C & O Trail

A friend of mine is going to be hiking the Appalachian trail this spring and the thought occured to me that it would be a lot of fun to unicycle it. It’s about 2,000 miles long from Georgia to Maine, and usually takes about 4-6 months to hike. However, after visiting a rather extensive webpage devoted to it, I decided that half of the trail is unridable, at least for me. Also, biking the trail is looked down upon since it causes trail erosion. So I’ve scraped the idea, though I may still take a semester off to hike it.

The idea got me thinking about other long distance (but more realistic) trail rides and I happened across this webpage for the C&O canal towpath. I was wondering if any of you have ever unied this trail before, or know of someone who has? I think I can do it in 5-6 days, about 35 miles a day. I assume the hard part would be carrying a full frame pack with tent and sleeping bag. I’d probably go sometime in June-July, so I have time to prepare. Anyone have experience/advice with this kind of trip?


Re: C & O Trail

In article <hell-on-wheel.iy9tb@timelimit.unicyclist.com>,
hell-on-wheel <hell-on-wheel.iy9tb@timelimit.unicyclist.com> wrote:
) Also, biking the trail is looked down upon
)since it causes trail erosion.

So does hiking it.

true, but then what’s it there for? In any case, C&O trail does allow cycling and it looks like a nice easy trail for a long distance uni ride. Plus there’s plenty of detours with more extreme muni trails.

The Appalachian trail is off-limits to cyclists, as it should be.

If you are looking to do multi-day unsupported backcountry uni trips, I suggest looking into ultralight backpacking techniques. Ray Jardine has a couple of good books that I’ve devoured for my quest to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in one season. The season and trip you have selected is perfect for ultralight, but it takes a little while to a) gather gear, b) develop techniques, c) change habits. You will not want to use a frame pack, but a body-hugging frameless or even less. You will have to change your stove, sleeping gear, etc. to the minimum required for your trip. You will be surprised at how little you actually need to be comfortable.

Food - about 2 lbs per day. Since your trip is short, you may be able to get by with less if you don’t mind being a little hungry. However, the coarse trail map at that link seems to indicate the periodic availability of food (I count at least 8 spots). It is well worth a side trip of even a few miles to avoid carrying food for too many days. The PCT requires resupply trips of many miles. Moreover you won’t have to carry water, or at least very little (the PCT requires, at times, carrying up to 2-3 gallons) because of the canal.

In addition, the frequent occurrence of towns means that you can mail yourself extra supplies, etc. and pick them up on the way.

Given the above, I’d be surprised if you had to carry more than about 12 pounds for any part of the trip, which is certainly doable on your back on a unicycle.

In short, it sounds as though this would be a perfect trail for a uni trip! It sounds, too, as though a Coker would be ideal.

One of Ray Jardine’s books

Some information about the PCT

Good luck and I want to hear ALLLLLLL about it!

Yeah I’m hoping I can pick up most of my meals in the towns along the way. A few days ago, my roommate found this, which is an awesome little stove (and fun to make).

It’s about time I get a new pack anyway. I don’t know about my uni though. My muni is a 24", though the tire brings it close to 26". My 700c semcycle is really a paved-road-only uni. Both have 125mm cranks though. Well, its a few months away, maybe I’ll have a better one for the job by then.

Thanks a lot for your input!

Check out the Robinson stove link at the bottom of that link. There are several cat stove designs on the Internet. I believe those with fiberglass wicks work better. I use a slightly heavier commercial product: a Trangia Westwind. However, given that you want to eat in towns, you may not want to bring a stove or cooking materials at all.

Try out a Nanoraptor on your 700c. That would be way plenty for the trail, which is flat and improved with crushed stone, etc. The thing then to concentrate on would be your seat - that’s where you’ll have the most issues by far.

Check out these packs. They are inexpensive, extremely light, and more room than you need. They are also designed to be used in balance-oriented sports. Most other pack brands will be two or three times as heavy because they are over-engineered.



P.S. I don’t work for or get paid by golite.

I’ve done alot of 20 mile hikes on the C&O. You can ride the 700cc on it in all likelyhood. Its flat and smooth with the exception in the fall there are tons of leafage on it.

I dont think it’ll take you as long as you are figuring to do it either. It is really easy terrain, I would expect you to be able to do at least 40 miles a day if you dont mind sitting down and riding that long a day.

As far as packs go, pack really light get like a 300 cc internal frame pack and you should be able to take everything you need. But thats going real minimalist. Dried food, like the kind avalible at any outdoor supply store is usually high in carbs and really light weight and easy to make. I dont like using Alcohol stoves at all they do work but can be a pain in the ass to get a consistant flame for heating more than 1 protion of food. I would reccomend a Butane/Propaine (cartridge) stove they are small light weight and I’ve never had a problem with them. like this one. They have cheaper stoves like that, but MSR is a brand I really like.

If I had a bigger wheel uni I would be interested in going with you on the trip. But currently I only have a 20" trial uni.

Good luck

Yeah I probably could make it a 4 day trip if I pack light and use my 700c, but I’d also like to take in some of the scenary, history and local culture.

I might have to get a different frame for my uni though. I have a semcycle XL lite with an air cushion seat. This has the narrower semcycle frame which looks like it has a maximum clearance of just under 2 in. I suppose I could get a yuni frame for it if I had to. Also, it came with a Sun CR18 rim which is pretty narrow itself (17.5mm). Do you think an off-road tire would work on it? It is a pretty easy trail, maybe a treaded tire under 2" wide would be ok.

Checkernuts, if you get a larger wheeled uni by june/july, you’re welcome to come with. Anyone else interested in a week-long uni trip this summer?

The CR18 is fine with the NanoRaptor, but I think you will have to get the wider frame.

If I can come up with the cash, I’d be interested…

So yeah, I can’t believe I missed this post. I guess I haven’t been checking the site much recently.

I’m definitely in. I’ve ridden the C&O a bit, but mostly the other one…the paved one that runs parallel to the C&O for a bit in the beginning. I don’t know why I can’t remember the name.

The W&OD is the other one I’ve been riding the most.

My thoughts on the C&O is that you can pack almost nothing and just eat and sleep in the local towns along the way. If you want to camp, then that shouldn’t be too much to carry - as long as you still eat in town and don’t depend on carrying your food.

I’ve got the SpaceCruser (Coker Deluxe) and a 26" Pashley. All of my distance riding that I’ve been doing has been on the SpaceCruiser, and I figured that’s how I would do a C&O trip. However, I’m considering competing in the 10K at UNICON, so doing the C&O trip on a smaller wheel might be good training for that.

Any other riders would be welcome to use any of my wheels that I don’t use.

Let’s do this…I’m definitely in.

Also, Hell-on,

Your in Charlottesville now? You used to be in Richmond, right? Your even closer to me now, we should definitely arrange some rides. I haven’t done the Mount Vernon trail yet, but I’ve been planning on it.

You should get a Coker…then we can do some all out distance trips.

Not only am I in Charlottesville now (transferred from VCU to UVA), Trip Glazer (also from the HoW gang) is currently enrolled at American University, mere minutes from DC. His unicyclist.com screenname is “muniracer”.

I got my first taste of cokering last weekend at the NJ muni invitational. Very fast, though not very manuverable, and it pretty much rides itself on flat ground from all the momentum. I’d like to own one one day, though I kinda want a trials unicycle a little more.

I think for the C&O trip I’m gonna go with Dave’s advice on getting a nanoraptor and a wider frame for my 700c uni. I average about 9 mph with my skinny road tire, so with the extra inch or two from the nanoraptor, I should be able to keep up.

I agree about bringing minimal food and just checking out the local cuisine. I’ll probably just camp out along the trail however.

My spring break starts Friday March, 12, though I’m not definate that I’ll be able to ride it at that time. If not, we’re looking at next summer. (I’m sure I can work it around UNICON).

It’s gonna be an awesome trip, whenever it happens. We’ll most likely be the first to unicycle it.

The Mt. Vernon trail makes a great day trip, about 16 miles to DC, and 16 back, + a little more if you want to ride into the city. It’s paved the whole way (except for a really cool, long section of wooden-board bridge over a swampy area). I like to leave Mt. Vernon early, ride into DC, grab some lunch, and stop by Ben & Jerry’s in Alexandria on the trip back. It’s a little hilly at the start/finish around Mt. Vernon, but that makes it more fun.

We should definately get together some saturday and give it a go.

Well, three years and a quarter since posting this thread, I am finally taking this trip. I think I’ve got everything planned out - distances travelled each day (only 30-35 miles/day), camp sites I’ll be using, meals planned including restuarants and minimarts I’ll be stopping at along the way (allowing me to carry just a day or two of food at a time).

I was sorta hoping to have my new coker in time for the trip, but I think my trusty 700c will be fine considering the slow pace I’ve set for myself (184 miles in 6 days).

I’m doing this alone and unsupported (and un-health insured, yikes!) but I’ll of course have a cell phone and in any case the C&O is a heavily trafficked trail. I’m starting Monday, June 5, and hopefully arriving in Cumberland, MD (the end) on Saturday, June 10 in time to catch the shuttle back to D.C.

I’ll be passing by an internet cafe on Tuesday so I’ll update you guys on my progress then.


Id consider joining you for this, but I cannot take off that much work right now. Good luck and let me know how it goes. How are you packing your tent and equipment? Are you using a backpack or something else?

Tent, sleepingbag, towel and few other items will be in a waterproof bag stowed under my seat. I’ll also be wearing a medium-sized camelpack for food and other stuff.

A great way to get away!

Good Luck Frank.
Have a great ride.



Shoot me an email I may be able to help on a ride back to VA from cumberland, I will be headed that direction anyway.

Good luck on the trip.


Be sure to take some pictures of your setup, I am curious as to how it will look with all of that stuff stowed under the seat.

It’s not very well engineered. I just attached my U-lock to the crown with a small nylon strap from one of my toe-clipped pedals, and hang the other end from two larger nylon straps attached at the seat base. I’ll try and borrow my roommate’s camera tonight after work.