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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 04-11-13, 11:00 AM   #1
Chitown_Mike
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325 miles, off-road, in 4 days....crazy?

My in-laws live in DC and my FIL specifically has talked up the C&O Tow path that runs from Washington DC to Cumberland Maryland (184.5 miles) and I know I could do that feasibly in about 2 days by the fall this year. But then I read about the Great Allegheny trail that then goes from Cumberland Maryland to Pittsburgh and that got me thinking......

I wanted to know if there have been any ambitious C&A folks that have done either one of the trails in their entirety and/or done both as a thru-bike trip. I know 80 miles a day off-road is probably crazy, but I figure I wouldn't do the full thing until next fall (2014) to allow me to train and get more in shape.

Or if anyone would be crazy enough to join me!

I would probably camp a night or 2 and get a hotel in Cumberland for a good nights sleep, but otherwise it would be camping the whole way.

Anyone else done something similar?

Oh and for los ojos:
https://www.traillink.com/trail/grea...heny%2BPassage
http://www.traillink.com/trail/chesa...gce%3D201302_3
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Old 04-11-13, 12:31 PM   #2
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I suspect your enjoyment will go up at least 50% if you give yourself 50% more days to complete the ride. Not to say it's not possible, just that that long for four days in a row will grind you down.
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Old 04-11-13, 12:58 PM   #3
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I've done it three times since 2008, and some individual segments as well.

I don't understand why you are concerned about training. You, IIRC, ride often and ride long. Aside from some rough surfaces on the C & O and the climb up Savage Mountain I don't think there's anything you would find intimidating. If you've never bike toured before I suggest doing an overnight camping trip so you get used to riding with gear and setting up and breaking camp.

If you have an extra day and don't mind a couple of hilly on-road detours around uncompleted segments the 46 mile Montour Trail is worth a visit. It connects to the GAP at McKeesport via the Steel Valley Trail.
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Old 04-11-13, 12:59 PM   #4
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I suspect your enjoyment will go up at least 50% if you give yourself 50% more days to complete the ride. Not to say it's not possible, just that that long for four days in a row will grind you down.
Also, there's a lot to see and do along the trip. Why turn it into the 3 Minute Louvre?
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Old 04-11-13, 01:00 PM   #5
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I suspect your enjoyment will go up at least 50% if you give yourself 50% more days to complete the ride. Not to say it's not possible, just that that long for four days in a row will grind you down.
I thought about that, but getting off of work is a huge pain because the world ends when I am not here, lol. Not literally but no one likes to deal with all my stuff since most of it is international customers and that is a pain just to decipher Swedish accented emails!

But adding a day was also a thought, but I prefer a challenge over anything else. Plus knowing I was putting 80 miles in a day would mean I would have to be lock-step on my weight loss goals from here on out to ensure I was physically fit before hand. But the thought of an extra day (or 2) crossed my mind. Plus I would shoot for 4 but if I fell short, enjoy a slower ride.

Plus this might lead me more towards a cyclocross bike versus just a road bike next season when I am looking to buy a new one.

Thanks for the input PD!
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Old 04-11-13, 01:29 PM   #6
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I've done it three times since 2008, and some individual segments as well.

I don't understand why you are concerned about training. You, IIRC, ride often and ride long. Aside from some rough surfaces on the C & O and the climb up Savage Mountain I don't think there's anything you would find intimidating. If you've never bike toured before I suggest doing an overnight camping trip so you get used to riding with gear and setting up and breaking camp.

If you have an extra day and don't mind a couple of hilly on-road detours around uncompleted segments the 46 mile Montour Trail is worth a visit. It connects to the GAP at McKeesport via the Steel Valley Trail.

I could probably push through it by this fall, but I want to ensure if I pushed myself I could do 80 miles a day, hence the training. Plus all my current long rides are on a road bike in the super flat lands of Chicago, so the dirt trails and such, plus the continental divide, would probably push me harder than I can expect.
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Old 04-11-13, 01:38 PM   #7
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I could probably push through it by this fall, but I want to ensure if I pushed myself I could do 80 miles a day, hence the training. Plus all my current long rides are on a road bike in the super flat lands of Chicago, so the dirt trails and such, plus the continental divide, would probably push me harder than I can expect.
The GAP has an average grade of two per cent. At times that becomes a whopping three per cent in places such as Ohiopyle State Park and the stretch between Rockwood and Garret. Going South to North the grade up Savage Mountain from Cumberland is two to three percent for 24 miles, IIRC. Aside from the five mile road detour on the C & O south of Williamsport there's little tough climbing. Keep in mind in most places if you go off trail you are either going down or up.
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Old 04-11-13, 01:57 PM   #8
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I could probably push through it by this fall, but I want to ensure if I pushed myself I could do 80 miles a day, hence the training. Plus all my current long rides are on a road bike in the super flat lands of Chicago, so the dirt trails and such, plus the continental divide, would probably push me harder than I can expect.

My 2009 tour on the Montour, GAP, and C & O.

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...P-C-amp-O-Tour

Keep in mind as you read it, if you read it, that you are not only more fit than I was, but you have knees that work. Rereading this journal now reminds me that 2009 was the first sign of the beginning of the end for my knees.
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Old 04-11-13, 02:26 PM   #9
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My 2009 tour on the Montour, GAP, and C & O.

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...P-C-amp-O-Tour

Keep in mind as you read it, if you read it, that you are not only more fit than I was, but you have knees that work. Rereading this journal now reminds me that 2009 was the first sign of the beginning of the end for my knees.
Wow, great write up Neil!

Still I don't think I can make it out there till next year anyway, unless something changes. How bad is it in the winter? Maybe I can make a 30th b-day vacation trip in January!
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Old 04-11-13, 02:44 PM   #10
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Wow, great write up Neil!

Still I don't think I can make it out there till next year anyway, unless something changes. How bad is it in the winter? Maybe I can make a 30th b-day vacation trip in January!
Its snow covered, freezing, most of the campgrounds are closed, and Big Savage Tunnel is gated and locked.
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Old 04-11-13, 02:50 PM   #11
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My in-laws live in DC and my FIL specifically has talked up the C&O Tow path that runs from Washington DC to Cumberland Maryland (184.5 miles) and I know I could do that feasibly in about 2 days by the fall this year. But then I read about the Great Allegheny trail that then goes from Cumberland Maryland to Pittsburgh and that got me thinking......

I wanted to know if there have been any ambitious C&A folks that have done either one of the trails in their entirety and/or done both as a thru-bike trip. I know 80 miles a day off-road is probably crazy, but I figure I wouldn't do the full thing until next fall (2014) to allow me to train and get more in shape.

Or if anyone would be crazy enough to join me!

I would probably camp a night or 2 and get a hotel in Cumberland for a good nights sleep, but otherwise it would be camping the whole way.

Anyone else done something similar?

Oh and for los ojos:
https://www.traillink.com/trail/grea...heny%2BPassage
http://www.traillink.com/trail/chesa...gce%3D201302_3
Crazy? Probably. Do-able? Also probably. How much training is required? That would depend how much you want to hurt at the end of it all.

My first ride that spanned more than a day was at a time when I could cover 30-40 miles in an afternoon and a friend persuaded me to join him on a 150-mile route. We split it into two days of 83 and 65 miles and by the end of the first day I wanted to die I really didn't think I'd be fit to continue the next day. But continue I did, and I made it. It hurt, by the end even on flat roads I was stopping every few miles to get the feeling back into my hands and rear, but I finished. I later realised my saddle was too far back and I was using straight bars on a mountain bike. A year later I did virtually the same ride and ended every day feeling like I could do the same again if I had to.

If you just want to get your head down and crank out some miles you could probably do it, but it sounds like the kind of ride where you'd get a lot more out of it if you stopped to enjoy the scenery. If you can't get the time to take 6 days rather than 4 to do the full 320 miles why not take four days to cover the 184 miles of the C&O trail and enjoy the area as well as the pedal-turning?
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Old 04-11-13, 03:14 PM   #12
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BTW, they opened Big Savage for the season today. The tunnel is closed during the winter to prevent weather and water damage.

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Old 04-11-13, 06:37 PM   #13
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I've done the trail twice and am positive that doing it in 4 days would not be a problem, it's a pretty nice surface except when it rains a bit. I like to go into the towns and enjoy everything so I took a week both times. Last May we camped with a guy that was doing it in 4 days on a crosscheck and packing very light.

My buddy hopped on it last month while riding from N Carolina to Cleve Ohio, it snowed and he found it to not be a fun ride as it was a slow go. He is an experienced tourist, he's rode from Oh to San Fran.

Also as Neil mentioned The Savage Tunnel is closed in the winter and a detour would be necessary.
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Old 04-12-13, 09:22 AM   #14
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The GAP has an average grade of two per cent. At times that becomes a whopping three per cent in places such as Ohiopyle State Park and the stretch between Rockwood and Garret. Going South to North the grade up Savage Mountain from Cumberland is two to three percent for 24 miles.

Where did you get this information? From the official site for the trail:

"The trail has a packed crushed limestone surface for a smooth ride. Built mainly on abandoned rail beds, the trail is nearly level with the average grade of less than 1%. The steepest eastbound grade - 0.8% - is from Harnedsville to Markleton and Garrett to Deal. The steepest westbound grade is from Cumberland to Deal at 1.75%. Near the Big Savage Tunnel, the trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. From that point going east, the trail drops 1,754 feet in 24 miles to reach Cumberland and, going west, it drops 1,664 feet in 126 miles to reach Pittsburgh."
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Old 04-12-13, 09:38 AM   #15
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Where did you get this information? From the official site for the trail:

"The trail has a packed crushed limestone surface for a smooth ride. Built mainly on abandoned rail beds, the trail is nearly level with the average grade of less than 1%. The steepest eastbound grade - 0.8% - is from Harnedsville to Markleton and Garrett to Deal. The steepest westbound grade is from Cumberland to Deal at 1.75%. Near the Big Savage Tunnel, the trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. From that point going east, the trail drops 1,754 feet in 24 miles to reach Cumberland and, going west, it drops 1,664 feet in 126 miles to reach Pittsburgh."
PA DNRC page for Ohiopyle State Park lists the grade as three per cent between Connelsville and the visitor's center. The estimate of the grade from Rockwood to Garrett and segments of the climb from Cumberland to Big Savage is my own, based on my comparison of how much I had to work riding those segments and the stretch in Ohiopyle and conversations with other cyclists who have ridden them. The consensus among people I've spoken with is that the ATA was a little on the low side with some of the grade estimates.

As for the overall grade over the 150 mile GAP, its probably right that its about 1 per cent. My error.

That said, the purpose of mentioning the grades was to suggest to the OP that the GAP and C & O aren't that difficult. There's nothing here that should scare anyone off. Aside from the odd black bear or timber rattler.
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Old 04-15-13, 12:14 PM   #16
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PA DNRC page for Ohiopyle State Park lists the grade as three per cent between Connelsville and the visitor's center. The estimate of the grade from Rockwood to Garrett and segments of the climb from Cumberland to Big Savage is my own, based on my comparison of how much I had to work riding those segments and the stretch in Ohiopyle and conversations with other cyclists who have ridden them. The consensus among people I've spoken with is that the ATA was a little on the low side with some of the grade estimates.
24 miles=126,720'. Even at an average of only 2%, you would climb 2,534'. That CD isn't even 2,400' above sea level.
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