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GAP and C&O Trails

Old 05-31-24, 11:05 AM
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GAP and C&O Trails

I rode the GAP and C&O trails earlier this month, about 330 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. It's great to see how popular this trail has become - I saw and met so many bicyclists along the way, many who had done the trail before.

It really is unique to have such a long car-free trail with good transportation access (air and rail) on either end and within a day's drive of a large percentage of the country's population.

Here was my ride:

Bike Friday All Packa folding gravel bike.


Bicycle Heaven

Pittsburgh skyline

Site of Homestead labor strike

I'll be posting more photos and video from the trip on this thread as I go through the hundred of photos and hours of footage. I'm hoping to write a story for publication as well - any insights of what publications to approach appreciated!


Here's the first video.
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Old 05-31-24, 11:58 AM
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Did you take the short detour to Buffalo Billís house from The Silence of the Lambs?
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Old 05-31-24, 12:20 PM
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Pretty cool. Subscribed.
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Old 05-31-24, 02:31 PM
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The people and businesses along the way also seemed to be very bike, and bike rider, friendly.
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Old 05-31-24, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Did you take the short detour to Buffalo Billís house from The Silence of the Lambs?
​​​​​​Oh I didn't know it was in the area!
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Old 05-31-24, 04:07 PM
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You set up that Bike Friday very nicely for carrying a load. Good job.

But, if it was my bike, I would have tried to add some form of fenders or mudguards. Probably not full fenders, but something that would not interfere with the fold and keep most of the mud off.
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Old 05-31-24, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by john m flores
​​​​​​Oh I didn't know it was in the area!
Itís a very short ride off the trail, just a bit south/east of Whitsett. The place is now a ďstay experienceĒ place. The online gift shop sells Skinsuit So Soft Body Lotion.

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Old 05-31-24, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Pratt
The people and businesses along the way also seemed to be very bike, and bike rider, friendly.
For sure. I lost count how many times locals offered to fill up my water bottles. I saw a lot of locals using the trail too, so there's clearly a social and economic benefit to having them.
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Old 06-01-24, 04:41 AM
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I must admit I was totally ignorant of the existance of this trail, although I had moved west before its completion. Looks fantastic. I'd need fenders on my bike with a good flap at the bottom front to try to keep grit off the chain. I don't like riding on dirt, but online says its crushed limestone so may be cleaner than perceived. But sounds very... uh... "gravelly". It appears I can fit 2" tires on my 20", which will raise my gearing a bit, but not too bad, and grades are max 2%, way less than I currently do. Even with shelters I'd bring a tent if mosquitos are in season. I'd pick late spring just like you did, John, or early fall, not the heat, humidity, and possibly crowds of summer.

VIDEO: Good production quality! Good camera work, audio, music, this must not be your first.

I think you picked the perfect bike for this. Traveling with my folder was also easy on the train. Gosh I wish it wasn't such a long train ride from the west, air travel is an order of magnitude more difficult.

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Old 06-01-24, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
You set up that Bike Friday very nicely for carrying a load. Good job.

But, if it was my bike, I would have tried to add some form of fenders or mudguards. Probably not full fenders, but something that would not interfere with the fold and keep most of the mud off.
Thanks. I had thought about fenders, and even grabbed one off the shelf to see if it would fit - it wasn't wide enough for these tires. But I did have a large Ikea bag/backpack that I used on the trains and then folded up and strapped to the rear rack when riding; that bag did a good job of keeping mud off my back and the seat bag at least.


Really handy Ikea bag/backpack. Big enough to hold 2 x 17 liter panniers + 2 x 4.1 liter fork bags + ~10 liter drybag + misc

Ikea bag spent the rest of the trip strapped to the rear rack. Was hosed off for the train ride home.

For the front, I relied upon the downtube-mounted toolbox to keep the mud off me. And it did the job. I did keep an eye on the drivetrain and cleaned and lubed as needed. Not squeaky clean but functional every morning.



At least the chain is relatively clean!

By the end of the trip (and even after a mid-trip water bottle wash), the panniers were caked in mud


But they cleaned up nice with a hose and a little elbow grease when I got home and are ready for their next adventure.

I've since learned that Velo Orange used to make a set of 20" fenders wide enough for the All Packa's tires; I'll have to keep an eye out for them.
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Old 06-02-24, 01:06 AM
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(above) Well that convinces me that is not a trail for a rim-brake bike. I dunno, maybe if rarely using the brakes because no greater than 2% slope plus no sharp turns due to old train line. Definitely not all crushed limestone.
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Old 06-02-24, 04:39 AM
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Fenders do help some, but photo is from my 2013 trip on GAP and C&O.

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Old 06-02-24, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
I must admit I was totally ignorant of the existance of this trail, although I had moved west before its completion. Looks fantastic. I'd need fenders on my bike with a good flap at the bottom front to try to keep grit off the chain. I don't like riding on dirt, but online says its crushed limestone so may be cleaner than perceived. But sounds very... uh... "gravelly". It appears I can fit 2" tires on my 20", which will raise my gearing a bit, but not too bad, and grades are max 2%, way less than I currently do. Even with shelters I'd bring a tent if mosquitos are in season. I'd pick late spring just like you did, John, or early fall, not the heat, humidity, and possibly crowds of summer.
I'm more of a road tourer (with some mountain bike tours years ago), but the GAP/C&O are really unique. I got the sense that I was riding early in the season, which helped with weather and mosquitos. Still, there was one damp campsite on the C&O that had a lot of mosquitos. I got to try out this neat device that i got from REI - it worked well.




I suspect that a ride in June - August would be busier but it's still likely not too bad - local businesses seem scaled for it. In Meyersburg, for example, the town has installed bike racks with power outlets for ebikes (I know you're not an ebiker, but this is an example)




Most of the route is pancake flat, in market contrast to many of the roads in the area - particularly along the GAP



Like you said, it's "gravelly". Very fine gravel, nothing larger than 1/4". I think 2" 406 tires would be fine; I met a woman on a Bike Friday New World Tourist and they top out at 1.75"

The most challenging area is the C&O trail near Cumberland. Not because of the gravel - it's a dirt single-track/double-track that can get quite muddy when it has rained.



As a former mountain biker, it was fun. I would imagine it would be much drier in August or September, and not a problem with the right tires. I was on 2.15" Schwalbe Marathon 365 and they handled the mud great.

VIDEO: Good production quality! Good camera work, audio, music, this must not be your first.
Thanks. I'm trying to keep up with the times and learn video; I know plenty of fellow writer and photographers unwilling to.

I think you picked the perfect bike for this. Traveling with my folder was also easy on the train. Gosh I wish it wasn't such a long train ride from the west, air travel is an order of magnitude more difficult.
In 2022, I took Amtrak from NJ to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was long - I saw two sunrises. I had planned to spend that time writing, which was a total fail because the train rocked too much to stare at a laptop screen without getting a headache. But I ended up looking out the window and really enjoyed watching the landscape scroll by.


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Old 06-02-24, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
(above) Well that convinces me that is not a trail for a rim-brake bike. I dunno, maybe if rarely using the brakes because no greater than 2% slope plus no sharp turns due to old train line. Definitely not all crushed limestone.
I ride a rim brake bike on that trail all the time, and have for the past 14 years. What that post should tell you, is full coverage fenders are a good thing. I got tired of cleaning my wife's drivetrain every time we rode, so I installed full coverage fenders on her bike as well. Mine has had them since I bought the bike. I cannot imagine touring without full fenders, especially on the GAP and C&O trails.
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Old 06-02-24, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
(above) Well that convinces me that is not a trail for a rim-brake bike. I dunno, maybe if rarely using the brakes because no greater than 2% slope plus no sharp turns due to old train line. Definitely not all crushed limestone.
I donít know about the C&O, but I survived the GAP twice from PGH to Cumberland twice as part of cross PA tours and once during an up and back trip with rim brakes. Heavy rain during two of those trips.
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Old 06-02-24, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
I donít know about the C&O, but I survived the GAP twice from PGH to Cumberland twice as part of cross PA tours and once during an up and back trip with rim brakes. Heavy rain during two of those trips.
I did the entire trip to Washington DC during Hurricane Irene with torrential downpours. Rim brakes were no issue.
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Old 06-02-24, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by phughes
I did the entire trip to Washington DC during Hurricane Irene with torrential downpours. Rim brakes were no issue.
Rebel! Iíll bet you used bar ends in friction mode.
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Old 06-02-24, 06:06 PM
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This trail has been on my radar for a while. Ironically my wife & I were just discussing logistics of this trail last night
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Old 06-02-24, 06:48 PM
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Grades: Yeah I learned from someone that knows trains, typical train routes did not exceed 4%, it's really hard to get enough friction for climbing with steel wheels on steel tracks in the rain. So even in hills and mountains, an old train route will thread a path through that is gentle. 2% is especially gentle.

Rim brakes: Yeah I put in serious miles on a road bike with rim brakes for a decade in flatland, never even wore through the hard anodizing on the rims. Just barely used the brakes, but I also only biked in the dry, on pavement. That gravel trail is a lot more grit, but again, slight grades and no sharp bends, that's the saving grace, don't need to use brakes hardly at all, I would imagine.

Train trip: My limit for sitting is a half-day, the seat bottoms felt hard, not very ergo. I could go longer if I could sleep horizontal, but sleep cabins are really expensive, more than airfare. We need cross-country high speed rail in the USA for major arteries, but that's never going to happen. Few need it except us bikers. I'll figure a way to transport my bifolder by air, it's just gonna need two cases to fit max checked size without fee on airlines with free checked (some airlines now don't charge oversize for bikes but still charge for checked), and the hard part, is where to stash them while biking, assume I return to the same airport. And trying to fab cardboard cases each time is a pain. I wish the airlines had standard padded soft cases of rinko size but without need to remove fork, that could be rented for a very nominal fee which would also include special handling between baggage check and plane, and you just show up at the airport, fold or partly disassemble bike, put in case, done.
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Old 06-02-24, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Rebel! Iíll bet you used bar ends in friction mode.
Not that time. It was shortly after buying the Surly, and before the MicroSHIFT bar ends indexing broke.
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Old 06-02-24, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
..., and you just show up at the airport, fold or partly disassemble bike, put in case, done.
Like this?





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Old 06-02-24, 11:17 PM
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(above) Interesting/ Several questions please:
- That's within 62" max LxWxH, with the wheels on?
- 349 or 305, and what width tires? I want to run the numbers for high gear in gear calc versus 20".
- For both structural and rack reasons, I like a rear triangle; Will the 20" steel frame with rear triangle (Storm? I need to go look at your other Builds thread) fold as small? I have to think that would be same size as my Speed bifold. I'd guessing the bike you show is smaller due to smaller tires, unless there is some magic about the monobeam chainstays.
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Old 06-02-24, 11:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
(above) Interesting/ Several questions please:
- That's within 62" max LxWxH, with the wheels on?
- 349 or 305, and what width tires? I want to run the numbers for high gear in gear calc versus 20".
- For both structural and rack reasons, I like a rear triangle; Will the 20" steel frame with rear triangle (Storm? I need to go look at your other Builds thread) fold as small? I have to think that would be same size as my Speed bifold. I'd guessing the bike you show is smaller due to smaller tires, unless there is some magic about the monobeam chainstays.
  • Both wheels firmly on.
  • 50-305
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Old 06-02-24, 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Ron Damon
  • Both wheels firmly on.
  • 50-305
Thanks Ron.

Wheels on and meeting 62" would be impressive.

I ran gear calc, only had 37-305 as option, so results a bit low. Assumed 52x11-34: 70.5 - 22.8 gear inches, not bad. 10T = 77.6, 9T = 86.2 which just barely exceeds my current high gear. Both 10T and 9T are getting more common. Biggest advantage of yours over a brompnot is the ability to mount cushy tires, I know you're a fan of that and I would agree on that small a wheel.

I think loaded touring would be difficult on that frame. But for light touring, as I'm picturing with a brompnot, yes, quite possible.

Food for thought.

Gosh with frame that inexpensive, I can see why you don't bother with a padded bag for the bike. The bag would cost more than the frame.

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Old 06-03-24, 04:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
Thanks Ron.

Wheels on and meeting 62" would be impressive.

I ran gear calc, only had 37-305 as option, so results a bit low. Assumed 52x11-34: 70.5 - 22.8 gear inches, not bad. 10T = 77.6, 9T = 86.2 which just barely exceeds my current high gear. Both 10T and 9T are getting more common. Biggest advantage of yours over a brompnot is the ability to mount cushy tires, I know you're a fan of that and I would agree on that small a wheel.

I think loaded touring would be difficult on that frame. But for light touring, as I'm picturing with a brompnot, yes, quite possible.

Food for thought.

Gosh with frame that inexpensive, I can see why you don't bother with a padded bag for the bike. The bag would cost more than the frame.
The range is 23-76 gear-inches.

Wider tires is one advantage. Much lower price; no exotic, expensive proprietary parts; lower weight; wider gear range; and a modem, derailleur drivetrain are others.

Rim-brake FnHon Gust 16" framesets can be had for as little as $125 these days.

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