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Riding the C&O and GAP

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Riding the C&O and GAP

Old 05-28-13, 10:36 AM
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Riding the C&O and GAP

Hey there,

This is my first post on here and I'm excited to see what kind of response I'll get. I'm going to be riding the C&O canal and GAP with my Boy Scout Troop in a few weeks. I've read that you can get by with riding a road bike on the two trails. I have a Trek 1.1 and was curious as to how I could upgrade it in any way to make it more capable and possibly more comfortable?

Thanks
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Old 05-28-13, 11:18 AM
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I was just on the C&O yesterday with the MTB's. I dont think my road bike tires (25's) would handle that gravel and some rocks occasionly w/o a flat sooner or later. Go wider, maybe Gatorskins and also for the comfort, ride more. Great scenery yesterday but very busy with Peds in the Harpers Ferry area. The peds are only within a mile or two of access points so it should be a nice ride.
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Old 05-28-13, 11:29 AM
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OP - Search the internet and also check out the Touring Forum. But personally, I wouldn't ride the C&O with anything less than a 32.
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Old 05-28-13, 11:51 AM
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If you've got clearance for 32mm tires, I'd pick up a set of Schwalbe Marathons. https://www.schwalbe.com/gbl/en/produ...ID_Produkt=134
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Old 05-28-13, 12:30 PM
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I'm doing the C&O and GAP in 2 weeks on my 'cross bike. I plan on running 32mm knobby cross tires. Continental CycloXKings, to be exact.
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Old 05-28-13, 12:57 PM
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C&O Canal on a road bike? You're going to have a bad day. Seriously, your bike isn't going to work.
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Old 05-28-13, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Dagamon
C&O Canal on a road bike? You're going to have a bad day. Seriously, your bike isn't going to work.
Based on the pictures, the description of the surface as "hard packed dirt trail" and riding a number of other dirt rail trails, I bet it can be ridden on a road bike with 23mm tires.

There are a number of "Roubaix" style races where we ride road bikes with racing tires on tougher stuff.

You can even ride single track on a road bike ( a great bike handling exercise btw).

Now, I'm not advocating a racing bike with 23 mm tires as the tool of choice for the C&O canal, but with some bike handling ability, and the widest tires you have clearance for it can work.


28 mm tires are likely the widest that will fit on the OP's bike. Put on some robust 28mm tires, carry a boot or even a spare tire and he should be ok.
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Old 05-28-13, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
Based on the pictures, the description of the surface as "hard packed dirt trail" and riding a number of other dirt rail trails, I bet it can be ridden on a road bike with 23mm tires.

There are a number of "Roubaix" style races where we ride road bikes with racing tires on tougher stuff.

You can even ride single track on a road bike ( a great bike handling exercise btw).

Now, I'm not advocating a racing bike with 23 mm tires as the tool of choice for the C&O canal, but with some bike handling ability, and the widest tires you have clearance for it can work.


28 mm tires are likely the widest that will fit on the OP's bike. Put on some robust 28mm tires, carry a boot or even a spare tire and he should be ok.
I've ridden this trail many times. 23 or 25mm tires are going to be tough if it's dry, because they will dig in. If anything is the slightest bit damp, you're going to bog down, and you won't be able to get traction. After you get north of Harper's Ferry, the maintenance on the trail drops off, and it becomes much muddier and narrower, at some points it basically becomes a single track. There are sections of this trail that are deteriorating and will be difficult to navigate, impossible on a road bike. The upside is that it's reasonably flat, so it's a nice scenic ride with the right equipment.
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Old 05-28-13, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
Based on the pictures, the description of the surface as "hard packed dirt trail" and riding a number of other dirt rail trails, I bet it can be ridden on a road bike with 23mm tires.
Perhaps...as long as it doesn't rain.
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Old 05-29-13, 04:05 AM
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In the shady areas, the mud can persist in sections for days after the last rain. You aren't going to want to ride those sections on a skinny-tired road bike.

I have ridden some muddy sections on a cross bike with 32mm tires, and it was still a bit treacherous (and messy).
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Old 05-29-13, 04:14 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
Based on the pictures, the description of the surface as "hard packed dirt trail" and riding a number of other dirt rail trails, I bet it can be ridden on a road bike with 23mm tires.

There are a number of "Roubaix" style races where we ride road bikes with racing tires on tougher stuff.

You can even ride single track on a road bike ( a great bike handling exercise btw).

Now, I'm not advocating a racing bike with 23 mm tires as the tool of choice for the C&O canal, but with some bike handling ability, and the widest tires you have clearance for it can work.


28 mm tires are likely the widest that will fit on the OP's bike. Put on some robust 28mm tires, carry a boot or even a spare tire and he should be ok.
I have ridden short stretches of the C&O on a road bike with 23mm tires. It is doable, although not particularly fun. There are some stretches of it that are quite rocky. Most of it is more like riding on loose gravel than riding on "hard packed dirt".

The entire C&O canal is 180 miles long. I've usually seen it done as a three day ride. If you want to put up with sketchy handling for three days... be my guest.

If you're riding the entire thing, you'll also need lights of some sort for when you reach the PawPaw Tunnel. It is pitch black inside the tunnel. You could probably get by with a bright flashlight duct-taped to the handlebars or something like that.
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Old 05-29-13, 05:11 AM
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I rode from Pittsburgh to DC last October. I rode it with my Cyclo Cross bike and 32mm tires.

The GAP - was well maintained, and i was thinking that i could have set up with 28cc tires. the trail goes right through towns, easy to see markets, bike shops, etc.

The C&O - changed all that... was more like a 2 track jeep trail at times. Several times, leaves & grass covered diagonal roots on the trail would send my front wheel off line. The stagnant water of the abandoned C&O water way attracts several snakes. I encountered 3 snakes in the first 10 miles south of Cumberland. Also, the C&O does not travel right through little towns, it has historical status, as a result signage for businesses is prohibited, I had no idea passing by towns if it was 1mi away or 3 mi away @ cross roads. I ran out of water and ended up drinking out of the pump wells along the trail - which is marked 'treated with iodine'. Yep, i had quite a bout of GI issues for next several days.

I dont plan to ride the C&O again - but if i did i would take my same setup - Cross bike with 32cc tires. i could not imagine taking a road bike on this entire trail.
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