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So I did the NCR trail yesturday (40 miles from MD to PA)

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So I did the NCR trail yesturday (40 miles from MD to PA)

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Old 10-22-18, 04:00 PM
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steppinthrax
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So I did the NCR trail yesturday (40 miles from MD to PA)

This was my first longest ride ever from Northern Baltimore County to PA. If anyone is familiar with the NCR trail, it's an old railway trail. It appears to be uphill going to PA but it's downhill from PA down to Baltimore. I wanted to try something as a test to see how far or close I was to maybe doing the C&O one day. It appears the trail kicked my ass. I think the worse thing was the cold, time of day I went and my bike posture.


1. I came with minimal supplies, just some water and a few tools, parts if I get a blown tire. I came back with an insatiable hunger. I should have packed some PowerBars, nuts or something like that.


2. I had this wicked lower back pain that became unbearable, but I had to continue to get back to my car. It was dark any there was no one on the trail at this point. I believe my back began to get uncomfortable somewhere at the 18 mile point. I was reading that that main cause of this is due to improper bike fitting, improper posture or most likely I need to do more work on my core muscles.


3. In terms of cycling gloves for cold weather, what do you guys recommend. I nearly frostbitten my pinkies off. It seems I can use some simple thin leather gloves at first.
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Old 10-22-18, 07:26 PM
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The NCR Trail is a great place to ride. I discovered it four years ago when I started to ride seriously, and I have used the trail as my primary training location for my three C and O Canal tours. New Freedom, PA is the high point of the trail. If you had gone all the way into New Freedom, there is really good Pizza place on the left side of the trail, and there is an old railroad car that has a cafe in it. There is supposed to be a bicycle shop in New Freedom, but I have never looked for it myself.

During the summer and maybe even on the weekends when it is cooler, there is a house just north of White Hall where the home owner sells snacks and drinks (on the honor system) for anyone using the trail. Snacks are $0.50 and drinks (sodas / water) are $1.00.

If you ride farther into Pennsylvania, there are a couple of convenience stores along the trail where I have stopped for Gatorade / snacks. The trail in Pennsylvania is in much better condition than the trail in Maryland.

I have done a couple of overnights from Baltimore to York; there is a campground just south of York, and there are hotels inside the town itself that are not hard to reach.
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Old 10-22-18, 08:00 PM
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Good gloves can be a deal breaker for me for sure. I like Bontrager or Craft brands. They can cost a little up front but the Bontrager's especially take care of you if there is a problem down the way. If you dont have any other options at the time, I like to bring a pair of rubber gloves(doctor type) for mech repairs and what not. If you put them over your standard padded gloves it makes them insulated as long as you don't sweat too strongly.

As far as your soreness goes, fitting is the important starting point, but gravel rail trails are a unique thing in strength training. Road riding gives you hills and downs but rail trails by thier nature are consistent by design and gravel adds drag. That is one of the endearing features in my opinion. The drawback is you have to get used to it and when planning I try to put the uphill leg at the beginning because you will be spent at the end. Your cruise speed is very important to monitor on the uphill leg too since it will seem like you want to go harder. Just takes practice to know how hard to go.
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Old 10-22-18, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by steppinthrax View Post
3. In terms of cycling gloves for cold weather, what do you guys recommend. I nearly frostbitten my pinkies off. It seems I can use some simple thin leather gloves at first.
My cycling in cold weather experience comes more from commuting year round in Fort Collins CO than touring, though I've also adapted the learnings for touring. I found that roughly every 20F takes an additional set of clothing choices. In gloves:
-- down to ~50F, I'm comfortable with normal cycling gloves
-- down to ~30F, full fingered gloves or light mittens do the trick
-- down to ~10F, heavy mittens over light gloves; works ok; occasional reheat
-- below ~10F, I can dress ok for 30 minute commute trips, but more extended also find places to reheat fingers/toes.

​How I apply it to touring is I'll anticipate a rough "operational" range for both daytime cycling and overnight low temperatures and bring sleeping bag/pad/tent for overnight temperatures and gloves/mittens/hat/shoes/top-layers/bottom-layers for the morning cycling.

For example, last year I visited Bolivia where overnight temperatures can drop to -10C (14F) overnight but arid conditions can swing daytime temperatures to +10C (50F). I had brought gloves/mittens, though the lows were slightly lower than my operational range I had planned. Ended up getting a second light sleeping bag. Also on some mornings I waited until temperatures were close to freezing before starting so I was still ok with mittens/gloves I had brought.
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Old 10-22-18, 08:16 PM
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Back pain could indicate a bike fit issue. Many bike shops are willing to take a subjective look at your bike position and give you suggestions. A few shops will even professionally fit you to your bike for a fee.

As far as cold weather riding you can buy bicycle specific clothing or many other less expensive options may work. Crosscountry skiing gloves can work well. I'd get a very thin hat or baklava to wear under your helmet. Light weight fleece can be very helpful.

Snacks are good I usually eat a little something every 30 to 40 miles or so. Everyone's calorie needs are different.

I want to encourage you to keep at the fitness. You'll continue to make gains as you train appropriately 👍
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Old 10-22-18, 08:27 PM
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I'm looking to do the NCR with a sleepover in or near York as soon as I have a long weekend. My major concern is where to park my car overnight in Cockysville. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you.
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Old 10-22-18, 08:38 PM
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Keep it up, get the kinks worked out and you will gradually build up to it. Long gravel rides (or any long ride) at typical touring speed are not really about strength and fitness with the prime movers to keep the bike going. They are more overall body/bike form and getting the other body parts on board. Things like a some combination of your knees, back, hands, upper arms, neck, foot bottoms, etc. Small quirks and minor fit and form issues get compounded exponentially as the miles and daily seat time go up. Over time you get used to them or find the right setting or change to make one limiting factor go away and then on to the next one. Time to recover goes down too. I can do many long bike days in a row but If I ran a 5k I'd struggle walking the next day, I just don't do it often.

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Old 10-22-18, 08:51 PM
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Well those personal-best rides are where the problems will show up. Perhaps a cyclist friend or bike shop might be able to look at the position. For cycling gloves I think it helps to buy a size larger than regular gloves so that the handlebar doesn't cause one's fingertips to be pressed against inside of glove finger. "Lobster" bike gloves help keep the little fingers a bit warmer too & generally also have room for a wool etc liner glove.
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Old 10-23-18, 04:53 AM
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Originally Posted by MAK View Post
I'm looking to do the NCR with a sleepover in or near York as soon as I have a long weekend. My major concern is where to park my car overnight in Cockysville. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you.
I live in Maryland . not sure where you are, but maybe we could team up. I've lived in Baltimore county for 10 years. I parked my car at the paper mill road entrance . that area as well as the surrounding areas are generally very safe.
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Old 10-23-18, 05:16 AM
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I do the NCR trail all the time, most recently in August - really enjoy it. Years ago we had to shelter in the tunnel when a small tornado went through the area!

There is a bike shop and plenty of places to get food in New Freedom, more food in Glen Rock. There used to be a restaurant in 7 valleys at the 13 mile mark from the PA line but it is closed now. Lots of food in York - if you do it on Saturday, go to the York Market a block east of the terminus park, great food. Easy to carry enough snacks to get you through the middle.

The York Heritage Trail surface is much better than the C&O, the the northern end of the MD sections are closer to the C&O kind of surface but most of the southern part is still more crushed limestone that packed dirt and tree roots like much of the Towpath - I'd derate the mileage to predict how you'd feel on the C&O.

Checking bike fit as others have suggested is the first thing to do about having back pain. Another thing: if you are riding a bike with flat bars you have limited hand positions (compared to drop bars). On the hybrid bike I ride on unpaved paths, I added bar ends to get another hand position, gives you a change of angles that seems to help.

Any gloves will be better than no gloves when it is cold! I stick with breathable gloves because no matter how cold it is my hands get sweaty - for temperatures above 40 it is more about blocking most of the wind and trapping some heat for me, vs. staying completely hermetically sealed! But, everyone is different.

MAK - if you call the park office (410-592-2897) in advance, you can park overnight in any of the NCR (I guess it is really the Torrey Brown trail in MD, York Heritage Trail in PA) parking lots in MD, like the big lot on Paper Mill Road. I think you are supposed to call 2 weeks in advance, when I did it years ago I called a few days ahead and it was fine.
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Old 10-23-18, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by CanoeU92 View Post
The NCR Trail is a great place to ride. I discovered it four years ago when I started to ride seriously, and I have used the trail as my primary training location for my three C and O Canal tours. New Freedom, PA is the high point of the trail. If you had gone all the way into New Freedom, there is really good Pizza place on the left side of the trail, and there is an old railroad car that has a cafe in it. There is supposed to be a bicycle shop in New Freedom, but I have never looked for it myself.

During the summer and maybe even on the weekends when it is cooler, there is a house just north of White Hall where the home owner sells snacks and drinks (on the honor system) for anyone using the trail. Snacks are $0.50 and drinks (sodas / water) are $1.00.

If you ride farther into Pennsylvania, there are a couple of convenience stores along the trail where I have stopped for Gatorade / snacks. The trail in Pennsylvania is in much better condition than the trail in Maryland.

I have done a couple of overnights from Baltimore to York; there is a campground just south of York, and there are hotels inside the town itself that are not hard to reach.
You must be talking about this guy. I passed by him right around the time he closed. I saw a few stands with tarps on them. I suspect he no longer does the honor system anymore.... When I passed by heading back his stuff was all in tarps. I didn't go past New Freedom. I was tired and I realized I was not really equipped.

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Old 10-23-18, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
if you call the park office (410-592-2897) in advance, you can park overnight in any of the NCR (I guess it is really the Torrey Brown trail in MD, York Heritage Trail in PA) parking lots in MD, like the big lot on Paper Mill Road. I think you are supposed to call 2 weeks in advance, when I did it years ago I called a few days ahead and it was fine.
Thanx I wanted to know that too. I want to bike the whole trail from York all the way to Md end in the spring. I was hoping to find a stealth spot to hammock camp along the way.
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Old 10-24-18, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by at_hiker59 View Post
Thanx I wanted to know that too. I want to bike the whole trail from York all the way to Md end in the spring. I was hoping to find a stealth spot to hammock camp along the way.
I can say from PA (New Freedom) down to Ashland there are no camping spots, none. I didn't see any sections or carved sections of road to camp.
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Old 10-29-18, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by steppinthrax View Post
I live in Maryland . not sure where you are, but maybe we could team up. I've lived in Baltimore county for 10 years. I parked my car at the paper mill road entrance . that area as well as the surrounding areas are generally very safe.
Sorry for my delayed response. New granddaughter was born last week so I've been distracted. Thanks for the "team up" offer. If you don't mind a slow companion, I'd enjoy company. I probably will wait until early Spring unless there is mildish weather in December when I'll have time for the short excursion. I'll be in touch. BTW...I'm in Northern Delaware.
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Old 10-29-18, 10:29 PM
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MAK - if you call the park office (410-592-2897) in advance, you can park overnight in any of the NCR (I guess it is really the Torrey Brown trail in MD, York Heritage Trail in PA) parking lots in MD, like the big lot on Paper Mill Road. I think you are supposed to call 2 weeks in advance, when I did it years ago I called a few days ahead and it was fine.[/QUOTE]


Thank you for the phone number.
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