Gary's Trip Tips and Suggestions
A lot of my tips and suggestions will be the same as what the Park Service tells you.
- Try not to ride on the path just after a rainfall.
- Make sure you have a basic toolkit.
- Make sure you have a spare tube or a good patch kit.
- If you have not checked your patch kit in the past year, you may want to check and make sure the glue hasn't dried up on you.
- Try to take a couple of extra spokes with you.
- I learned this one the hard way! Luckily I only had to carry my bike about a mile and a half. I rode over a stick that curled back up and through my wheel, breaking several spokes. I now carry about 6 extra spokes in my seat tube.
- Wider Tires are better.
- Not necessarily knobby tires, just not really skinny racing tires.
- There are quite a few sections that racing tires would be fine, but then there are some sections that they would be inappropriate.
- Try not to plan too tight of a time frame for your trip.
- The towpath is constantly changing. The Park Service is trying to fix bad sections, and mother nature trys to undo some other sections. If you plan your trip down to the last minute, somewhere along the line you could be tied up by construction, washed out sections, or a new bypass that's not documented yet.
- Even though it can be a very relaxing ride, don't get caught day dreaming.
- That tree across the path, or a washed out section can creep up on you very quickly. Pay attention to the path and conditions!
- OBEY ALL Detour Signs.
- The Park Service doesn't put these up just to keep beginning riders from getting hurt. They put them up because there is a very large risk of everyone getting hurt.
- I suggest some sort of water filter or strainer.
- Just about all the pumps I stopped at had rusty water. I took some powdered Gatorade to add to the water to try and counteract the bad taste in the water, but a filter would be ideal.
- If you find anything broken, report it.
- The Park Service is very good about fixing broken pumps, cutting up trees that have fallen across the path, or whatever. They can't fix what they don't know is broke!
The C&O Canal Towpath can be done in any number of days. Yes, the whole thing has been done in one day. I think it was 18 hours to be exact. You have to decide whether your trip is going to be just a ride, a camping trip, an adventure, a sight seeing tour, hotel hopping ride, birdwatching trip, looking for wildlife trip, picture taking trip, or whatever. What I'm getting at is there is something for just about everyone along the canal. There is even at least one company that gives llama rides on the towpath!
I strongly suggest that if you plan to do the trip, buy a book on the history of the canal towpath. It explains a lot of the things you see along the way and enhances your trip. If your not into camping, there is a book out there that explains the spots that you can stay in motels. It also list spots near the canal that you can eat. The book I have on that subject is called "A Guide to Food and Lodging Along the C & O Canal" and is put out by the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association.
Make sure you do some riding BEFORE you do a trip on the canal. In the weeks prior to your trip, ride your bike to build up the muscles that you are going to use. Especially the area around your sit bones! As was told to me about my first trip, if you are use to riding 20 - 30 miles of paved trails with rolling hills once or twice a week, then you will have NO problem riding 40 - 50 miles on the towpath. Remember, the towpath is basically level except for any detours and at the locks which are very short 6 to 8 foot climbs or drops.
There are many thoughts as to whether to go "UP" or "DOWN" the Canal. It really depends on how you plan to get to the start, AND how you plan to get home from the finish.
Stop by Kathy Bilton's page on the C & O Canal. She has links to many different sources of information about the canal.
Back to | 1995 Half Trip |
1997 Trip |
Camping List |
Gary's Home Page |
Last updated by Gary Mumma on 8/13/2004