Wanna Ride? Americade's the Place

If you missed this year's look forward to seeing these locations next year!

Upstate New York doesn’t usually trip a lot of mental triggers in the motorcycling community, unless it’s June—at which point all collective gray matter focuses on the singular East Coast rally.

Yep, Americade, in all its 60,000-attendee glory, unfolds among the lush forests and icy clear waters of the Adirondacks each summer, in a little town called Lake George. And as far as motorcycling goes, it’s a real playground.

If you want to talk scale, New York’s Adirondack Park covers an almost incomprehensible six million acres—that tops Yosemite and Yellowstone combined. What’s more, the Empire State’s prize park was the country’s first preserved wilderness and boasts 2,000 peaks with elevations higher than 3,000 feet. It’s also the canvas within which Lake George, the park’s largest body of water, is set. The so-called “Queen of American Lakes” is so impressive that none other than Thomas Jefferson once commented that the deep blue lake was the most beautiful body of water he’d ever laid eyes on. It’s no wonder the place draws hordes of anglers, birders and hikers—and for one week every year, swarms of bikers.

Americade, motorcycle tour, biker event
Did you get to see these great spots while cruising with the Americade swarm?Photography by Andrew Cherney

Once known as Aspencade East, Americade began in 1983 as an offshoot of the Aspencade Rally (in Ruidoso, New Mexico), with a mere 3,000 riders in attendance. Soon after, the original Aspencade gave up the ghost, and Americade became a single all-brand festival that’s since grown into one massive celebration. It’s a week packed with parties, tours, seminars, vendors and, this year, 10 motorcycle manufacturers offering demo rides.

After more than two decades, Americade has grown from its touring-rally roots, and while it’s safe to assume that more than two-thirds of attendees are still on touring rigs, you’ll find all types of riders here—and they’re all welcome. Even when you count the sheer number of demo rides, the two massive vendor areas or the music and food, in our opinion the best part of ’Cade is still the riding. This serious get-together has long enjoyed the reputation of being one of the best-organized rallies in the country, with no less than five guided, two guided, three unguided and six self-guided mini tours rolling through the lush Adirondack countryside every day. No other event we can think of provides that kind of two-wheeled entertainment.

Routes 9L, 9 and 9N essentially trace the perimeter of the lake (Canada Street and Lake Shore Drive are the main drags), but there are plenty of more scenic options. (I-87 runs north–south and is the interstate closest to the lake.) You might want to delve into the northern reaches of the park on a 115-mile journey through Wilmington Notch, where the road squeezes between the roaring Ausable River and a 2,000-foot cliff. The twisty mountain road unrolls past Whiteface Mountain and, heading north from Keeseville, skims the shores of Lake Champlain, with creamy vistas of the surrounding Adirondack Mountains.

riding americade
Miss it this year? Well put these routes on your itinerary for next year.Photography by Andrew Cherney

If you’re up north by Lake Champlain, the Lakes to Locks Passage will sweep you south to Fort Ann. With craggy granite outcroppings flanking fjordlike fingers of water, the surrounding landscape feels more like Scandinavia than New York. Wander along the Ausable Chasm through Elizabethtown and Port Henry and rejoin the Adirondack Trail in Glens Falls.

Another beauty not to be missed is the jaunt east to Brant Lake on Route 8. From I-87, Exit 25 dumps you east on Route 8 to the lake and continues on through the Pharaoh Wilderness and Dixon Forest. At the end are some of the best views of Lake George and the Adirondack High Peaks. From here, it’s a short hop to Cascade Pass into Lake Placid, home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.