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Old 08-26-10, 11:42 AM   #1
wildergeek
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Yet another GAP Thread

I did my first overnight tour this past weekend and absolutely loved it. Everything went so well, I'm ready to jump into a 5- to 6-day trip. I was originally planning to ride in NW Michigan but after this past weekend, I decided my Michigan route did not have enough miles each day and my brain would rot sitting in campgrounds.

I am now planning to ride the Great Allegheny Passage mid October starting in Pittsburgh. I may or may not have a friend along.

I'd like to ride all the way to DC but I have a maximum of six days to ride and I need to ride BOTH ways so that I don't have to deal with shuttles or return transportation.

I have been Googling the heck out of GAP trip reports, sites, and postings. I'm having a bit of trouble pulling it all together and have some questions.
  • Can I expect to cover roughly the same number of miles on crushed limestone trail as I would be comfortable riding on highway asphalt? I would assume not but not sure how much less.
  • I like to stop and see the sights. I'm not driven to achieve any particular distance each day as long as there is interesting stuff to see. I look at the mileage charts and I think Cumberland is probably too short a ride (134 miles) to stretch out over three days. True or false?
  • Is Cumberland a good stopping point or am I cheating myself if I turn around there? Are there any must-see attractions if I go a bit father east?
  • I ride a Trek 520 with Bontrager Hardcase tires. Should I get some wider tires with a bit more tread? I have read lots of people using Conti Touring Contact. Are treaded tires a necessity on packed limestone or would I do okay with smooth 32c tires?
  • I do have an older Cadex mountain bike with 26" Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires that I could ride instead. Would it be bad etiquette to ride the trail with studded tires?
  • Assuming I ride just to Cumberland, where are the best sites to camp between Pittsburgh and Cumberland (including an overnight in or near Cumberland)? I hate the crapshoot of passing up a nice campground to ride a few more miles only to have to stay at a crappy site when I run out of daylight.

Your thoughts are appreciated.
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Old 08-26-10, 05:05 PM   #2
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A group of us did Connelsville to Cumberland on a Saturday and back on Sunday last month (92 miles each day) and those were pretty full days. We just stayed overnight at the Fairfield in Cumberland. Half the group had normal road bikes with 700x28 Ultra GatorSkins and did just fine (it was dry). I had a cyclocross bike with 700x32 file-tread cross tires and had no issues either. Comparing directly on the paved sections, it seemed like at the same level of effort the crushed limestone was about 2 mph slower than the asphalt.
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Old 08-26-10, 05:13 PM   #3
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[*]Can I expect to cover roughly the same number of miles on crushed limestone trail as I would be comfortable riding on highway asphalt? I would assume not but not sure how much less.
No, not quite. It will be somewhat slower (more resistance) and be less comfortable going "fast". Keep in mind that outbound from Pittsburgh is uphill to Deal (I think that's the high point).

I don't think it's "limestone". It's just road gravel (which isn't limestone). The surface (May 2009) was very good (mostly).

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I look at the mileage charts and I think Cumberland is probably too short a ride (134 miles) to stretch out over three days. True or false?
When I did it, we road 45-75 miles in a day. The 134 miles isn't so bad for 3 days. Maybe, do the short day into Cumberland. Except for the "steep" uphill back to Deal (the high point), you'll probably do the run back faster (since it won't be novel). Keep in mind that you'll have less daylight in October.

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Is Cumberland a good stopping point or am I cheating myself if I turn around there? Are there any must-see attractions if I go a bit father east?
Cumberland is as good a place as any.

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I ride a Trek 520 with Bontrager Hardcase tires. Should I get some wider tires with a bit more tread? I have read lots of people using Conti Touring Contact. Are treaded tires a necessity on packed limestone or would I do okay with smooth 32c tires?
I used 35mm cyclocross tires. A friend used 32mm cyclocross tires. Both of us were using "normal" road bikes (touring/sport touring). The slicks should be OK on the GAP. You might prefer more tread if it is wet (but the gravel path should drain pretty well). The C&O is different because it's mostly packed dirt and gets muddy when it rains (and stays muddy for a while).

We leap-frogged a group of people on road bikes with road tires and they didn't seem to have much problem. I think the wider tires are more comfortable (and a bit more sure in a few places).

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I do have an older Cadex mountain bike with 26" Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires that I could ride instead. Would it be bad etiquette to ride the trail with studded tires
Overkill. You might also want to hop off of the trail onto the road.

Last edited by njkayaker; 08-26-10 at 05:30 PM.
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Old 08-26-10, 05:52 PM   #4
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You will move slower on limestone. If wet even slower. The best time to ride IMHO is a few hours after a rain. It helps to keep the dust down and seems to compress the limestone a bit.


It depends on what you want to do. Three days for 134 miles would be fine. There are lots of side trips. Lots of fishing and canoeing and rafting in Connellsville and Ohiopyle.


If you do not want to go as far as the Paw Paw tunnel then you might as well stop in Cumberland. The C & O is not all that spectacular until you get closer to DC IMHO.




26-28mm tires will be fine for the GAP, You will want wider on the C&O. If it is raining, a wider tire on the GAP is a nice bonus.


There is free camping at Dravo, near the start of the trail but you may want to stay at the Yough Shore Inn and camp. A tour of Lynn's theme rooms are worth the price of admission.

Connellsville is a wonderful campsite right off the trail.

Do not camp at Ohiopyle, unless you like mountain climbing with your bike.

There is supposed to be a nice campsite in Confluence. If you are interested, let me know and I will see if I can dig up the name. But a search should find it.


There is camping at Husky Haven in Rockwood but I would rather spend another $14 or so and stay at the hostel right in town.

There is camping at the Y in Cumberland.


You can also extend your tour by riding the Montour Trail. It is no GAP but not too shabby either. The only problem is further down the trail there are a numebr of detours.

I live just a 5-10 minute bike ride from the start of the Montour. If you want to start from there feel free to park and or crash at my house first night. If you can depart the trail Saturday morning, I can lead you down the Montour. Just PM me.
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Old 08-26-10, 06:18 PM   #5
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What spinnaker said,

Montour to Dravo is s really good first day ride and makes Cumberland a bit more of a reach for a three day out. The Montour is pretty nice, but I'd take him up on his guide offer. I probably added 2 hours to my trip getting lost, and that was with meticulously copying all the detour notes off the website.

Stayed at Dravo cemetery campground (just had to), Confluence Corp of Engineers overflow campground, and Cumberland Holiday Inn. No complaints. Past Cumberland gets a little tedious, so it's really a good turnaround spot.
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Old 08-27-10, 07:52 PM   #6
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Great input all. Thank you! I'm still gathering info but in the end, part of the thrill of bike touring is not knowing what to expect. I guess I should leave just a little bit to chance, eh?
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Old 08-28-10, 03:41 AM   #7
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I did a 60-mile day ride yesterday from Cumberland through the Paw Paw tunnel and back. It really was kind of dull. Dead flat, very few curves, the water in the canal was stagnant and green with algae etc. I'm glad I did it, but won't be in a hurry to do it again.
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Old 08-28-10, 12:02 PM   #8
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I did a 60-mile day ride yesterday from Cumberland through the Paw Paw tunnel and back. It really was kind of dull. Dead flat, very few curves, the water in the canal was stagnant and green with algae etc. I'm glad I did it, but won't be in a hurry to do it again.
I don't remember it being that close. The tunnel is pretty cool but everything in between is kind of lack luster. I guess if I was the OP, I either go all the way to DC or turn around at Cumberland.

As you sort of said, the C&O is one of those things you are glad you did not not in a hurry to repeat. But the area from Great Falls and even from Harpers Ferry is well worth repeating several times.
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Old 08-30-10, 12:07 PM   #9
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I felt the same way after I rode the C&O. Glad I did it, but not overly eager to repeat. It does get a bit boring, and I found myself hopping off the trail now and again to ride nearby roads just to break up the monotony since I was riding by myself. I'm sure I'll ride it again sooner or later, but not for a while. Probably in a few years when my son gets older.

Hoping to do the GAP this fall to have completed the "whole thing." Trying to figure out logistics, though. Despite lots of reading on the Web, I'm still a bit confused about starting points, how to get there from here (as it were), etc.
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Old 08-30-10, 12:50 PM   #10
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At the risk of showing my age and cultural isolation/ethnocentrism, what is "a Gap thread"? I guess I actually mean what is "GAP"?
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Old 08-30-10, 12:53 PM   #11
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At the risk of showing my age and cultural isolation/ethnocentrism, what is "a Gap thread"? I guess I actually mean what is "GAP"?
Great Allegheny Passage
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Old 08-30-10, 01:22 PM   #12
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ah... I was totally mixed up/involved in a massive brain fart... weel, at least between that and the "gap year" - something I didn't ever quite understand.
Thanks
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Old 08-30-10, 01:29 PM   #13
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Rather than start yet another another GAP thread, I'll glom onto this one...

It's (edit)time(/edit) for me to start thinking about next year's vacation and I'm toying with the idea of GAP/C&O. One of the issues is that I generally don't get excited about riding on bike paths. They often seem to be like riding in tunnels of trees. Not much in the way of scenery and views. Is that what the GAP/C&O is like? Is it a tunnel of trees, or is it open with views?

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Old 08-30-10, 01:43 PM   #14
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Rather than start yet another another GAP thread, I'll glom onto this one...

It's for me to start thinking about next year's vacation and I'm toying with the idea of GAP/C&O. One of the issues is that I generally don't get excited about riding on bike paths. They often seem to be like riding in tunnels of trees. Not much in the way of scenery and views. Is that what the GAP/C&O is like? Is it a tunnel of trees, or is it open with views?

Thanks
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The GAP is more open. The C&O was a great green tube (in a lot of places). There are still some interesting things to see along the way.
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Old 08-30-10, 02:23 PM   #15
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Yeah, having lived in DC for 15 years spent plenty of time on the C&O. The only redeeming factors are the tunnel, some of the viaducts, and the great falls area. For those headed to DC you can always cross the Potomac at White's Ferry and ride the paved W&OD trail. It's about a 5 mile ride from the VA ferry landing to the W&OD on a fairly busy road but I still think it's worth it. Of course, some people will disagree since the W&OD takes you through suburbia . . .

John
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Old 08-30-10, 03:37 PM   #16
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I felt the same way after I rode the C&O. Glad I did it, but not overly eager to repeat. It does get a bit boring, and I found myself hopping off the trail now and again to ride nearby roads just to break up the monotony since I was riding by myself. I'm sure I'll ride it again sooner or later, but not for a while. Probably in a few years when my son gets older.

Hoping to do the GAP this fall to have completed the "whole thing." Trying to figure out logistics, though. Despite lots of reading on the Web, I'm still a bit confused about starting points, how to get there from here (as it were), etc.
I will make you the same off I make to other BF members. Feel free to start from my house. You can add the Montour Trail to you tour. It adds one day. If you can start on a Saturday then I can lead you down the Montour. Just PM me for details.
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Old 08-30-10, 07:15 PM   #17
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The GAP is more open. The C&O was a great green tube (in a lot of places). There are still some interesting things to see along the way.
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Yeah, having lived in DC for 15 years spent plenty of time on the C&O. The only redeeming factors are the tunnel, some of the viaducts, and the great falls area. For those headed to DC you can always cross the Potomac at White's Ferry and ride the paved W&OD trail. It's about a 5 mile ride from the VA ferry landing to the W&OD on a fairly busy road but I still think it's worth it. Of course, some people will disagree since the W&OD takes you through suburbia . . .

John
Thanks!
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Old 08-31-10, 12:39 PM   #18
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The C&O is really pretty in fall foliage, though. And, I imagine riding it in the colder weather when the leaves are off the trees gives you better views of the river and whatnot.
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Old 08-31-10, 12:39 PM   #19
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Thanks Spinnaker! I may take you up on that someday.
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Old 09-01-10, 06:21 PM   #20
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Well, for what it's worth, I biked Cumberland to McKeesport in 3 1/2 days: Cumberland to Frostburg (15 miles), Frostburg to Confluence (47 miles), Confluence to Connellsville (27 miles), Connellsville to Mckeesport (43 miles). I spend the better part of a day in Ohiopyle enjoying the white water.

I used a Trek 720 hybrid with 35mm tires.

Used the GAP trail guidebook for places to stay. (I camped every night)
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