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Tires for touring C&O/GAP

Old 10-22-23, 02:28 PM
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Tires for touring C&O/GAP

I知 thinking about doing the C&O/GAP route fully loaded. I use a Surly LHT. I知 looking for tire recommendations. My top three desired characteristics are:
  • durability/puncture resistance
  • weight
  • safety/traction (for the given surfaces)
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Old 10-22-23, 02:55 PM
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Is weight really a criteria ?. On a LHT carrying gear ?.

I like my Gravel King SK's for hard pack dirt. They roll very well on pavement yet also function well on soft turns. I use them on my gravel bike, very happy with them.
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Old 10-22-23, 03:54 PM
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Three months ago on another thread on GAP and C&O, my answer for width was:

Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I rode from Pittsburgh to DC from May 8 to May 14, 2013. Temperature was good, but we had a lot of rain.



There were three of us. Tires ranged from 35mm to 50mm width, all of us were happy with our tire choices.
Mine were the 50mm wide ones, the model tires I used are no longer sold. They were Schwalbe Marathon Dureme front and Marathon Extreme rear. That said, I think almost any 35 to 50mm tire would work well.
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Old 10-23-23, 03:49 AM
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I did the two trails on a stock Surly Disc Trucker and it was a good fit for the trail. I think the tires were 38痴

if I was doing it again I would use 40痴
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Old 10-23-23, 05:27 AM
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I've done the C&O on 35mm and 40mm, definitely preferred the bigger size. I did the entire GAP on those 40mms and could have gone with the 35s. For a combined tour I'd choose he 40s - mine were Connelly MSOs but on the smaller sizes Schwalbe Marathon.
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Old 10-23-23, 06:36 AM
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As above. 35-40mm tyres. A bit of tread. Maybe a gravel tire on the front. I had Marathon Racers when I did it. They worked fine
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Old 10-23-23, 06:50 AM
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If the trails are good and dry, you could do them with 28mm tires..if they aren't good and dry, you can't.

Anything from 32-35s and up can work. Wider tires would be better. The GAP is a good hard surface if it's dry. If it's wet it'll get softer, eventually(btdt). If the C&O gets wet..well..see pic above. I tour with 2 inch tires, my GF runs 38mm tires. Both worked fine on the GAP in a moderate all-day rain.

We had 2+ inches of rain the day before and the day of our entering the C&O. Our GAP rain and broken rim(inadvertently hit a rock that fell off a cliff head-on and cracked the rear rim like an egg) delay coming into Cumberland would have us doing ~62 miles the first day on the C&O while fighting the mud. We choose to hop the Amtrak to Washington DC from Cumberland and experience the C&O another day. A couple days extra in Wash DC was a lot of fun.
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Old 10-23-23, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Lionheart
I’m thinking about doing the C&O/GAP route fully loaded. I use a Surly LHT. I’m looking for tire recommendations. My top three desired characteristics are:
  • durability/puncture resistance
  • weight
  • safety/traction (for the given surfaces)
What you mean with "weight"?

A light tire will be the most comfortable, soft and subtle rolling. But maybe not the most secure tire.
The most secure tire will be a tire what feels hard and not comfortable.

Last edited by str; 10-23-23 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 10-23-23, 09:27 AM
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26" or 700C LHT?



Any downside to using the widest tire you can fit?
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Old 10-25-23, 05:41 AM
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There are kinda 3 related issues"
  1. Tire width
  2. Tread pattern
  3. Air pressure
Large, knobby, very low pressure tires will have higher rolling resistance and make you either work harder or ride slower, compared to medium size, relatively smooth, medium pressure tires on the surfaces we are talking about.

Personally, using the 40MM semi-knobby tires on the GAP were noticeably slower for me than the 35MM relatively smooth Schwalbe Marathons - and I'm really not very picky.

Ironically, on my most recent GAP ride from Confluence to West Newton, I stuck with the 40MM tires because they are definitely more comfortable (ie, absorb minor bumps) and I was too lazy to change them - and flatted somewhere going through Cedar Creek park! Looks like on the short shared road piece I ran over something large and sharp that just hit between the tire knobs and sliced all the way through to the tube.

Luckily, it was a slow leak and I just kept slogging the last two miles to West Newton - didn't have to do on trail repair next to the trail pump in the park!

Originally Posted by tcs
26" or 700C LHT?

Any downside to using the widest tire you can fit?
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Old 10-26-23, 10:20 AM
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Durability/puncture resistance and weight are opposing characteristics.

I personally would go with Marathon Plus'es, or Marathon Tour in 38c or 40c, but I vastly favor puncture resistance and long tread wear over lower weight.
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Old 10-26-23, 11:22 AM
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There's width effect:

https://www.bicyclerollingresistance...000-comparison

But that's on a rolling resistance test rig or coast-down test. Put a rider on the bike powering it along the flat with their muscles...

...and that gets us to suspension losses:

https://www.renehersecycles.com/the-...ension-losses/

A few rail trails are hard-paved; most aren't. Most rail trail riders will be operating somewhere in the suspension losses regime.
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Old 10-26-23, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by timdow
Durability/puncture resistance and weight are opposing characteristics.

I personally would go with Marathon Plus'es, or Marathon Tour in 38c or 40c, but I vastly favor puncture resistance and long tread wear over lower weight.
GAP and C&O, there is not a lot there to cause punctures. Pittsburgh and DC are probably the most hazardous places for flats. You can do that if you prefer, but I would not use the "plus" version on any Schwalbe tires there, but then I have never used their plus tires anywhere.
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Old 10-26-23, 07:29 PM
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I did the GAP and C&O last month in 5 days (2/3). The GAP and the 1st day of the C&O we're dry then two very wet days riding through a tropical storm. I rode on 40c foldable SCHWALBE G-One AllRounds and they were great. No problems. No flats. I like them at around 40psi. Good on all surfaces. They did pick up some dust and mud/debris, but it was no problem and would have only been better if I was running fenders.

​​​​
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Old 10-27-23, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by sixer
I did the GAP and C&O last month ...
...
... then two very wet days riding through a tropical storm...
...
... would have only been better if I was running fenders.
​​​​
I rode that with two friends, one did not have fenders, his bike photo is below.



That was the last tour he did without fenders.
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Old 10-27-23, 07:37 PM
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Did it using Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26 x 1.5 - no problems at all. Recommendation: Exit C&O, get on and follow Western Maryland Rail Trail, then return to C&O. WMRT is paved, C&O is not. GAP is great.
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Old 10-30-23, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Lionheart
I’m thinking about doing the C&O/GAP route fully loaded. I use a Surly LHT. I’m looking for tire recommendations. My top three desired characteristics are:
  • durability/puncture resistance
  • weight
  • safety/traction (for the given surfaces)
I ride the GAP often, and did the entire route fully loaded from Pittsburgh to DC during Hurricane Irene years ago not long after I bought my LHT, so the C&O was very wet from the torrential downpours. I used the Continental City Contacts that came on the bike at that time. I had zero issues. Don't overthink it. Have tires, put the proper pressure in them for the weight you are carrying, and ride.
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Old 10-30-23, 07:54 PM
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700
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Old 10-31-23, 05:19 PM
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I rode the C&O/Gap in early July on a bike with 650b x 48mm wheels and fenders. Overall, I was happy with that choice, but the C&O was quite muddy, and I had to stop twice to carve the mud out of my fenders.
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Old 10-31-23, 05:23 PM
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Sounds like what ever you choose will be acceptable, and the most carefully researched and chosen tires will be almost right but just a little too fat/skinny/smooth/rough/hard/soft/etc.
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Old 11-01-23, 12:46 AM
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When I did the GAP and C&O for the first time I rode Marathon Plus Tour, the super durable and heavy tires. You do not need them for these trails. The trails do not have glass shards or wires from car tires like roads do. I liked Vittoria Voyager Hypers, but they are discontinued and no longer available.
Something like The Everwear in 42mm should work - it is on sale for $20. Schwalbe Hurricane or Marathon Supreme (discontinued as well) worked great for me too.
You probably do not need a knobby tire for the C&O, knobs can pick up and scatter mud more efficiently.

In any case, I take a spare tire in addition to spare tubes. In 2018 I rode the C&O in a downpour for the whole day on Conti Speed Rides (quite light tires) and the rear tire exploded tearing the sidewall. Fortunately, this happened right near Cumberland and I was able to walk the bike to the shop for 1/4 mile.
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Old 11-01-23, 05:15 AM
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Originally Posted by csport
...
In any case, I take a spare tire in addition to spare tubes. In 2018 I rode the C&O in a downpour for the whole day on Conti Speed Rides (quite light tires) and the rear tire exploded tearing the sidewall. Fortunately, this happened right near Cumberland and I was able to walk the bike to the shop for 1/4 mile.
I started touring carrying a spare. Then quit carrying it. And a few years later, started carrying one again.

But the spare I carry now is not a replacement tire that is as good and robust as the tires on my wheels, it is the lightest tire that I own of the correct size with a folding bead. I consider it to be the tire I need to get to the bike shop if I have a blowout or big sidewall cut.

The spare tire I carried on my tour this past April weighs 290 grams and consumed almost no space in the bottom of my pannier. Never needed it but was happy to carry it.
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Old 11-01-23, 05:46 AM
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I have never carried a spare except for a short while when a tire wore out when on tour and I bought a new tire (or pair of tires) and didn't swap it (or them) out immediately. I figure that is all of my 72 years and a great deal of riding I have never had a tire fail badly enough to not be able to be booted and leave me stranded. Maybe I have just been lucky. I did have a few really sketchy repairs that I limped to the closest place for a decent repair, but those were quite a few decades ago.

OTOH, if packing light isn't a priority kevlar bead tires pack small and a tire isn't a huge weight. If you will be somewhere that your tire size is rare or help is exceedingly infrequent that would also influence the choice. I figure that on paved roads in the continental US hitching a ride is an option just about anywhere making me less likely to worry about a spare. I figure somewhere like the GAP C&O tire failure is pretty unlikely. The distance is fairly short and the hazards not bad.
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Old 11-01-23, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Lionheart
I’m thinking about doing the C&O/GAP route fully loaded. I use a Surly LHT. I’m looking for tire recommendations. My top three desired characteristics are:
  • durability/puncture resistance
  • weight
  • safety/traction (for the given surfaces)
you replied that you have 700 wheels, but what tires do you have on the bike presently and how wide are they? They could be perfectly fine for the trip.
I've done a fair amount of touring on varying surfaces and as others have stated, wider has lots of advantages on a dirt trail, especially if some areas can be soft with rain or perhaps rough or loose surfaces.
Over the years, I've been fine on these sort of rail trails with 28mm, 32mm, 38mm, 45-50mm tires with some tread but not much-- but slightly wider tires in the 40-45 are always nice, especially if soft in places or rough, and how much weight your bike is carrying (your weight, how many lbs of gear on the bike).

As also noted, a nice wider tire will ride just as quickly as a narrower hard tire, plus you'll have the bonus of being much more comfortable and being more sure footed.

But then again, individual rider bike handling skills and being comfortable on varying surfaces is as varying as the opinions that you'll get on an internet forum, so impossible to know how you are riding on surfaces other than pavement.

bottom line is that you can't go wrong with tires in the 40mm range, there's a million of them out there at all kinds of varying prices, but wider will be more enjoyable than narrower in any case.
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Old 11-01-23, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
you replied that you have 700 wheels, but what tires do you have on the bike presently and how wide are they? They could be perfectly fine for the trip.
This is something I thought when reading the question. I doubt that I would even consider changing tires for one tour of this length unless the tires were totally unsuitable which they most likely are not. If really wet conditions are expected maybe, but also maybe just postpone.

Now on the other hand it is possible thet the OP lives nearby and expects to do many rides there and wants to have the bike set up specifically for that long term usage.

In any case folks ride that ride with a really broad range of tire choices. Most tires that would be on an LHT are in the range of normal for that ride.
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