Railing Trails from Pittsburgh to Harpers Ferry with Jacob.
This year I helped my friend Jacob dial in his mixed surface touring bike with some new tubeless wheels, a front dynamo hub, and tires. Back in June he put all three to the test with a journey from Pittsburgh back to Richmond with our mutual friend Jon. Below are his notes on the trip.
Since I wrote this stuff on my phone I figured I’d put it out here- its just the day to day stuff and some info on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and The C&O Towpath
Rode about eighty miles. 8:30-15:30. Stopped just before Ohiopyle State Park and stealth camped among the rocks as big as your house. Swam in the water, cold and so refreshing. Made bread. Broccoli and carrot curry fry. Hammock over the river. Getting to bed around eight.
The ride was fast and good. And hot! We spent a lot of extra energy getting from the south west side of the city Pittsburgh to the gap trail a few miles after it starts. It’s really hilly, like walk the hills hilly. Touring overloaded-first-day-climbs are always the toughest . Ha!
The compass switchback hill tires took a few days to settle and seal tubeless with Stan’s, but they are riding fast and smooth and it feels like a road race. Amazing. The phone charges about 20% if I use it all day and keep it charging. Nice, sinewave.
Plan on getting past Cumberland tomorrow.
Started at 9:30. Easy clean up and leaving no trace. Double checked our tracks. Heading out through Ohiopyle made it look like an alright town. “Ohio pile it on”, said Jon.
Rockwood looked like a solid spot to stay also. The lady at the info station said, “at Frostburg it’s all downhill to Cumberland”. Jon’s nursing his front tire, on his third flat. Pinch flat on overloaded tires is something that happens I guess. I’m running 50-45psi on the switchbacks and they feel like 28mm road tires on smooth asphalt. Not bad.
Bad crash just after frostburg, I stopped short to say hello to a member of the quasi-Amish bicycle group proselytizing across America and Jon hit my tires and flipped offer the bars. Bad gravel rash on knee and leg, his ear hit my tire and he didn’t hit his head. I felt really sorry about causing it, that was super dumb. But Jon gave me a hug and said it was okay after the ride was done.
The quasi-Amish guys had serious gear, hand made panniers, trailers and seven water bottles. One had a fine handmade guitar, a cast iron skillet and eggs. I like them, they were giving it all up to live on bikes. And they didn’t even proselytize to us, except for the questions I asked about their plain clothes and big beards.
We made it past Cumberland about fifteen miles by 18:00. So that made 90 miles, we were tired. Almost had to pick up and leave when we realized the water pump was dismantled. But we scoured the landscape with our eyes and guessed as to where the water would be, found a little trail, hopped a fence and found a water trough with constantly following water. Cow-abunga, fill her up!! Bed at 22:00.
Got up cold, had to make a fire and heat up my whole klean kanteen. Chilly up here in the morning. All set up and packing out at 9:30. Jon’s looking like he’s in quite a bit of discomfort, the knees are stiff from being scabbed up. Not to mention the impact.
I really hope to rock 90-100 miles today. It will make tomorrow more enjoyable on the gravel hills. Alright C&O, let’s do this.
Pawpaw tunnel was blasted straight out the mountain like nothing. Super long dark and scary, ha. The moss on the sides in the gorge leading up to it is pro level.
We gave David, the quasi-Amish bicycle benevolent leader the title, bike wizard- level 99. When I saw that other guy in his posse had cast iron I said, “I knew you had cast iron in there!” I asked David the Bike Wizard if he had some too, and though he didn’t use these words he totally meant, “oh hell no I’m not carrying that shit!”
We are crushing some miles, I’m just staying in my biggest gear to take some pressure off my rear and put it in the pedals. I try to plan my gear range around what Jon rides the ride fixed, then make that my third to highest gear. Jon is running 44×17 fixed, I have 22&38 up front coupled to a nine speed 11-30 cassette. I like my friction bar end suntours too on a dirt drop thing bar.
Just made it after a grueling fifty more haven’t assessed it all up today yet but it’s the long slog. It’s 20:22. I made pizza with real crust that was rising all day long. It was super great. You got to try it. Fresh bread/crust makes your day the best.
….Looks like we went 95 miles today. I’m in my hammock next to the bank of the Potomac, we took a swim.
This is where we start to piece together a new route home that circumnavigates DC and especially northern Virginia. Heading to Sky Meadows area.
Up at seven, slept so well can’t even say. Woodpeckers are racking here, some giant fish/birds roamed the river at night. Jon said he slept great, he’s not hobbling around either, maybe he’s better, maybe he’s faking it. Works for me. Late start, 10:00, should be alright. I fully expect to walk some hills today once we get off this mundane rail trail, might actually be nice.
see the post about “Old Country Virginia” for the final part of the trip