I used it to get from Cumberland, MD, to DC, in three days when there were 100 degree days on the nearby roads, and for that I was grateful. I hadn't known about it before my tour, and would never use it again. You're near the river, but there are very few views of it, because you're in a tunnel of trees 98% of the time. I would suggest MTB/fat tires only, as the constant roots destroyed the nerves in my fingers (using gel gloves) with wide touring tires. At one point I reduced the air to reduce the pain and got a pinch flat. About the only thing I liked were the alternating ducks and turtles sharing logs in the hundreds of ponds/bogs by the side of the trail. The Katy Trail is much more pleasant, scenic and varied, if you want a long-distance trail.
Yeah.. I've ridden the C&O lots since it's so close to home, but for some reason yesterday it was just one of those soul sucking rides. You literally couldn't tell what color the bikes were and I doubt the mud stains are coming out of the clothes.
My wife actually has fun hitting our close by MTB trails after a rain and getting covered in mud, but after a half day of it there was no fun left, which just made the second half a grind to the end..
Was on the C&O two weeks ago from Cumberland to DC and had the same experience. I made a point of jumping off at Williamsport for a scenic detour through Sharpsburg then bailed again at Brunswick to head south and hit the W&OD. Was the best decision I ever made and saved my sanity. I'll never forget the look on the B&B owner's face in Harpers Ferry when I arrived covered in mud (me, bike, panniers) and proceeded to hose everything down outside. It was "why did I agree to have a cycle tourist here" transitioning to "thanks god he's not tracking all that mud into my house."
Lousy surface maintenance; lack of river or distant views; mudholes that take days to dry. When compared with Katy Trail, Greenbrier River Trail or The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), it's embarrassing (and visually boring).
ACA runs a fully-supported tour of C&O/GAP in September when the conditions are drier. Their intro encourages hybrids or MTBs, not touring bikes. I wonder what their clients think?
Only if they're wimps. For me, one of the great satisfactions of touring is putting myself in a position where I'm not in control of all criteria and have to deal with unexpected and, yes - sometimes unpleasant, situations on a daily basis.
There is no such thing as bad weather - only having the wrong clothing.
Good weather is an act of god - bad weather is the trip leader's fault.
Originally Posted by joel2old
I would never take the chance of running a tour when the weather can alter a trip so much. What would the clients say after a day or two of rain? I want my time and money back!!!!
I have no problem with any weather conditions but if I was running a tour with paying customers there is no way that I choose this trail! I do believe that you do have more wimps(sorry if this doesn't include you) on organized supported trips.
Rode a short portion of it last weekend (Sycamore Landing to Edwards Ferry) and wisely decided to detour on River Road (gravel portion) to Whites Ferry. Rest of the ride was on roads to Poolesville and back home. It was like riding through chocolate pudding at times. Not much fun this time of year. I'm planning on riding the entire length later this summer when it dries up. A couple weeks ago I ran into a few guys with skinny tires who rode the entire length in 3 days, and they did not look too thrilled.
I disagree, I think the C&O is great as it is. Paving it helps keep the bike snobs off of it and paving it would make it become overused. There's history all along the C&O.... Harper's Ferry, Fort Frederick, Antietam, Brunswick, Sherpardtown, Hancock, Cumberland, etc etc.. And free camping throughout....
I'm not aware of anybody in the National Park Service ever suggesting that the C&O towpath be paved.
I grew up within walking distance of the C&O and biked on it all the time. I was well aware that if there had been lots of recent rain I should avoid it. I also knew that the towpath stays muddy much longer when it's cool than during the hot summer. Therefore, when a friend & I planned to ride from Pittsburgh to DC, we deliberately scheduled it for the summer (late June/early July in our case). We had a torrential thunderstorm on the day we approached Harpers Ferry so we had mud the rest of that one afternoon. But overall, we had good conditions.
Different strokes, but... The C&O isn't really my cup of tea. I may do it at some point, but personally I would usually rather be on regular roads than "bike trails". Actually I might be more likely to run or hike it than ride it.
"Hildy", a Novara Randonee touring bike; a 16-speed Bike Friday Tikit; Dahon Curve D3 folding bike; a green around-town cruiser; and a Specialized Stumpjumper frame-based built-up MTB.
The C&O is fun precisely because the surface is dirt. I had a blast dodging mud puddles and sometimes sailing straight through them. The GAP, which I road on before it, is a good trail, but a little dull.
I've been back to the C&O, but I don't forsee returning to the GAP.
Cervelo P3 (retired), Habanero Road, Novara Safari, Batavus Personal Delivery Bike
I took my two teenagers and one of their friends for their first overnight bike trip on the C&O over the weekend. We were on the towpath from Chain Bridge near DC to about the 50 mile marker and then back to Whiteís ferry. It was great.
I think itís all about the bike and your expectations. Fat tires, fenders, and reasonable expectations for how fast you will be traveling can make it quite pleasant. That said, we planned the trip on three daysí notice and rode from our front door. If rain were likely we would not have gone.
Why not go yourself? No reason to join a group unless you're looking for company as the logistics are straight forward. The trip breaks up nicely into 5 days, about 65 miles a day. Start in McKeesport or Boston and first night in Confluence . . . About 70 miles. Confluence to Cumberland, aout 63 miles. Cumberland to Hancock, about 60 miles. Hancock to Harpers Ferry, anywhere from 52 to 62 miles depending on whether you stay on the canal or detour at Williamsport through Antietam and Sharpaburg. Harpers Ferry to DC about 62 miles.
My brother, friend and I head out Friday morning for a ride from McKeesport to DC. Stories so far seem to read that the GAP is in good condition and that the C&O is muddy and terrible. We're 'upgrading' to 37mm tires with fenders and hope that's enough to stay somewhat 'clean'. While the trails may not have the most fantastic views, I think the ride and the company will more than make up for the conditions.
Should we tire of the mud and trails, can anyone suggest alternate routes? I'll be doing some research myself, but would like to hear some favored routes when things turn muddy.