Touring - Boy Scouts on the C&O
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05-30-09, 02:56 PM
At the end of July my former scout troop (I'm 23 now and will be chaperoning as an adult) and I will be heading down the C&O trail to D.C. I would like some information on what to expect on the trail and what bike I would be better suited with. I mostly stick to the roads and as such I have my Panasonic road bike with 700x23c's. I'm told there's mud in places but this is my "real" bike and would love to have it along. I also have a department store Mongoose MTB (don't judge me. I've had it for a long time :D)that is pretty much my city and local trail thrasher. I'm considering upgrading some parts like the brakes and shifters (particularly the shifters as the old ones have self destructed). It is a dual suspension bike so I'd also have to get either a handlebar bag or a dreadful post rack.
Please let me know your thoughts.
I think 23's will be a little too narrow for comfort on the C&O, but you could probably do it. When I did it it I ran 35's, which worked well. If you can get wider tires on the Panasonic (28's, maybe?) that would probably work.
It rained one of the days of my ride, and there was mud, but it was never deep enough that I was worried about sinking into it. It just made a mess of all our bikes.
Yes, there are muddy parts, especially in the rain. Some of the path is dirt with ruts. You're bike may work, but maybe with wider tires if you want to do that. But I think you could take the Mongoose (provided you can carry your stuff on it). It's not all that tough of a ride and if you're going with the Boy Scouts, I doubt you'll be moving very fast. I'm sure many of them will be on Mongooses (or is it Mongeese?). My friend (300+ lbs) did in on a 20-year-old Huffy in 2.5 days, smoking and drinking Mountain Dew the whole way.
When I did the trail, it rained on the first day (from Cumberland) and there was some mud but it wasn't bad. It gets a little worse closer to DC but I don't think it would be unmanageable at a Boy Scout pace with skinny tires.
Here' (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_4rI2XsgIT2Y/SGOci1qVHtI/AAAAAAAAAcM/MSDCrtc1WDY/s1600-h/trail+%28Small%29.JPG)s a pretty representative picture of most of the trail...
Your Panasonic might work if you can fit wider tires (I'd try 32's myself). It's packed gravel and packed dirt, but the towpath can get really muddy after a rain. I might try it on 28's with a light load. Search this forum for other C&O threads - there are a bunch. Go over to the COTowpath group on Yahoo groups - up-to-date info, trip reports, and lots of experience there. bikewashington.org has an excellent mile-by-mile section on the C&O and info on Scout trips. The councils that cover the towpath offer a patch and segments and publish a guidebook - I know the National Capitol Area Council (ncac) Scout store carries it.
On the 2 Scout trips I've been on, anything that could rattle or shake loose did. I would not suggest a seat-post rack for that reason. The one Scout with a FS MTB had problems with the vibration busting the mounts for his rear rack (we transferred everything to other bikes and got it replaced at the bike shop in Hancock. A rear rack that mounts to the rear axle for carrying the weight would probably hold up fine.
Are you going self-contained (better IMHO - more flexibility), or "heavy" with vehicles following and meet-up at one of the major campsites or H&B sites with road access? How many days? 1st trip we were self-contained and did it in 4 1/2 days with a resupply at Antietam. Second trip I joined up mid-way and the older Scouts did Brunswick to G'town in one day. vehicle support that time, so everyone traveled light on the towpath.
05-30-09, 09:45 PM
I took a Scout patrol east to Antietam last year, and we all rode mountain bikes. We had one night of heavy rain, and found the trail extremely muddy the next day. Trail-wide puddles, miles of mud. The mountain bikes were a good choice. The two who left their fenders home were a muddy mess from head to toe.
You could probably ride in on 23s, but I'd recommend mountain bike tires with fenders. That's what I'll be using this year when we return for Antietam to DC and back. I'll be busy enough dealing with Scouts, I don't need to worry about navigating around mud puddles.
I wouldn't attempt the C&O on a road bike personally. A Cross bike with wider tires, yes, MTB definitely. I've seen the fun that trail can throw up.
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