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My Negative Review of the C&O Canal Towpath - Not a fun ride on a Recumbent Trike

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My Negative Review of the C&O Canal Towpath - Not a fun ride on a Recumbent Trike

Old 05-11-11, 01:17 PM
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charly17201
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My Negative Review of the C&O Canal Towpath - Not a fun ride on a Recumbent Trike

From my start on the towpath at Williamsport to my arrival at Cumberland, Md the C&O is a beautiful trail. Quiet, clean, plenty of solitude, good camping - but for me a miserable trip even though I loved the trail.

Okay, why the negativity? Simply, everything I read and everyone that I'd talked to and every photo I saw showed the canal as this wonderful, crushed limestone, full width path.

Wonderful, except what I got was nearer to 90 percent like the picture below, more a farm lane with a lot of grass growing between the tire tracks. On a recumbent trike, this makes life miserable as you almost always have at least one wheel off in to the grass.

With the wheel in the grass I had to work so much harder that it was demoralizing. The saving grace was that I have the ability to go as slowly as I want to. If I had known when planning what I know now, I would not have taken the C&O.

So, if you are riding a trike, I have to strongly recommend you reconsider. But if you ride a 2-wheeled DF or recumbent, I think that you will have a very pleasant ride.
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Old 05-11-11, 02:16 PM
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I've never heard nor seen references to the C&O towpath having a crushed limestone surface. If it's any consolation, most of the towpath closer to DC doesn't have grass growing on it and tire tracks. But overall it's not nearly as nice a surface as the GAP Trail has. I grew up near the towpath and like it a lot, but I found it somewhat boring when I biked the length of it a few years ago.
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Old 05-11-11, 02:18 PM
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A bad day touring is better than a good day working.

/ I'm stuck at work dreaming about touring.
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Old 05-11-11, 02:19 PM
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The GAP is a crushed limestone path and quite nice to ride on. I too have never heard the C & O talked about in those terms. In fact, my neighbor who has ridden in a few times said it was the only time she wished for (and got) a front suspension bike.
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Old 05-11-11, 04:27 PM
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Actually I have. There is a tourer that is doing a cross country tour that posted a video here recently and this is the way he described it. I was shocked. I thought they had repaved the trail.

But thinking about it. he started at the DC end where much of it is crushed limestone.
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Old 05-11-11, 04:30 PM
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Well, I've finish the C&O part at least so now I get to enjoy the GAP, which is MUCH, much nicer on my trike.
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Old 05-11-11, 07:26 PM
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That,s why we call it touring good or bad it,s still fun to do.But I do feel for you.My wife trike is fun to ride but I like my LHT and my Nashbar touring bike I built.Riding a trail or on a road is still more fun than working any day.And I am retired so I am happy most of the time.
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Old 05-11-11, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
Actually I have. There is a tourer that is doing a cross country tour that posted a video here recently and this is the way he described it. I was shocked. I thought they had repaved the trail.

But thinking about it. he started at the DC end where much of it is crushed limestone.
No, I don't think it is. It's generally hard-packed dirt with some pebbles in and near DC. It's reasonably smooth there, however.
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Old 05-12-11, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by dcrowell View Post
A bad day touring is better than a good day working.

/ I'm stuck at work dreaming about touring.
So true. My main reason for posting my 'negative' review is so others (esp trike riders) are more aware of what the trail is like.
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Old 05-12-11, 08:14 AM
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We rode part of the C&O on our tandem (loaded with panniers) pulling our son in a Burley trailer. It was miserable, for the same reason you described: one wheel of the trailer was always dragging in the middle, which in late May was mostly pretty high grass.

I rode the whole thing on my single bike and it was much better, although the surface still leaves a lot to be desired.
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Old 05-12-11, 08:32 AM
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I have read posts in places where people confuse the two and/or assume they are one in the same. For example, someone once wrote that they were going to ride the C&O from McKeesport and mentioned the limestone surface.
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Old 05-12-11, 08:42 AM
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I rode a portion of the C&O near DC last summer on a road bike, and that was challenging.
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Old 05-13-11, 06:20 AM
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Well, I'm holed up in Frostburg on the GAP right now. I strained my ankle on the last day of the C&O and didn't rest properly then. I should be able to roll out Sat morning. A group of 20 college riders left shortly after 0700 and planning on making it 100 miles to Williamsport today. I hope they make it and have fun doing it, but this is only their 2nd day out and casual/limited experience. I got to chat with a few of them last evening and this morning. They are all on mountain and hybrids and carrying very little (supported with 2 gear vans). At least they have the downhill and single wheel line advantage.
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Old 05-13-11, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
Actually I have. There is a tourer that is doing a cross country tour that posted a video here recently and this is the way he described it. I was shocked. I thought they had repaved the trail.
.

They got the $ for it in the stimulus bill. Remember it's the Govt though and they're probably doing some impact study of gravel dust on the snort nosed turtle or something. When they're done they'll have enough $ left to sweep one of the parking lots.

Now you guys know why I use a BOB trailer since the C&O is a frequent stomping ground.
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Old 05-13-11, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by charly17201 View Post
Okay, why the negativity? Simply, everything I read and everyone that I'd talked to and every photo I saw showed the canal as this wonderful, crushed limestone, full width path.
Sounds like they were talking about the GAP, which is crushed gravel (not limestone) in many places.

Originally Posted by charly17201 View Post
Wonderful, except what I got was nearer to 90 percent like the picture below, more a farm lane with a lot of grass growing between the tire tracks. On a recumbent trike, this makes life miserable as you almost always have at least one wheel off in to the grass.
The C&O is the great green tube. It would suck on a trike.

=============

Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
But thinking about it. he started at the DC end where much of it is crushed limestone.
The segment between DC and the Great Falls is not much like the rest of it.
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Old 05-13-11, 05:09 PM
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Funny you should mention that because when I was watching Dave's video and he did the interview with you I thought "Man he's got to be hatting life right now with that trike".... guess I was right. I am however surprised that you didn't' see pictures like what you posted prior to riding the C&O. Everything I see on it seems to have a very similar picture. However you are on tour and probably didn't have the time to research like I did..... sitting in my cubical wanting to be out riding.

https://www.youtube.com/user/ThreeWheelJourney Link to Dave's Channel on Youtube... Hope he doesn't mind...

I was in Hancock area the other weekend and I"ll say is surprised me how much ruffer it was than I expected/remembered. But we did just have a ton of weather knock down a bunch of twigs and branches.

Nice looking and relaxed setup on that trike I must say....

Hope your ankle feels better and you get back on the road.

Mike
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Old 05-13-11, 06:34 PM
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Could have been worse, could of been raining!
Believe me, C&O mud is much worse then grass.
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Old 05-13-11, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by VT_Speed_TR View Post
Could have been worse, could of been raining!
Believe me, C&O mud is much worse then grass.
I dunno about that. I just have visions of one of the trike wheels continually getting bound up with grass in the hub. We've been through there where it's 2' high and even wraps around the BB on a regular bike!.
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Old 05-13-11, 08:46 PM
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I did it on a bike friday pulling the two wheeled suitcase trailer. Yep, it sucked.
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Old 05-13-11, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by VT_Speed_TR View Post
Could have been worse, could of been raining!
Believe me, C&O mud is much worse then grass.
So true. It's pleasure when it's dry, wet..not so much. And the bumpy gravelly (sp?) seems to increase as you get close into DC.
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Old 05-13-11, 10:23 PM
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And another here that experienced three days of rain and mud on the C&O before we hit the GAP. Our fender investment was paid back many times on that trip. We kept seeing other riders caked with silty mud spray and looking fairly envious of our fenders. We were on tandems and had a couple times I slid sideways in the slicker spots. No falls thankfully.
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Old 05-14-11, 04:56 AM
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Originally Posted by n3vqh View Post
Funny you should mention that because when I was watching Dave's video and he did the interview with you I thought "Man he's got to be hatting life right now with that trike".... guess I was right. I am however surprised that you didn't' see pictures like what you posted prior to riding the C&O. Everything I see on it seems to have a very similar picture. However you are on tour and probably didn't have the time to research like I did..... sitting in my cubical wanting to be out riding.

https://www.youtube.com/user/ThreeWheelJourney Link to Dave's Channel on Youtube... Hope he doesn't mind...

Originally Posted by VT_Speed_TR View Post
Could have been worse, could of been raining!
Believe me, C&O mud is much worse then grass.
It was, it did rain my first day out. Until I got camp set up and in to the sleeping bag I was wet and chilly.

Originally Posted by CCrew View Post
I dunno about that. I just have visions of one of the trike wheels continually getting bound up with grass in the hub. We've been through there where it's 2' high and even wraps around the BB on a regular bike!.

I was in Hancock area the other weekend and I"ll say is surprised me how much ruffer it was than I expected/remembered. But we did just have a ton of weather knock down a bunch of twigs and branches.

Nice looking and relaxed setup on that trike I must say....

Hope your ankle feels better and you get back on the road.

Mike
It is a laid back way to ride. Ankle quit hurting Thursday. I sat out another day and am ready to give it another try this morning.
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Old 05-14-11, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by CCrew View Post
They got the $ for it in the stimulus bill. Remember it's the Govt though and they're probably doing some impact study of gravel dust on the snort nosed turtle or something. When they're done they'll have enough $ left to sweep one of the parking lots.

Now you guys know why I use a BOB trailer since the C&O is a frequent stomping ground.
Ah yes, the stimulus to repair the 2 miles of towpath washed out in 1972. It's an important project because, as someone put it, it will get bikes off roads.
 
Old 05-14-11, 02:03 PM
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If you want a real trike horror story, go to the Clydesdale forum and read Sayre Kulp's comments on his trip back in October. He broke his frame at Point of Rocks, about 50 miles from DC. SK reached DC despite the accident.
 
Old 05-23-11, 07:12 AM
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What's up charly17201? this is Dave, I'm in Boston on the GAP. How far north are ya?
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