questionsbiking tour/camping trip: looking for directions


I've done lots of backpacking, and lots of cycling, but never combined the both of them. My only real recommendation for this however, from experience with either, is not to do it solo. If you're a pro (or fairly experienced, at least), I'd say maybe... but even the guys with whom I'd mountain bike or ride track wouldn't do anything of the sort solo. I promise that I'm not trying to be just a worry-wart, but you've literally got no back-up that way, and sitting around, waiting for help is the pits... for what it's worth.

Really sounds like fun though - I'd totally be in for something like that, but I'm on the wrong side of the country to ride that area.


go to your local bike shop and chat with the owner they will help you out with getting the right equipment for a trek like this.


@arosiriak: I thought it might be a bit sketchy to go by myself, which is why I wanted your collective inputs. Unfortunately, most of my friends here think I'm crazy for wanting to take a multi-day bike ride... I guess one thing I need to get are companions to go with me. Anyone know any good deals on biking companions?

@hobbit: That makes perfect sense, and I'll definitely make sure to stop by the bike store sometime soon. I'm always a little intimidated by the bike shop, since I feel like such a "noob", but I guess the shoe does fit. They were definitely very friendly the last time I was in there.

Thanks both for the sage words of wootsdom!


As a biker for over seven years I would strongly recommend that you not take this trip. YET. One day you should but being so new I in good faith can not recommend anyone to ride that long with so little knowledge. One day you will be ready, but I say wait at least 8 months preferably longer (one year) if you have any question E-mail me at


I'm an adventurist at heart and when someone tells me not to do something, my instinct is to go for the gold. Hands down I can do anything, "put me in coach" mentality. Hopefully you know some people along the route who can help you out if you get stranded or need some assistance.

The trek is mostly South so that means it is down hill right?

Travel light and live your dream but yeah you might want to train before you attempt this. Don't forget your headlamp!!


That trip on the Allegheny Trail and C&O Trail is wonderful -- and six days is plenty to get it done. A friend and I did it in six, even with a trip around Pittsburgh on the Montauk Trail (which added a day). You might throw in an extra day if you decide to sit out a rainy day. Also, make sure that you have provisions for two liters of water.

We ride with two saddlebags on the back rack, carrying two days of bike clothing + a change of clothes for the evening + rain gear. We plan 60-70 miles per day and figure our evening stops carefully so that there is food and lodging where we're stopping. The only place on your trip that lodging/food is scare is on the run between Cumberland, MD and Hancock, MD (about 60 miles).

The Allegheny Trail is gravel and well-maintained. The C&O is largely a two-lane dirt track and may have some puddles -- but it is well-shaded. Once you're past Great Falls and into the Washington, DC area it is gravel or paved. Get a copy of the ATA Trailbook.


A couple of other notes:
* The Western Maryland rail line runs from Frostburg to Cumberland, if you get lazy. However, that portion of the trail is downhill and easy.
* Serious downhill: from the eastern continental divide (near Deal, PA) to Frosburg. You go through two tunnels so a headlamp's a good idea. The views here are incredible, especially when you imagine Lee's army tramping through them to Gettysburg. You also cross the Mason-Dixon line.
* Lots of wildlife: deer, beaver and possibly even wild turkeys.
* Be aware that the Western Maryland Rail Trail is paved and runs alongside the C&O from Hancock, MD to Fort Frederick. Using it is advisable.
* Lots of side trips along the way: Fort Frederick, Antietam, Harper's Ferry, the big White House just past Georgetown.
* Once near DC, the trail gets very busy with joggers and moms with strollers.


Thanks for all the great comments!

@afcash, @byebyeburdie:

I do see this trip as an adventure, but hopefully not a foolhardy one. Per advice, I'll look for a companion before I commit. Also, I understand that there are several towns along the way, so I can cut the trip short if needed. I'm also looking to do several practice rides during the summer to make sure I'm physically prepared. I think that provides a good balance between adventure and caution. Nothing is locked down yet -- so if these preparations tell me I should postpone, I will.


Thank you so much for sharing! Your description makes me more eager and hopeful to go! Quick question: Did you stay in the towns and forgo camping equipment?


Thanks for the suggestion! The trick is... I have no car, just my bike. On the other hand, I live in Pittsburgh and my sister in DC, so I'm pretty good to go on either end of the GAP/C&O. Still I'll see if I can check it out, somehow.


@chaosamoeba: We're softies -- we ride like crazy all day but want a hot shower and cold beer at the end of the day, so B&Bs and motels are our choice. Split two ways, it's pretty economical and keeps the loads light on your bicycles, rather than carrying tents and sleeping bags.

One other point about the ride: Amtrak only loads and unloads bicycles at DC and Pittsburgh, so you can't get a bike off the baggage cars at any points in between. Dumb, but that's the way that it was when we rode two years ago.

Lots of great little bars, restaurants just off the trail, especially in PA and Cumberland, MD. Be prepared for a major change of riding surface when you go from the Allegheny Trail to the C&O Canal. A few miles of the C&O are washed out and you have to ride across some county roads near Frederick, MD -- but it's actually a nice change. You won't see many people from Cumberland to Hancock -- we didn't see anyone. You cross Lee's path on the retreat from Gettysburg.


The Adventure Cycling Association ( has a lot of resources for bicycle touring. Maps, what to bring lists, links to other resources, forums, etc.

The Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal route would be a pretty good introduction to bike touring. Close to flat, plenty of resources near the trail. I'd say go for it!



"In America, first you get the money, [...then you get the car...], then you get the women."

- Tony Montana


@chaosamoeba: Hey! I recognize that bike ride! My parents are coming to DC from Chicago in late August. My mom will be joining me on the Columbia Iron Girl Triathlon. My dad will be leading a ride on that exact path with a bunch of their friends. (How cool are my parents?) They are doing it over the course of six or seven days arriving in DC on August 20. If you are interested in joining the group let me know and I can get you in touch with my dad. The group is made up of touring cyclists that average around 14 MPH or so but are more focused on sites and food than speed.


@chaosamoeba: Oh my god. I thought I would NEVER find a place where you'd made a comment, and another person who shall remain unmentioned had not.