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C&O Canal Trail & Great Allegheny Passage Comments
C&O ride report

Maybe before you think about doing this:

This bike adventure has come an end short of the original goal...I did not make it to Pittsburgh and will return home tomorrow from Cumberland MD arriving in Atlanta at 8am Sunday having completed 183 (plus 16) of the originally planned 335 miles.

Why did I fall short?

1. Got a late start Monday at noon and ran into the washout at Brunswick Md but would not try the work around in the dark. Mile 50.

2. Rode the road around the washout based on GPS. 16 miles. Long 10-12% grades on a 105 lb loaded bike. Legs pretty well fried. Made it only to mile 55 on the other side of the washout after hard 16 mile hill work out. Little or no food.

3. The biggest issue in terms of delay was from Point of Rocks to 3 miles short of Williamsport. This section took 4 hours for less than 10 miles. The trail was not just wet or muddy but essentially unrideable in this section and severely damaged from repeated floods. By the time I rolled into Williamsport (mm 100) at dark I was 40 miles behind schedule.

4. Load. I weighed out at 105 lbs fully loaded with water bottles. That’s a lot of bike to manage on a muddy trail.

5. Hiker biker camps were either standing in water or 6” mud. No flexibility in where to sleep at night.

What was good?

The people I met on the trail:

Bridgette the lovely young woman from London who is terrifying dear mum and dad on her now 6000+ mile post BREXIT family break-up US bike tour. Good luck in Berlin. Here’s to dual citizenship.

Sanjay the retired neuroscience PhD from Mumbai and more recently Cleveland who digs Dale Bredesen’s work on AD

Chris and Paul, WVU dental school classmates and friends who decided to do this ride to reunite after these 20’years.

Nancy and Sarah mother and daughter from Rockville MD riding the GAP/C&O to celebrate Sarah’s new MSW!

Dan the philosopher king of Paw Paw WV.

Equipment likes:

Crank Bros Double Shot Pedals. Can’t clog em but there’s a platform if your cleat comes off.

Challenge Almonzo tires 32c. Good grip - plenty of mud clearance.

Ortlieb panniers. Totally waterproof.

Gates carbon drive

New wheels built by Josh and Jonathan at Piney Mountain Bike Lounge. Those Velocity NoBS rims and Sapim Strong spokes never flinched.

Brooks B67 saddle.

Later...tomorrow it’s all aboard Amtrak!
posted Oct 14 2018 8:38PM - John McBurney, Greenville SC


First off, congrats on having the guts to try. So many others have not even had the dream, let alone saddled up and went for it.

I too tried my first tour on the C&O and Gap, but I allowed 8 days for the trip, and couldn't have done it in a second less.

I cheated and took the unapproved "detour" around the Brunswick washout. I sounds like while it may not be the smartest decision, it saved my legs. I too found that every time I got off the trail, the surrounding "hills" were darn near unrideable due to the grade.

I'm also pleased to hear that at least one other person did the west bound ride into Williamsport. I was convinced I was the only one who didn't get the message. I was lucky enough to have a 29er mountain bike with wide aggressive tires which is the only reason that I made it through, with anything left in the tank.

I too would recommend that if you are using the park service web site for trail status, PLEASE pay very careful attention to the last update date in the corner. When I went 9/29-10/7 I found the site to be completely out of date and unreliable. Found many H&B sites that were unusable due to the flood, but showed as open on the NPS site.

Now for the good, and I want to encourage EVERYBODY to take a bike tour regardless of the location.

First and most important - The people you meet will make the trip, and memories that last a lifetime.

My peeps -
Barry - Durham, NC. Barry turned out to be my personal hype man, offering encouragement at every corner. We shared many meals, some even under the cover of a laundromat while raining.

Bob - Casual at every corner, and yet had experienced the world by bike. Stories to share if you took the time to ask, and listened.

Bonnie, Rose, and Mustache at the Desert Rose Cafe - I met Rose on the trail as she was ferrying a rider around the mud. She offered to come back and check on me, and I passed, but told her I'd see her at her Desert Rose Cafe in Williamsport. Great food, fun conversations, and felt like part of the family.

The owner of the Schoolhouse Cafe in Oldtown who was the Chief Cook, Waitress, Dishwasher, who literally did everything with a smile while taking care of all of us hungry cyclists.

So congrats John on the journey, and to everybody else out there reading this, take the leap and saddle up. The adventure is in the people and the experience. Get out there and ride, and know that however far you make it, take pride in the fact that you did it.

posted Oct 15 2018 6:00PM - kubotaki, Traverse CIty

I did the GAP and C&O from Pittsburgh to Washington DC from September 30 to October 8. I rode for 8 days and took a day off in Harpers Ferry. I didn’t have any problems. The GAP was great to Cumberland and the C&O a bit muddy between there and Hancock. I rode all of the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) that was accessible to/from the C&O. In Williamsport I took a detour on the highway to see Antietam National Battlefield (68 to 65 to 34) and rejoined the C&O near Sharpsburg. The C&O was okay between Harpers Ferry and Brunswick. I rode the official detour between there and the Point of Rocks. It was a beautiful ride on sometimes narrow roads but the max grade was only 5%. I never felt threatened as I was always in view of traffic. I rode the C&O from Point of Rocks to Whites Ferry and then took the ferry from there to Leesburg. I finished up my trip riding the paved Washington & Old Dominion Trail to Arlington and the paved Mt. Vernon Trail to Washington DC.

I have a 15lb road bike and carried 10lbs of gear with me. This included a few changes of clothes, rain gear, my hammock (with rain fly, bug net and straps), sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, JetBoil, fork, spoon, bowl, cup, toiletries, camp towel, food, bike repair kit with minimal essentials and my journal.

I had no problem hammock camping along the way if anyone else is thinking of doing it.
posted Oct 15 2018 7:32PM - Ty, Wheat Ridge, Colorado

Hi John, I just talked with Jill today in the office about you, asking about your trip - small world! I know Jill through the chiropractic world. I found your blog post here as I start my plans to ride the 330 next May.
posted Nov 1 2018 10:21PM - Kym, Spartanburg, SC


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