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First tour - GAP trail - question

Old 09-25-18, 07:09 AM
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First tour - GAP trail - question

My wife and I are planning our first tour for next June. Pittsburgh to Cumberland on the GAP trail. I'm in the process of equipping our bikes for the trip. We currently have 700x28 tires on the bikes we would use. Wide enough? I really don't want to spring for 4 new tires if it's not necessary. I'm sure wider would be better - we have the clearance - but if the improvement is only very slight, then I might hold off until we determine if this is something that we're going to do on a regular basis. On the other hand, if 28's are going to be a major pain, then I'd spring for something wider so that we don't come away with a bad experience.

Any thoughts appreciated.
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Old 09-25-18, 07:37 AM
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I think you'll be fine, we did it last spring and the trail was in great shape. We rode 34's .


I'd bring good flat tire skills...you might get some pinch flats on the downhills.
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Old 09-25-18, 07:57 AM
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While I greatly prefer wider tires for off road riding, I wouldn’t buy new tires to ride 150 miles. You’ll make it. Just slow down in areas that have loose rocks and rougher terrain.
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Old 09-25-18, 08:11 AM
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I did it fully loaded (camping and cooking gear for a week long, fall tour across PA) on 32c tires and was fine.
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Old 09-25-18, 08:47 AM
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Hi all! First post after months of "reading and learning".

I just did Connellsville to Cumberland this past Thursday to Saturday. About 90 miles in total and approximately 30 miles per day. This was our first multi-day trip.

I rode with 700x30's on my Lemond Poprad. (A true cross bike.) I weigh 215lbs and carried limited gear. Tires set at 60psi. It was not too bad. I did "hit rim" 3 or 4 times along the ride. The descent into Cumberland was the trickiest section due to the "washouts" and larger ballast that seems to be on the trail.

I just completed a double wrap of my bars and that lessened the hand/elbow vibration. My frame is Reynolds 853 and I run a Paul seat post. I do have some flex in my ride.

Originally planning to carry all of our gear on the bikes but we had a last minute change in plans. Due to "rough" trail conditions on the Connellsville-Ohiopyle section from recent storms - lots of leaves and branches/sticks my wife did not feel comfortable on that stretch. So she ran the "sag wagon" and did out and back loops. This past weekend that stretch was in much better shape than 9/15 when we started a ride from Connellsville to Ohiopyle. (We live in Connellsville.) My wife did not feel comfortable and we bailed after 6 miles and turned around. She rides 650s so in a different league than me. The trail is in better shape now. The "traffic" has cleared the trail of most of the debris. I think my wife would have been fine this past weekend - but it was nice not to have the bike loaded with gear.

The reminder of the trail from Ohiopyle to Cumberland had limited debris - probably typical early fall foliage on the ground.

My answer is it's doable on 28s with the appropriate bike skills and care.
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Old 09-26-18, 04:32 AM
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I've done all or most of the GAP each of the last 3 years, on two different bikes and oddly with 28mm, 32mm and 35mm tires over those 3 years. 28mm will be fine, assuming you aren't going after big rains or during them. The GAP drains way better than the C&O canal but after rains there are definitely muddy sections.

The one place you will wish you had larger tires is the 5-10 miles downhill from Frostburg towards the end. The crazy rains we've had in Maryland this summer have caused lots of damage to that section. I took a group of novice riders on the downhill ride back in early August and most of them had to walk some sections that were essentially stretches of sand and gravel that was 6" deep. This year I used my old hybrid beater bike with 35mm tires (with a tread pattern) and I was fine with it but it would have been tougher on the 28mm tires. But that was probably less than .1 mile out of 150, I wouldn't put on new tires just for that.

One other planning point: the Big Savage Tunnel does have lights in it and I've done it without having lights on my bike. But, I've found that sometimes lights are out in the tunnel and sometimes it is actually foggy in there. Don't need lights for any of the other tunnels on the GAP, but I think it is worth having one for the big tunnel.
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Old 09-26-18, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by gary10509
My wife and I are planning our first tour for next June.
Originally Posted by jpescatore
The one place you will wish you had larger tires is the 5-10 miles downhill from Frostburg towards the end. The crazy rains we've had in Maryland this summer have caused lots of damage to that section. I took a group of novice riders on the downhill ride back in early August and most of them had to walk some sections that were essentially stretches of sand and gravel that was 6" deep.
The OP is planning to ride next year. Based on the amount of damage you saw, do you think it will be addressed by then? I remember reading that the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad had damage to its right-of-way going up to Frostburg, but I think that happened earlier this year. Some of the damage on the C&O looks like it will take some serious time and effort to correct.

The rain this year has just been unbelievable. Makes me wonder what the winter snowfall will be like in the coming months.
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Old 09-26-18, 10:01 AM
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I agree that you can do it on 28s. However, when my wife and I did the trail last fall, I switched her to some 41s (I think) specifically for the trip. She loves them and won't go back to her narrower tires, even on pavement rides. We were credit-card touring and only carrying clothing and a few snacks. If you are camping, the extra weight will further alter the ride quality and possibly make you appreciate wider tires.

If you do a lot of other riding, and always find the 28s to be sufficient, then go for it, but it might be worthwhile to at least try a wider tire and see how you feel about it. Wouldn't be worth getting new tires for a 150 mile ride, but if you liked them enough to keep riding them, it would be worth it.
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Old 09-26-18, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Altair 4
The OP is planning to ride next year. Based on the amount of damage you saw, do you think it will be addressed by then?:
I've done the Deal to Cumberland downhill part 4 of the past 5 years and that stretch downhill from Frostburg has gotten worse each time. Two years ago there was the big washout that caused the excursion train to have to stop 1/2 way up but it got much worse the following year for the bike trail.

I don't know what plans are in the works or funded to improve that section, maybe someone else in the forum has an idea. I wouldn't change my plans for a GAP ride based on that relatively short section - even if you had to walk every bit of it, it is probably less than a mile in total.
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Old 09-26-18, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by gary10509
My wife and I are planning our first tour for next June. Pittsburgh to Cumberland on the GAP trail. I'm in the process of equipping our bikes for the trip. We currently have 700x28 tires on the bikes we would use. Wide enough? I really don't want to spring for 4 new tires if it's not necessary. I'm sure wider would be better - we have the clearance - but if the improvement is only very slight, then I might hold off until we determine if this is something that we're going to do on a regular basis. On the other hand, if 28's are going to be a major pain, then I'd spring for something wider so that we don't come away with a bad experience.

Any thoughts appreciated.
I rode it a few years back carrying my food, hammock camping set up, etc. on a cyclocross bike with 700x30mm cyclocross tires on it. It was dry and I rolled along fine. I talked to a few guys and they said C&O was rideable with those tires but if it rained I might want some thing else. I have heard that this past year of rain has been rough on/ in many sections. i have ridden the same cyclocross bike on the new river trail in VA and it was rough. The rocks were bigger and my body felt beat up after the ride. It was one of the toughest I had ever done. (constant jarring and correction necessary) the GAP was smooth by comparison.
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Old 09-27-18, 05:37 AM
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Thanks folks. Good information. I be sure to check conditions before heading that way.
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Old 09-27-18, 06:45 AM
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28’s will be fine, better yet if you run them low pressure. Even in the rain, most of the trail is hard packed and drains well. Like others mentioned, the section between Frostburg & Cumberland is a little more loose/rough but not a huge problem. Suggestion: Start somewhere like McKeesport where parking is free. Assuming you’re taking the Cumberland to Pittsburgh train, it doesn’t arrive in Pitts until near midnight. Get a nearby hotel (Drury is nice) and ride to your car the next morning. Saturday mornings are nice as there's less traffic downtown.
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Old 09-28-18, 12:15 PM
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I would argue fenders over tires... 28 is on the narrow side but definitely doable... I've done the GAP several times on 32's without issue and my daughter did her first PGH-DC ride on 28's without issue, though she had a dry week...

Not sure where your from but if I were coming from out of town and really wanted to make an adventure of it I'd consider planning around Open Streets... Especially the Penn Avenue route... It's a good way to get to see a section of the City on a bike that might otherwise be difficult for an out of towner...

https://openstreetspgh.org/about/
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Old 09-28-18, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by veloz
28ís will be fine, better yet if you run them low pressure. Even in the rain, most of the trail is hard packed and drains well. Like others mentioned, the section between Frostburg & Cumberland is a little more loose/rough but not a huge problem. Suggestion: Start somewhere like McKeesport where parking is free. Assuming youíre taking the Cumberland to Pittsburgh train, it doesnít arrive in Pitts until near midnight. Get a nearby hotel (Drury is nice) and ride to your car the next morning. Saturday mornings are nice as there's less traffic downtown.
For the GAP alone definitely, Add the C&O then no.
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