York is where I grew up, as well as where I learned to ride a motorcycle after I got my license at age 23. My family is from the Rochester area, and I went to college/graduate school in Buffalo and Binghamton. I spent a lot of time riding the state routes of Wayne County before I started riding the fun, curvy roads in the Southern Tier.
I have a lot of good memories–as well as recollections of a few close calls–on Upstate roads, and wish I could make it back to upstate more often to ride them. I’ve lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but have to say that New York does the best job of the three states in maintaining its state and national highways. The road signage is really consistent in New York too in terms of recommended speed through corners. (I’m not recommending you do or do not adhere to the suggested speed. I’m merely saying you’ll have a very good idea what kind of corner is coming up from the signage.)
Please keep in mind I’m writing this article from slightly distant memories, and have not turned a wheel on these roads in at least three years. Hence, I have not been on them recently to assess pavement conditions, land development along the routes, or the like.
Here–in no particular order–are my favorite roads to ride in Upstate New York:
New York Route 21
Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/g7RaNbXDLP4WQK7RA
Length: 51 miles
This is one of the longest fun routes I found during my time living in Upstate, and it has a little bit of everything. I’ve ridden it both northbound and southbound, and found riding it south to north is better. From Hornell to Naples, the route is mostly a variety of sweepers, then flattens out as it goes through Naples and the lakeside hamlet of Woodville. After passing the row of lake houses in Woodville, it’s a fun, uphill ride out of the Canandaigua Lake valley, followed by gentle sweepers the rest of the way to the outskirts of Canandaigua.
You can use New York Route 64 (another good motorcycle road in its own right) from U.S. Route 20 and 20A to Route New York Route 21 as a fun loop route.
U.S. Route 62
Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/fKsUFG2SYLm4tZGV7
Length: 28 miles
While the sweet part of this road isn’t very long, the ride out of the valley in Gowanda southbound is a blast. I used to pick up the route in Hamburg and ride south to Gowanda through the rolling Western New York countryside. Once you’re in Gowanda, follow the road south and get ready for a barrage of turns (something between tight sweepers and mild twisties), then a nice mix of corner types until you get to the interchange with Interstate 86.
Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/2F4FpZe3uk32MBMU8
Length: 6 miles
It may only be about six miles long, but Gaskill Road lives up to its name. With so many fun turns packed into a short route, it will certainly bring your fuel economy down a bit. The road is located in the hills west of the Binghamton suburb Endicott, and is best ridden northbound. The road’s southern terminus is at Day Hollow Rd., and the route starts with gentle curves before two 90-degree corners begin the fun. The second set of corners is technical, as the ground-off portion of my former Honda Nighthawk 750’s left footpeg can attest to. You slight right before a hard, downhill, off-camber left-hander, which is followed by a sharp right-hander at the bottom of the hill. After that, there’s a steady flow of elevation change and sweepers until the road ends all-too-soon at New York Route 38.
U.S. Route 20A
Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/B2Mqt9gfR2nMwC236
Length: 12 miles
This route has a little bit of everything packed into about 12 miles of fun. I’ve only ridden the road eastbound, starting at where U.S. Route 20A splits off from its duplex with New York Route 15A. It’s a fun set of uphill sweepers to begin the route, followed by sweepers mixed with a good bit of elevation change. There are a couple scenic views to be enjoyed as you crest the series of glaciated north-south hills. The fun ends at Route 20A’s junction with New York Route 64, but you can turn south on Route 64 and enjoy its curves before taking New York Route 21 (discussed above) back toward Rochester.
New York Route 39
Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/Pya6gbyCR9TF4P6F9
Length: 16 miles
This route isn’t about the curves: it’s about the windmills. While there is a continuous flow of gentle sweepers along the route, it’s a lot of fun to ride the route west-to-east out of Arcade and through the Bliss Wind Farm, which went operational in 2008. Most of the windmills–at least the last time I rode it–were on the right side of the road, and they cover most of what the eye can see in that direction. Some may think these man-made objects may be littering a natural landscape, but I think there’s a serenity to seeing them in action.
New York Route 53
Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/CcSJm6bU6NM1L3Ca9
Length: 22 miles
If you’re tired of taking I-390 from Bath to Rochester or vice versa, this is a great alternative. I’ve ridden it in both directions, and it’s fun either way. The route features a mix of tight and wide sweepers mixed with ample elevation change from its interchange with I-390 near Kanona to it’s northern terminus at New York Route 21 (discussed above) just south of Naples.
Old U.S. Route 219
Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/g2ysjckwi65e2SGe8
Length: 11 miles
I found this route while doing a project for my first masters degree, and it was a pleasant surprise. It’s best ridden northbound from the intersection with New York Route 39, and the mix of sweepers and twisties keeps going all the way to the hamlet of Boston. The curves turn more gentle north of Boston, but there’s more fun to be had. You can take a left onto West Tillen Road and enjoy the sweeping climb out of the Eighteen Mile Creek valley to the U.S. 219 expressway and head back to Buffalo from there.
The above photo of the Bliss Wind Farm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License by Windtech at English Wikipedia, used without changes