Pittsburgh to DC - Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal

After hearing that the C&O canal trail now connects smoothly to the Great Allegheny Passage Trail all the way to (near)Pittsburgh PA, I kind of want to ride the entire length of both of the trails.

The tentative plan now is as follows:

Friday May 2nd: get a ride up to Pittsburgh from a friend and see the Bouncing Souls, Tim Barry, and Gaslight Anthem (sweet show lineup). Stay the night in Pittsburgh somewhere…not sure where or with whom.

Saturday May 3rd - start the ride!
Wednesday May 7th - finish either in DC or at my house in Fairfax.

That gives me 5 days to ride 320-350 miles depending on where I stop. If I went the length from DC to my house, I would follow the Custis and W&OD back from DC.

I would be bringing a backpack with a sleeping bag and light weight shelter and hopefully camping most of the days on the trail. I haven’t looked into how I will split up the days yet or where all the campsites are, but that is not really important yet.

This will be great training for RTL and give me some more experience doing self supported uni tours. Frank (hell on wheel) mentioned he might be interested in joining me. He completed the 180+ mile ride from DC to Cumberland a few years back.

Great Allegheny Passage: http://gaptrail.org/
C&O Canal: http://bikewashington.org/canal/index.php
Someone’s account of DC to Pittsburgh: http://bikewashington.org/canal/ride2007/index.htm

Hopefully I can take off work and go through with the ride!


I am able to take off the days from work and my friend Zach will be joining me on his bike.

Should be a great trip. Now to work out how I am going to divide the days. Looking at an adventure bicycling company, they divide the trip into 7 days and stay at places with beds. I am hoping to do it in 2 less days with 1 less wheel and camp most of the time. :smiley:

that’ll be killer, what kind of speeds do you think you’ll be averaging/ how many hours of riding will you be doing?

I will be using this as part of my training for Ride The Lobster, so I would be trying to keep a decent pace. I am not sure about the speed though b/c I haven’t had a chance to ride more than 25-30 miles on my geared uni yet (and I will be weighed down with gear). The goal would be to do 60-70 miles a day and not go below 11-12 mph, but aim for higher speeds and mix in random hour long speed bursts of 16-17mph to prepare for RTL(but that is just a goal, may not be a reality). I am guessing we will be stopping every now and then to enjoy the sites though. I am not sure about the hours of riding either, but probably spread out across most of the day.

I am looking into where the primitive campgrounds are now and found this resource:

Looks like I can have a fire at most of them.

That is so cool. Dang! I thought I’d be set with a 20" and a 24". Now I have to explain to my wife that I need a 29" and a 36"… Too bad I can’t convince her to learn the ways of the uni!

Hey. I live in that area too but am rather busy with finals coming up the week after and I couldn’t keep up that long anyways. However, I was thinking of maybe just meeting up with you all when you hit the Falls, close to DC for 2 hours or so if thats ok. I have a 36" but haven’t had the chance to ride with anyone else who has one too.

have fun with the hills:D:D:D:D pittsburgh area is hilly (i shoudl know i live like 1 hour away)

That is going to be a really fun ride with your GUNI-MUNI. I’ve biked that path north from DC. It is beautiful. Enjoy!

Yeah that would be great. PM me a phone number and I can give you a call from the trail when I know when I will be passing by the Falls if you want to join up with us. I’ll also post an updated schedule in this thread with how I am segmenting the days in case anyone else wants to join for just a few hours or 1 day.

Update and Practice Run to come.

This trip is approaching fast, so I am getting some training in and finalizing my gear. I will be using my new Nimbus Nightrider on this trip instead of the geared 29er because of two reasons: I had some tendon pain from using the guni last week on a long ride, and because the 36 will roll a lot better on the C&O canal. I will be using the N36 with 125mm cranks.

I have this backpack:

Northface Solaris 35L

It is a daypack that is hydration capable with sufficient carrying capacity(hopefully). The straps are VERY nice on it and it is very comfy to wear with a lot of weight in it.

I am using a cheap $4 polyethylene 6’x8’ tarp and some guylines for my shelter. It looks like I will be able to make a C frame shelter with enough room to have a small floor space, a little room to crawl in and enough tarp to cover the sleeping area and angle it down.

I bought a seatpost mounted rack that will hold my sleeping bag and tarp with a bungee to get some bulk off my back.

And finally I have a lightweight foam sleeping pad that I will strap to the outside of the backpack.

I am still figuring out what clothing I will be bringing, but I am going to keep it light.

My friend and I will be doing a practice run on this Saturday where we will cycle somewhere and camp and then return to test out our gear.

Looks like you’re doing great!

6x8 is pretty small if there is wind and rain, but perhaps that’s one of your lightening strategies.

One good thing is that there is little need to carry water except for a liter for drinking while riding, especially if you do the “camel-up” thing of forcing water a bit during breaks. A fast filter that attaches directly to a water bag would be really useful, I’m sure. What’s the canal water reported to be like for drinking?

I probably wouldn’t drink the canal water, but there are hiker/biker camp spots along the way that have water pumps. Also, there will be other campgrounds, facilities, and restaurants that I can fill up my camel bak at.

I went with 6x8 b/c the polyethylene tarp is kind of bulky and is already over a pound in weight (anything larger is just too much), I am going to use this cheap/bulky one to practice with before I spring for the Sil-Nylon tarp (which is the ideal size of 10x8 and a lot smaller/lighter packed). I dont want to buy a $100+ tarp and ruin it due to bad technique though, so I am holding off for now. Also…my friend bought the same size cheap tarp, so we will have quite a lot to work with actually if we use them both and sleep close. We could probably even use one as a full groundsheet and the other as a low roof. It would be a lot easier for us to share the weight of a tent…and that would probably be lighter than us both carrying cheap tarps, but I want to use this Saturday and the Pittsburgh to DC trip as a practice run for what a completely self supported trip would be like so I am carrying all my own weight and we are not sharing anything even if it is more efficient.

I did a practice run last week, it is up in my dcuni blog. The C&O Canal really got a lot of grit in my bearing holders when I was riding in the rain, I am sure a little bit got in the bearings themselves too. When I got home I had to take off my frame and clean out the frame/bearing caps.

I am leaving this Friday for Pittsburgh for this trip. This will hopefully be quite fun even though it looks like it will be raining a lot during my trip :frowning:

I will be sure to post photos and a write up when I am back. My gear is pretty much finalized…but I am now debating whether or not to get a last minute minimal bivvy sack to use in conjunction with the tarp since it looks like it will be raining a lot. I am excited to do my first >2 day entirely self supported unitour.

So, are you back yet? How did it go? Got any photos to share? Did the rain hold out ok? Was the tarp up to the job?


To those who I haven’t responded to yet…

I arrived in Pittsburgh and stayed with Mike (member of the forums). Actually he put up 4 of my friends as well and was a great host.

The ride on Saturday was cold and wet and after less than 20 miles of riding I had very significant pains in my right knee. Not usual pain like I get sometimes from unicycling, but completely different. I decided to stop riding and stretch and put on an ace bandage, but it just felt worse when I tried to get back on the unicycle…to the point where I couldn’t ride at all without it really hurting.

I had to end the ride and my friends picked me up from a motel in New Stanton PA. This was after the very kind people at West Newton bike shop offered to give me a ride out to New Stanton so I could relax for 12 hours while my friends were at a concert.

A week later…my right knee still hurts. Not at all while I am walking or running, but if I am sitting down for a while and try to extend my right leg I get a sharp pain in my knee. I am seeing the doctor tomorrow and I hope it is nothing serious.

I think this might have been caused from the weight I had on my unicycle and my back. I don’t think i will be experimenting with putting any weight on my unicycle again. It is weird though b/c I had trained a bit with weight on my uni with no problems. Ugh.

All in all…it was a pretty unsucessful trip. My friend decided to keep on biking the rest of the GAP trail and made it to Cumberland. The tarp seemed to work fine for him.

Sounds like you learned a lot; sounds pretty successful to me. My father and I took a 640 mile bike trip through New England when I was 17. The first try he ended up with crippling knee pain after the first day, so we had to get a ride back. About 6 weeks later, smarter and in better shape, we started again and completed the trip.

I’m looking forward to your description of Attempt #2!

I might be doing this trip for the now mandatory graduation project at my school. Probably next summer.

If you want any help with your planning let me know…I had quite a lot of planning involved and know a lot about the trails now hah.

I still hope to do this ride sometime in the future, but not before I cross off the full length of Skyline Drive from my list and Ride The Lobster.

My advice is not to put any weight on your unicycle if you do the trip. I really do think this was the cause of the knee pain.