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Re: Touring question(7 posts)

Re: Touring questionJim Lukens
May 1, 2001 11:02 AM
My wife and I are going to ride the length of the C&O Canal this summer. Although we'll be staying in motels, instead of camping we'll still need to carry some stuff with us (judging by what she packs for just a weekend trip, I might be in trouble). Anyway, I was thinking about using a trailer so's I could haul the stuff and she could just ride. Any opinions on trailers vs pannier bags? Her bike does not currently have pannier racks, so any cost comparisons would have to be purchasing two sets of bags and a pannier rack. I was also wondering how each affects the handling of the bike.

Also, is there a good reference for items to pack for a multi-day trip? The trip will take 3-4 days. I'm going to take a two-day bike maintenance course to get me more ready for any mechanical problems. Any other opinions would be appreciated.

Jim Lukens
It is a wonderful trip....Greg Taylor
May 1, 2001 11:29 AM
...I've done it myself.

Because you are doing the hotel thing, you really don't need that much stuff for your trip. No tent or sleeping bags. All that you really need is a change or two of clothes, rain gear, snacks and water, and your tools, pump, and tubes. Panniers are fine, a trailer would be nice, but overkill.

The stretch between Cumberland and Hancock can be pretty deserted, but once you get below Hancock, you are always fairly close to civilization. There is a bike shop in Williamsport.

Some places to stop:

Hancock: the "Park -n- Dine" restaurant is a trip. An authentic (i.e., no "Silver Diner re-creation here) journey back to the Eisenhower era. Cheap eats, American style.

Shepardstown: a pretty little town over on the West Va. side of the river. The Bavarian Inn is an AWESOME place to spend the night. Pretty views of the Potomac, jacuzzi in the room. Not cheap, but worth it. Dinner at the "Yellow Brick Bank" or the Soda Fountain in town. The fountain serves beverages from the turn of the last century, such as "Phosphorus Coke" and genuine Malteds. The Antietem battlefield is over on the Maryland side -- it makes a good diversion.

Harpers Ferry: You have to stop here. Home to some of the most awesome views on the planet. Climb up to Jefferson Rock to see the convergence of the Potomac and the Shennandoah rivers. If you are stopping for the night, stay at Hilltop House -- 100 years old and perched atop a bluff. Same awesome view of the town from the rockers on the front porch. Home-style buffet for dinner is good for the hungry cyclist.

Leesburg: A couple of nice B&B's in town (Norris House is one -- they have a website and cater to cyclists). The cool thing here is that there is a car ferry across the river over to the Virginia side. The ride into Leesburg down Rt. 15 is pretty horrible, however. Lots of fast truck traffic.
Leave the hair dryer homeCory
May 1, 2001 11:39 AM
Um, yes, we're familiar with this issue...
I don't know that specific route, but canal roads are usually flat, which makes things easier--I once climbed 6,000 feet with a hair dryer and a five-pound makeup case in the seat bag. Finally we compromised--she can take anything she wants, but it goes on HER bike, not mine.
I don't like trailers (for no reason--I've never used one), but I have a couple of friends who've hauled theirs from Seattle to San Francisco and Reno. They like it a lot, because they can chain it to a tree and take off without it when they camp.
You don't need many clothes for three or four days, but clean shorts and socks are necessities, at least for me. I carry a pair of fast-drying street shorts (khaki colored, but of something like Tencil or nylon that I can wash in the sink and that dries in an hour). REI and other companies make brushed nylon or polyester shirts that look and feel like cotton but pack better and also dry fast--I've started taking one of those instead of T-shirts, because they get me into better restaurants.
Jerseys can be rinsed out at night (or not) and will dry by morning, or you can do them in a laundromat. Don't forget a basic supply of medications, whatever you take by prescription plus Tylenol, Tums, whatever you think you might need.
That trip shouldn't be tough on the bikes, so you may need only minimal tools and spares if they're in good shape when you leave. I carry a few tubes, patch kits of course, a multi-tool and set of tire levers, plus a little bottle of lube. Up to you whether you want to take extra cables, stuff like that. I wouldn't (I've never even SEEN a cable break), but I sometimes stick in a spare folding tire, because it's both rocky and thorny where I live.
How do you carry it? Panniers work well and keep the load low, for better handling. Sometimes I just lash it to the rack. If you're on a tight budget, you can use a backpack you already have--sweaty, but possible. I also have a British saddlebag made by Carradice, a big waxed-cotton thing the size of a backpack that will hold all I need for a long weekend. It's really goofy-looking, black with white leather straps, but you hardly ever see one anymore and it starts conversations. See it at or
Sounds like fun. Have a good time.
The "road" along the canal isn't really a road...Greg Taylor
May 1, 2001 11:58 AM is mostly dirt double-track. Not terribly rough, but I would recommend a good touring or 'cross tire if I were riding it on my 700c bike. A 28 or 35 section tire would be appropriate. It does get muddy if there is rain.

Like Cory says, the towpath is FLAT. The only noticable elevation changes come with the canal locks, which drop eight feet per lock (if I remember correctly). The good thing is that there are no hills on the towpath (off of the towpath to your hotel may be a different story). The bad thing is that there are no hills, meaning that you have to pedal the entire time. No coasting. There is one glorious section where there are four canal locks in a row, so you get a little downhill, but not much.
re: Re: Touring questionpmf
May 1, 2001 11:59 AM
A trailer might not work real well on the C&O. Its a little rough at the northern end and it may be hard to tow a trailer easily. I'd just pack some panniers. Since you're staying at hotels, you don't need to take lots of stuff with you.

Sonds like fun. I always imagined doing this on my cross bike until I sold it.
re: Re: Touring questionno excuses
May 2, 2001 10:05 AM
A couple of random thoughts. Two years ago I made it to Brunswick from Cumberland and then got hurricaned out of the 55 mile finish to Georgetown.
I think panniers are the only choice due to the road surface, it is not your typical hard packed dirt. It is rutted, rocky and rough. My friend used a touring bike, but he is much lighter than me.
I recommend hybrids at the least and replacement spokes might not be a bad idea. Every time I ride the towpath I need to true the wheels.
Four days will be a little more relaxing if you have the time.
Starting in Cumberland is a little easier since all of your locks are downhills.
Handling is definitely affected. We camped at the hiker-biker one night, so with tents and sleeping bags we were pretty weighed down. The panniers also affect how the bike handles the road.
There are a few websites that contain others experiences on the C&O. I'll try to load it on a future post.
Good Luck
Thanks for the info.............Jim Lukens
May 2, 2001 8:13 PM
I'll let you all know how it went when we've finished it.