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Question about riding the C&O canal(8 posts)

Question about riding the C&O canalNewRoadBiker
Dec 12, 2001 9:53 PM
I'm planning to ride the C&O path next week. We're heading from Tennessee to D.C. to spend Christmas with family and I thought I'd have the S.O. drop me off and I'd ride the canal toepath in to D.C. This is sort of a last minute planned thing... so my question is, which bike should I ride? My choices are my Giant OCR1, my full suspension Rockhopper, or my 10 year old hardtail Rockhopper that is converted into a commuter bike with road slicks on it. I just ordered a BobYak trailer to cart my camping gear in, now I just need to figure out which bike to ride! :o) What's the condition of the trail like? Would the Full suspension bike be too much to ride 260 miles in four days? (I'm actually planning to start at Williamsport and ride west to Cumberland and then back to D.C.) Any suggestions on what I should definitely pack for the trip?...this is my first self-suporting (and solo) trip of this sort. Thanks for any suggestions and tips!
trail's pretty tame......Tom Collins
Dec 13, 2001 1:21 AM
It's mostly a dirt/fine gravel trail, but not really suitable for a road bike. Your hardtail rockhopper should be just fine - make sure it's got bigger tires on it, though. A few years ago, there was some major flooding damage that took out some big chunks of the trail (back then, a dually would indeed be appropriate), but now it's mostly repaired. Seems like a dually would be overkill, although if you wanna lug the weight around, that's your perogative...:)

I grew up on that trail; I'd definitely recommend a stop in Harpers' Ferry, WV - well worth the history, or if nothing else, a good lunch in town and a killer view of the river and bluffs overlooking it from the VA side. You gotta get off the trail and take the footbridge over the Potomac to get to Harpers Ferry; it's a really cool place though.

And, of course, poke around Georgetown when you get back to DC.

Oh, there are a number of campgrounds along the towpath; you should have no trouble finding a place to pitch a tent.
re: Question about riding the C&O canalDuane Gran
Dec 13, 2001 4:13 AM
There are camp sites every 5 miles, so it is easy to camp out, but you need to bring your own gear. It is a pretty cool trail and I've ridden parts of it close to DC. It isn't good at all for a road bike, but a cross or mountain bike would be good. There are some good road bike club rides in the area if the pavement suits you better.
re: Question about riding the C&O canalpmf1
Dec 13, 2001 5:09 AM
If you're riding the full 260 miles in 4 days, I'd bring the mtn bike. If you're planning to do rides near DC, bring the commuting bike. Definitely leave the road bike at home.

The trail is in varying condition. Near DC (20 miles) is is packed down rock which is pretty smooth. You could get away with the commuting bike pretty well. Once past Angler's Inn/the falls, it gets more like a dirt road with lots of mud if the weather is wet (which it has been lately). Keep going out to Harper's Ferry and it gets pretty rough -- ruts, tree roots, mud, etc. Its definitely doable (I've always wanted to ride it all), but its no rails to trails type path further out. One consolation ... its pretty darn flat. Actually, when you're headed to DC, you'll be going downstream on the Potomac so it'll be down hill all the way.

There are camp grounds along the way. You might want to contact the Park Service and see if they have any suggestions about where to get water along the way.
Here's some pictures and info ...pmf1
Dec 13, 2001 6:55 AM
I'm jealous. Can I come too?
p.s. -- this is not mepmf1
Dec 13, 2001 6:57 AM
The site is from some hiker. Nicely done.
Wrong time of year to do it, I'm talking mud, mud, mud.MB1
Dec 13, 2001 8:07 AM
I ride the C&O towpath all the time. Done the whole thing many times. I'll use any of my bikes on it however I prefer my 'crosser. From your list of bikes I'd suggest the hardtail w/1.5 slicks (if it were dry).

Two weeks ago would have been a fine time to do it but we are into a wet weather pattern now, rain every couple of days. The best maintained parts of the towpath take a day or so to dry out after a rainy day. Other sections can take several days to dry out.

The mud can get really thick and there is no escaping it. Lots of other good riding around here though. Lots of possible over-niters going to classic places, Gettysburg, Antietam, Harpers Ferry, Bull Run......

I can hook you up with some good rides and people to ride big miles with if you like.
Far and away the best C&O website for bikes....MB1
Dec 13, 2001 8:22 AM