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Old 02-24-08, 06:31 AM   #1
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A Century of Gravel and Dirt?

Does it make sense for me to try to get in a century during the Neils on Wheels Pittsburgh to Washington ride? One advantage to riding a century on such a route is it's car-free, since it's a trail. The disadvantage is that the PA side is gravel and crushed limestone from McKeesport to Cumberland MD, and from Cumberland to Washington it's gravel and dirt. Also, both Neil and I are going to be carrying camping gear, in my case in a trailer. And the PA side is on a slight upgrade.

So, is this a workable idea, or not? I'd love to do a second century, and I'd like to see my riding buddy become a century cyclist.
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Old 02-24-08, 06:52 AM   #2
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Heck yes! The trailer isn't hauling so much weight, so the tires should be fine. Throw a pair of 32mm - 38mm tires on your bike, and you'll be cushioned from the bumpiness of riding dirt/pack-lime trails.
Back in Cleveland I used to ride on a trail like that all the time, sometimes 40 miles or more.
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Old 02-24-08, 07:56 AM   #3
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Don't forget one maxim about touring though, Neil.....

It's not about the speed or even the distance covered in a day...it's about the journey itself.

Now, if you two WANT to do a Century in a day on the trail, then yeah, go for it....all that would happen is that either you will or won't make the goal. Just don't let that detract from the plain old enjoyment of the ride
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Old 02-24-08, 08:08 AM   #4
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Don't forget one maxim about touring though, Neil.....

It's not about the speed or even the distance covered in a day...it's about the journey itself.

Now, if you two WANT to do a Century in a day on the trail, then yeah, go for it....all that would happen is that either you will or won't make the goal. Just don't let that detract from the plain old enjoyment of the ride
Did you just channel Sheldon Brown?
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Old 02-24-08, 08:12 AM   #5
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No, that's how I feel about touring, and when I do bike tour, I don't care if I do 30 or 150 miles in a day. I ride how I enjoy riding that day with no fixed goals.

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Did you just channel Sheldon Brown?
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Old 02-24-08, 09:11 AM   #6
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Don't forget one maxim about touring though, Neil.....

It's not about the speed or even the distance covered in a day...it's about the journey itself.

Now, if you two WANT to do a Century in a day on the trail, then yeah, go for it....all that would happen is that either you will or won't make the goal. Just don't let that detract from the plain old enjoyment of the ride
No, it won't detract from the ride at all. But one feature of Neils on Wheels from our first meeting back in June 2007 is that we keep pushing the other. It started at lunch on our first ride:

Neil F: I'd like to be able to ride 50 miles at at time by the end of the summer.

Neil B: Why wait? Why not today?

Neil F. OK.

And while we didn't ride 50 miles that day, we did a week later. Within a month I'd gotten Neil F. to ride a metric, and in two months, with some help from an auto accident, Neil F. got me to become a bike commuter. He dragged me, willingly, into touring, and a bit less willingly, into cold weather touring. I've convinced him to try camping, an activity neither of us has ever done before. Neil F. is curious about becoming a century cyclist, and I'd like to see him become one, if only because if I can do it, he should be able to do it faster and better.

Anyway, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. It's still going to be a wonderful tour. But if I can make it happen..... I will.
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Old 02-24-08, 09:20 AM   #7
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Cool! Well, either way, have a ball! I hope you manage to pull it off, by the way, the Century, that is I actually feel like you can do it.

So, what did yiu decide re: the trailer, a Bob? Or a 2 wheeled trailer?

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No, it won't detract from the ride at all. But one feature of Neils on Wheels from our first meeting back in June 2007 is that we keep pushing the other. It started at lunch on our first ride:

Neil F: I'd like to be able to ride 50 miles at at time by the end of the summer.

Neil B: Why wait? Why not today?

Neil F. OK.

And while we didn't ride 50 miles that day, we did a week later. Within a month I'd gotten Neil F. to ride a metric, and in two months, with some help from an auto accident, Neil F. got me to become a bike commuter. He dragged me, willingly, into touring, and a bit less willingly, into cold weather touring. I've convinced him to try camping, an activity neither of us has ever done before. Neil F. is curious about becoming a century cyclist, and I'd like to see him become one, if only because if I can do it, he should be able to do it faster and better.

Anyway, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. It's still going to be a wonderful tour. But if I can make it happen..... I will.
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Old 02-24-08, 09:32 AM   #8
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Cool! Well, either way, have a ball! I hope you manage to pull it off, by the way, the Century, that is I actually feel like you can do it.

So, what did yiu decide re: the trailer, a Bob? Or a 2 wheeled trailer?
It's a little early in the season for me, but yes, I will do it. And Neil F. can do it as well. I have a trick to motivate him; I'll tell him the sooner we reach Washington DC the sooner he can see his wife again. Heck, he'll ride centuries every day.

Still deciding on the trailer. I have another couple of months before I need it. I'll probably go with a single wheel design. Neil F. has offered to build one for me, but I'm not sure I want one made of zip ties and duct tape.
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Old 02-24-08, 09:38 AM   #9
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Sounds like Neil F is a man after my own tool box

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It's a little early in the season for me, but yes, I will do it. And Neil F. can do it as well. I have a trick to motivate him; I'll tell him the sooner we reach Washington DC the sooner he can see his wife again. Heck, he'll ride centuries every day.

Still deciding on the trailer. I have another couple of months before I need it. I'll probably go with a single wheel design. Neil F. has offered to build one for me, but I'm not sure I want one made of zip ties and duct tape.
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Old 02-24-08, 12:38 PM   #10
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I'm sure I could do a century if I built up to it, but I'm far more interested in getting good at riding decent distances day after day, as in commuting and touring.

Like I said to History Neil yesterday, if it comes up that we need to do 100 miles in a day, or just feel like it, all well and good. after a few days touring, the distance comes naturally in any case. But if I never do an imperial century, no biggie.
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Old 02-24-08, 02:50 PM   #11
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I'm sure I could do a century if I built up to it, but I'm far more interested in getting good at riding decent distances day after day, as in commuting and touring.

Like I said to History Neil yesterday, if it comes up that we need to do 100 miles in a day, or just feel like it, all well and good. after a few days touring, the distance comes naturally in any case. But if I never do an imperial century, no biggie.
Yes, that's true. I'm not one to just ride long distances to ride long distances. And as I heatedly informed in another thread, riding a century doesn't make you an athlete.

It does, however, train you for long rides, teach you about pacing, fueling, and hydration, and prepare you mentally for handling challenges. The best ride I had on a bike was the October tour we did the week following the MS century ride I completed. Aside from a saddle sore, I was completely pain-free during that trip. I don't think I would have been able to complete our December tour without the lessons I learned over 106 miles on a late September day in New Jersey.

That said, here's what I came up with:

June 1 - Mckeesport to Ohioplye - 60 miles
June 2 - visit to Fallingwater, ride to Cumberland, MD - 74 miles
June 3 - rest day in Cumberland, ride 10-15 miles south for camping. All downhill at this point)
June 4 - 70 miles to Williamsport, MD
June 5 - 100 miles to Washington, if we are up to it. If not, we can stay at any campground along the way. Harper's Ferry is 40 miles into the ride.
June 6 - if we don't complete the century to Washington, finish it today.

An alternate, more leisurely pace:

June 1 - Mckeesport to Ohioplye - 60 miles
June 2 - visit to Fallingwater, ride to Frostburg, PA - 56 miles
June 3 - Ride to Cumberland, MD - less than 20 miles, all downhill (A steep downhill.)
June 4 - rest day in Cumberland, ride 30 miles south to Paw-Paw for camping. All downhill at this point)
June 5 - 50 miles to Williamsport, MD
June 6 - 100 miles to Washington, if we are up to it. If not, we can stay at any campground along the way. Harper's Ferry is 40 miles into the ride.
June 7 - if we don't complete the century to Washington, finish it today.
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Old 02-24-08, 02:58 PM   #12
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All of the above sounds lovely .

I've tried to get Mr. East Hill to do a couple of organised centuries, and even though he's in good shape, he just does not enjoy centuries.

But then again, I like riding to enjoy the ride, even though there's a part of me which says "You can dooooooo it" .

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Old 02-25-08, 04:17 PM   #13
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Under the circumstances you describe, I'd probably skip it.

I've ridden a couple of gravel trails, and while they weren't bad, they slow me down 1 or 2 mph. Add a trailer in, and a slight uphill, and that sounds like a lot slower instead of a little slower.
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Old 02-25-08, 10:47 PM   #14
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Under the circumstances you describe, I'd probably skip it.

I've ridden a couple of gravel trails, and while they weren't bad, they slow me down 1 or 2 mph. Add a trailer in, and a slight uphill, and that sounds like a lot slower instead of a little slower.
Yeah, I think we've both decided to skip it. But a fella can dream, can't he?
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Old 02-26-08, 08:55 AM   #15
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I'm a bit late to the party but both Neils would be welcome to come out to Harrisburg for round two with stony creek. 25 miles each way, ride the entire trail twice and you have your dirty century.

Maybe we could make a clyde ride out of it.

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Old 03-27-08, 08:01 AM   #16
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I'm a bit late to the party but both Neils would be welcome to come out to Harrisburg for round two with stony creek. 25 miles each way, ride the entire trail twice and you have your dirty century.

Maybe we could make a clyde ride out of it.

Bau
Neil F. tipped me off to a 2004 Trek 3700 for 100 bucks. If it's the right size, is it worth getting?
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Old 03-27-08, 08:10 AM   #17
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Neil F. tipped me off to a 2004 Trek 3700 for 100 bucks. If it's the right size, is it worth getting?
Sounds a bit overpriced unless there were substantial upgrades done on the bike. It was not an especially expensive bike to start, and it's now four years old.

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Old 03-27-08, 08:52 AM   #18
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>> June 3 - Ride to Cumberland, MD - less than 20 miles, all downhill (A steep downhill.)

Not so steep just long. The charts on the various web sites make the climb/descent much steeper. I've ridden this section several times both up and down, I prefer the nice downhill ride though ! Remember locomotives had to climb these and they didn't do very well at grades much over 2%.

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Old 03-27-08, 09:38 AM   #19
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Neil F. tipped me off to a 2004 Trek 3700 for 100 bucks. If it's the right size, is it worth getting?
If its in decent shape then I would think its a fairly good deal. Price aside something is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay. I would honestly take a look at it then ask if the seller has some extra tubes or a frame pump to throw in. As East hill pointed out it is four years old, then again the bike does retail about 330 new. I say to take a look at it and let me know. If its too small for you it might be the perfect size for my SO.

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Old 03-27-08, 09:41 AM   #20
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If its in decent shape then I would think its a fairly good deal. Price aside something is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay. I would honestly take a look at it then ask if the seller has some extra tubes or a frame pump to throw in. As East hill pointed out it is four years old, then again the bike does retail about 330 new. I say to take a look at it and let me know. If its too small for you it might be the perfect size for my SO.

Bau
And if it's too small for her, it might be right for Neil F.
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Old 03-27-08, 10:03 AM   #21
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And if it's too small for her, it might be right for Neil F.
If Neil F. < 5'5'' then possibly. Is he looking to get rid of the hardrock?
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Old 03-27-08, 11:01 AM   #22
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My biggest suggestion for riding distance on limestone/gravel is either a bike with a suspension fork, or to air your tires down. I've done a LOT of distance on those trails, on my Trek FX if I attempt to run the front at anything over 80psi I get really, really, really beat up. Yours has a carbon fork so I'm guessing it might be a little more supple, but I'd highly endorse dumping the pressure down.

The only downside to riding a suspension fork on the trail you propose is that naturally they soak up some of your power as the fork works "for you" . On hills I immensely prefer my Trek to my Hardrock. However, the opposite is true of potholed and rough trails. In fact, I've considered taking the HR this weekend when I do a limestone ride of my own, to limit the abuse my arms will take.

All that being said, summary is that if you ran your front at, say, 65psi you should probably be fine.
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Old 03-28-08, 01:14 PM   #23
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Not only does riding on gravel slow you down by 1 to 2 MPH (and sometimes I think it's more like 3 to 4 MPH), but the surface is notably more tiring, and it's sort of like riding on potholes of varying size and depth constantly. It's definitely not as bad as riding on cobblestone, but it's definitely not as good as riding on pavement. I've ridden on the gravel/crushed limestone, and it's not something that I hope to do again.
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