Our #1 Bike Setup for the Empire State Trail

Bike and Gear Setup for the Empire State Trail

The Empire State Trail is the longest multi-use trail in the entire nation. It showcases New York State’s iconic landscapes, spell-binding sceneries, and diverse history. 

These and many more qualities make the Empire State Trail a nirvana for avid cycling enthusiasts.

But exploring this trail isn’t simply a matter of getting on any bike and pedaling until you fall. It calls for special equipment, including a top-notch gravel bike and appropriate gear.

This piece outlines everything a cyclist needs to relish exploring the New York Empire State Trail, including an REI ADV 2.2 gravel bike, panniers, a rear rack, helmet, clothing, and cycling shoes.

Strap in and enjoy the ride.

Check out our video recap of our recommended bike & gear for the Empire State Trail!

REI ADV 2.2 Gravel Bike: What Makes it Special?

If you want a drop-bar bike that can handle unpaved trails smoothly, the REI ADV 2.2 Gravel Bike should be your go-to.

This bike has several features that make it best suited for dirt and gravel tracks. For starters, the bike has an aluminum frame and carbon fork. As you may well know, aluminum and carbon components are lightweight and durable. So, this bike lasts longer, is easy to maneuver, and doesn’t flinch when you leave the pavement.

Moreover, the ADV 2.2 bike is fit for all genders and can be ridden by people of different heights (5.0″-6.3″).

Other specs that make the Rei ADV 2.2 the best bike include gravel-specific ergonomics, powerful mechanical disk brakes, and flared handlebars.

REI ADV 2.2 Gravel Bike with all the recommended gear. Pictured on the Croton Reservoir Bridge along the Hudson Valley Greenway Section of the Empire State Trail.

Essential Gear for REI ADV 2.2 Gravel Bike Riders

Riding the REI ADV 2.2 gravel bike on the Empire State Trail requires specific gear. Without it, the experience is much less likely to be fun or comfortable.

With the above in mind, besides an accurate Empire State Trail map, here is a list of other gear you should have when exploring this biking haven:

Panniers and Rack

The Empire State Trail is a 750-mile mammoth. Panniers and a rear rack are indispensable if you want to explore this magical terrain of wonders without worrying about heavy loads strapped to your back.

Here are the best panniers and rear racks for your REI ADV 2.2 bike:

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus Rear Panniers

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus – Rear Panniers come in a set of two in either black or red. Each pannier is made from abrasion-resistant and waterproof fabric. This feature lends the panniers longer life, even when you expose them to harsh elements like rain.

These Ortlieb Panniers are also lightweight, stylish, and easy to mount.

Portland Design Works – Everyday Rear Rack

The Portland Design Works Everyday Rear Rack is an exquisite, slim platform made from double-ply bamboo. It comes with a unique mounting system that enables riders to mount them to bike frames without eyelets. They are perfect for hauling heavy loads without undermining rear-end stability.


Did you know that one in three biking-related non-fatal injuries are to the head? Moreover, serious bike accidents often lead to severe complications, including traumatic brain injury and death.

Luckily, a good helmet can prevent head injuries and keep you safe on the trail. And when it comes to bike helmets, the Bontrager Solstice MIPS Helmet is hands down the best.

Bontrager – Solstice MIPS Helmet

The Bontrager Solstice MIPS Helmet is a sleek, stylish helmet. It comes with a low-layer friction layer slide designed to reduce rotational motion, which is often responsible for brain injuries.

These helmets have other exciting features too. For instance, they are equipped with FIDLOCK magnetic buckles that offer a secure fit and a removable visor for constant coverage.


Good cycling shoes are a biker’s best friend. With a quality pair, your feet will always be comfortable and cool on the hottest days, and you’ll enjoy better energy transfer.

If you want to enjoy all the perks associated with top-tier cycling shoes, get the following:

Specialized Torch 3.0 Cycling Shoe

Specialized is well-known for designing top-quality bikes and cycling gear of all sorts. And if you ask us, the Specialized Torch 3.0 Cycling Shoe are no exception in their track record of quality.

Specialized Torch 3.0 Cycling Shoes have carbon soles specially designed to optimize power transfer and directional rigidity. And that’s not all. They also rely on the tried-and-tested Body Geometry design, which provides hip-to-foot alignment, increases efficiency, and reduces the risk of injury.

And a bonus? The BOA dials make adjusting these cycling shoes a breeze as you put in long miles along the Empire State Trail.

Shimano SH-11 SPD-SL Cleat

If your bike has clipless pedals, get Shimano SH-11 SPD-SL Cleats. They will come in handy when you want to attach the bottom of your new riding shoes to the clipless pedals. You can also buy a new pair when the current cleats wear out.


Proper cycling clothing is key to staying comfortable, relaxed, and dry. That being said, the best and finest cycling clothing includes:

REI Co-op Junction Cycling Rain Jacket – Men’s

The REI Co-op Junction Cycling Rain Jacket is waterproof and windproof. It’s durable water repellent finish keeps riders dry by beading up light rain. Additionally, this men’s jacket has a sizable hood, zippered pockets, and cuffs.

Rainy days are always possible in New York, whether spring, summer or fall. Be prepared with the REI Junction Cycling jacket.

Specialized SL R Logo Short-sleeve Jersey – Men’s

The SL R Logo Short-Sleeve Jersey is a comfortable jersey designed for warm weather. It has a full-length front zipper for better airflow, standard pockets for holding necessities, and UV 30+ protection. By pairing this with the REI Junction Cycling jacket, you’ll be able to layer up when it cools off but also stay cool when the weather is warm.

Specialized RBX Adventure Bib Short + SWAT

RBX Adventure SWAT Bib Short is premium men’s gear designed to keep you comfortable and provide support as you ride. It has several exceptional features, including built-in UV protection and reflective elements. For any long distance ride along the Empire State Trail, you’ll want the comfort and support of bib style shorts for all day comfort.


Riders often need lights to navigate dark tunnels or routes with overhanging trees and ride at night. Here are our recommendations on the best bike lights available today.

Bontrager Ion Comp R Front Bike Light

The Bontrager Ion Comp R Front Bike Light is ideally suited for lighting up any route at night or during the day in shady or inclement weather situations. This product offers a powerful 700-lumen beam with an exceptional field of depth and enduring brightness. This light is also easy to recharge using the USB cable.

Cygolite Hotrod 90 Back Taillight

The Cygolite Hotrod 90 Bike Taillight bolsters rider safety through flashing and solid modes. You can use said modes to optimize visibility and help motorists sharing the same road gauge their distance. This is a great all around taillight that is rechargeable and will ensure that you are seen.

Best Water Bottle Holder and Water Bottle

Staying hydrated on the trail is key. We recommend a traditional water bottle and water bottle holder instead of a hydration pack carried on your back. This enables much easier riding and less fatigue on your back and shoulder.

Portland Design Works – The Owl Water Bottle Cage: This is an owl-shaped bottle cage for cradling your water bottle. We like the pairing of this and the Portland Design Works pannier to give your setup some style along the trail.

CamelBak Podium Big Chill Insulated Water Bottle – 24 fl. Oz: This is an insulated water bottle specially designed to keep your water chilled up to 2X longer than most other alternatives. The easy locking top is a great feature to boot.


Riding is always fun, no doubt. To enjoy a long route like the Empire State Trail, you will want several items to make the most if it. To recap, those key items include a rack, pannier bags, a helmet, cycling shoes, appropriate clothing, and of course, a water bottle! We’ve given you our top recommendations; the ball is now in your court. If you want top-shelf products, use the links provided to make your next visit to the Empire State Trail the best yet.

See you on the trail!

We want to make sure your next experience on the trail is enjoyable and unforgettable. We offer outdoor equipment reviews and world-class advice on the Empire State Trail and how to travel it.