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Planning a Self Contained C&O/GAP trip in Spring

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Planning a Self Contained C&O/GAP trip in Spring

Old 02-01-20, 10:34 PM
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MAK
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Planning a Self Contained C&O/GAP trip in Spring

I know I can ride my Long Hall Trucker 700x38 tires with panniers, but I'm thinking of going minimal and bikepacking. I know that my mountain bike with 27.5+x2.8 tires would be great on the canal, but will the knobby tires be a problem (comfort and efficiency) on the GAP?
Thank you.
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Old 02-02-20, 12:26 AM
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That wide tire will be very comfortable, but on the GAP it's probably overkill in my opinion. You'll definitely lose efficiency with a tire that wide and heavy. Is it worth the loss of efficiency for potential additional comfort? Only you can determine that. But I will say, that first day out of Cumberland south on the C & O, that trail is a mess and they will come in handy on that particular day.

Last edited by robow; 02-02-20 at 12:29 AM.
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Old 02-02-20, 12:28 AM
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Knobby tires will only slow you down on both the GAP and C&O. Worse yet, they would pick up a lot of mud on the towpath if wet. I ride the towpath every day with Big Apples or Marathon Supremes as part of my commute and do the whole C&O every year. Never had the need or desire for knobby tires.
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Old 02-02-20, 05:22 AM
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You csn swap your tires for rene herse antelope hills...similar to big ben
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Old 02-02-20, 05:38 AM
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I last rode that in 2013, but it probably has not changed that much. Three of us rode it, I had 50mm wide tires, one of my friends had 47mm and the third had 35mm tires. All three of us were convinced we had the right tires. It was very wet when we were there which you can see from the mud on my crankset. Photo of my 50mm Schwalbe Marathon Extreme below.

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Old 02-02-20, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Worse yet, they would pick up a lot of mud on the towpath if wet.
This is a good point. When I rode through the St. Paul Pass tunnel on the Route of the Hiawatha Trail last June they had recently put down new slurry on the tunnel floor. The surface was very wet. The worker at the west portal told me I would do much better than others because I didn't have knobby tires. He was right. While I did get some gunk, those with knobby tires were coated with it. Some of their backs were covered with the stuff.
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Old 02-03-20, 06:21 AM
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I've done the C&O on 32 and 35 MM Schwalbes on my old hybrid beater bike, both sizes are of course fine for the GAP. I didn't feel the need for anything larger than that, I got one flat on the 32s and none on the 35s.

In fact, the only questionable strech was on the section of the GAP from Cumberland uphill towards PA. That section had 6' deep gravel/sandy sections from washouts - wider tires would have been nice there. But that was a few hundred yards out of the whole deal.

I do a lot of riding and hiking on the C&O Towpath. From Harpers Ferry downstream a lot of the surface has been redone with stone dust - much closer to GAP-like riding. However, where they are working is often very sloppy surface and within weeks of rain, the unimproved areas are still mud pits. I still feel OK on the 35s.
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Old 02-03-20, 06:46 AM
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C&O and GAP

In 2014, I roade the both trails on my Long Haul Trucker with no problem. It has 26x1.6 touring tires. Camped on the C&O half of the route.
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Old 02-03-20, 08:24 AM
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I did the whole thing on knobby 26 x 2.4s. I agree that knobs are not necessary, but the only time I was sorry I had them was when I had to ride on pavement and listen to them buzz. I did find I was happy for the extra width on the C & O, but I am always happier on wider tires, and there were plenty of people out riding on < 40mm tires. You'll do fine either way. If you want wider tires but are worried about the drag, go with something wide but less knobby. I did the GAP once on my 26 x 2.5 ETs, and they were fine for that section. I'm sure they would have been great on the C&O, too.

C & O is a little rough in places, and, if wet, it could involve getting off the bike every now and then. I was happy to have my wide tires and my fenders. Saw some other riders who were muddy to above the ankles, and realized they probably had to trudge through some of the muck that I was able to pedal through. I was happier on my Troll than I would have been on my LHT, but that's a general preference and one reason why my LHT is no more. But carrying you and your camping gear for 300 miles is what the LHT lives for, so if you want to ride it, you should not shy away from it. I saw at least one other LHT rider during my ride last year.
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Old 02-03-20, 08:29 AM
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Knobs are overkill and collect mud. The GAP is generally fine on 32's. The C&O can get soft & muddy but 35's are fine there. Done both, self supported & camping on those widths of Paselas. 35's are probably ideal unless you rode an extremely rainy week.
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Old 02-03-20, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
I've done the C&O on 32 and 35 MM Schwalbes on my old hybrid beater bike, both sizes are of course fine for the GAP. I didn't feel the need for anything larger than that, I got one flat on the 32s and none on the 35s.

In fact, the only questionable strech was on the section of the GAP from Cumberland uphill towards PA. That section had 6' deep gravel/sandy sections from washouts - wider tires would have been nice there. But that was a few hundred yards out of the whole deal.

I do a lot of riding and hiking on the C&O Towpath. From Harpers Ferry downstream a lot of the surface has been redone with stone dust - much closer to GAP-like riding. However, where they are working is often very sloppy surface and within weeks of rain, the unimproved areas are still mud pits. I still feel OK on the 35s.
The GAP from Frostburg to Cumberland has been fixed. Lower sections are even paved now.
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Old 02-03-20, 10:16 AM
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I did the Gap-C&O on 26x2" Schwalbe touring (but not knobbies) tires. Mostly due to weather, and maybe to a minor extent the rigging, I got very muddy. Had a great time

I also did the C&O on 700x32c Panaracers. Mostly due to weather, and maybe to a minor extent the rigging, had a realaively clean experience. Had a great time



Bottom Line from my experience: The trails were fine to do with either size tire. Based on your weather circumstance muddyness may be an issue. Fatter knobbier tires do pick up more mud. Fatter tires are a bit softer ride but not required.

Last edited by BigAura; 02-03-20 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 02-06-20, 09:05 PM
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Thank you to all who responded. Looks like the LHT with 700x38 and fenders will be my ride.
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Old 02-06-20, 10:42 PM
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I also did the GAP and C&O on 700 x 32c. The GAP is crushed stone, like most well kept rail trails. The C&O is another story. Some of it is single track and when wet could get messy. On my trip it stayed dry.
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Old 02-10-20, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by MAK View Post
Thank you to all who responded. Looks like the LHT with 700x38 and fenders will be my ride.
You should be just fine, but the CO trail can be really muddy in the early spring. I rode it the first week of April a few years ago and it was really wet.

Marc
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Old 02-10-20, 11:05 AM
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What's the mud on the C&O like?

I'm starting to suspect that there's a difference between dirt mud where tires just spin out, and stone dust or fine gravel mud, which seems to often offer some traction even in the midst of a puddle.

After some messy supermans trying to push through mud puddles in black forrest soil on a unicycle with a 36" cross cut tire, I was contemplating getting Vee's knobby tire before trying the C&O. But yesterday on the D&R towpath in NJ was riding with a guy who'd just charge through the puddles, so started trying that and finding that I rarely lost traction since the various brick dust and blue stone dust they used stayed gritty when wet rather than turning into pudding the way organic dirt tends to. Apparently the knobby vee tire isn't bad on pavement, but I can't help but think the knobs would be a traction asset in mud, vs. the cross cuts which do essentially nothing.

Also anyone been on the recently re-surfaced sections of the C&O? I have this feeling like newer blue stone gravel saps energy until it's been well ridden - found myself going slower on pieces of the D&R recently done with that than on its older red surfaces that are distinguishable from pavement only by the resulting mess.

Alas, still have some training to do - a paved metric followed by a gravel one did a number on my rear, and doing the C&O would mean three gravel metrics in a row.
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Old 02-10-20, 01:04 PM
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The surface under the mud puddles is hard and provides good traction. I always ride through the middle of a puddle if there is mud everywhere else. But slowly, as you will make a worse mess of your bike and clothes if you go fast. One C&O trip I had to stop frequently to remove the build up of mud between the tires and fenders, but most of the time the water in the puddles keeps that area clean enough to ride.

The resurfaced areas are very well compacted, so I find them good to ride when wet.
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Old 02-10-20, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
The surface under the mud puddles is hard and provides good traction. I always ride through the middle of a puddle if there is mud everywhere else.
That's quite good to hear and is a big difference from simple forrest paths without a history of engineered surface.

But slowly, as you will make a worse mess of your bike and clothes if you go fast. One C&O trip I had to stop frequently to remove the build up of mud between the tires and fenders, but most of the time the water in the puddles keeps that area clean enough to ride.
Although I'd be credit card touring I need to come up with a minimal pannier / rack solution to handle contingencies for three days and one possible design uses a custom fender as part of its support. Or at least hopefully the mud will hit the underside of whatever I put back there rather than continue to end up on my behind-the-seat bottle cages. Next gravel ride I'm bringing a rag and some sort of bucket-bag to dip some water with.
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Old 02-10-20, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
That's quite good to hear and is a big difference from simple forrest paths without a history of engineered surface.



Although I'd be credit card touring I need to come up with a minimal pannier / rack solution to handle contingencies for three days and one possible design uses a custom fender as part of its support. Or at least hopefully the mud will hit the underside of whatever I put back there rather than continue to end up on my behind-the-seat bottle cages. Next gravel ride I'm bringing a rag and some sort of bucket-bag to dip some water with.
I use a water bottle to clean the bike. Works quite effectively, as you can get a bit of water pressure. There is plenty of water along the way at almost every hiker/biker site and in towns.
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Old 02-11-20, 07:59 AM
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I suggest you listen to the Pedalshift Project Podcast. The host,Tim Mooney, talks a lot about the C&O and the Gap Trail.
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Old 02-11-20, 08:24 AM
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Though I see you've made your mind up, my argument would be to take the bike you enjoy riding the most as both are fine but the one you like riding the best will be the one that makes the trip the most enjoyable. The C&O is the worst of the two and I'd argue any well tuned/maintained bike can handle the C&O with the primary issue being comfort. For me the most important things for the C&O is a basic tool kit, good insect repellent and coffee, the skeeters will eat you alive on the C&O if given the chance. It's possible to make the whole trip without cooking trail side depending on how many miles a day you ride and how you eat. Last trip we carried a couple of backpacking meals, protein bars and coffee and at the end of the trip we still had the backpacking meals. Bill's place is nice though my daughter had an issue with a few of locals bellied up to the bar accusing her of being a transvestite in spandex when she was waiting to get into the ladies room, (been to Bill's several times and this unpleasant experience was a first but I was a bit surprised that no action on the part of the ownership to deescalate the situation was taken). We carb loaded at Tony's Pizza and Italian restaurant in Williamsport and in Brunswick ate at the Potomac Street Grill it was a nice mom and pop place that has awesome Gyros and good service and will definitely be on my stop here list the next time I make the trip. We struggled a bit around Great Falls but ate protein bars to hold us over until we got in to DC proper. I can't stress enough how bad the mosquito's can be on the C&O so would say again, insect repellent and get in and out of your tent fast and expect to see engorged mosquito's in your tent in the morning.
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Old 02-11-20, 11:03 AM
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Bill’s Place is a biker bar that tolerates non-motorized bikers. The food is good and reasonably priced. Never had an issue there, but did not stop in on my last trip, as I had already eaten. Rumor last year was they are closing, but that is unconfirmed. The C&O mosquitoes are something else. With the 185 mile long breeding pond next to the towpath on the one side and the river on the other, you’ll have plenty of company. You can always hop off the canal in Cabin John at Lock 8 if you need a bite to eat. Several restaurants and stores along the way.
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Old 02-11-20, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Billís Place is a biker bar that tolerates non-motorized bikers. The food is good and reasonably priced. Never had an issue there, but did not stop in on my last trip, as I had already eaten. Rumor last year was they are closing, but that is unconfirmed. The C&O mosquitoes are something else. With the 185 mile long breeding pond next to the towpath on the one side and the river on the other, youíll have plenty of company. You can always hop off the canal in Cabin John at Lock 8 if you need a bite to eat. Several restaurants and stores along the way.
I've been to Bill's several times, and my daughter a couple of times with another female on top of that and never had an issue, I would have hoped the owner or whoever was behind the bar would have tried to temper this a bit as she's only 22 y/o but as you said bicyclists aren't his core demographic. She was able to laugh it off but still gave the "dad let's just get out of here in case it escalates" I'm assuming they were trying to get a rise out of her as when she's in bicycle garb there's absolutely no mistaking her for a male.
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Old 02-11-20, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Three of us rode it, I had 50mm wide tires, one of my friends had 47mm and the third had 35mm tires. All three of us were convinced we had the right tires.
That made me LOL! Sounds like this forum sometimes!
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Old 02-15-20, 08:40 AM
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Ahhhhh that tunnel
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