Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH – My Gear)

My bike and gear
at the Eastern Continental Divide
            If you have been following my series of posts about cycling the C and O Canal Towpath, Western Maryland Rail Trail, and Great Allegheny Passage from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this past summer, you might be wondering what gear I used and carried on the trip. My purpose in writing this post is to show that you do not need a super expensive bike or a lot of expensive gear to experience the ride of your life for yourself.

            Even though it was a year out of date, I found the tenth edition of the TrailBook, published by the Allegheny Trail Alliance, well worth the $10 cost. It was essential for helping me plan for the trip. I also carried it along with me as I rode. This invaluable resource has since been renamed the TrailGuide and is now in its twelfth edition.

            I also found several entries on The Great Allegheny Passage (unofficial) Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/gapcando/) very helpful, especially those that linked to blog posts written by cyclists who had experienced the trip that had insights and suggestions to offer. This is a closed group so you will need to request to join.

            In addition to using the map that came with my copy of the tenth edition of the TrailBook I also carried and used a Chesapeake and Ohio Canal brochure and map from the National Park Service and a  Free waterproof 2016 GAPmap. The 2017 GAPmap is available from getGAPmap.com.  Each of the three maps provided some information the other maps did not.

My very muddy bike with Vince in the background
            My riding Partner, Vince, and I planned to camp all but one night while we were cycling, and to cook most of our breakfasts and dinners while we were camping. That meant we needed to carry not only food but stoves to heat water and cook with. We also carried sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and tents. If we had decided to stay in Motels or B &;B’s every night, we could have carried a lot less gear, but it would have changed the character of our trip.

            I undertook this adventure riding a more or less off the floor Trek 8.3 DS hybrid that was purchased new two years earlier.  At the time of purchase the store upgraded the saddle and added a Bontrager water bottle cage and a Bontrager backrack. Prior to the trip I added a second water bottle cage, replaced the stock pedals with Shimano SPD Pedals, and swapped out the standard grips for Ergon GP2-L grips

            I installed a set of Axiom low rider front racks to which I attached Axiom Seymour DLX 30L panniers. I used Axiom Seymour DLX 45L panniers on the back rack. I lined both rear panniers with XL Ziploc Bags for extra protection from rain. This arrangement served me well but a smaller size Ziploc Big Bag might have been a better fit.

All our gear spread out at Husky Haven Campground
            All four panniers were filled with gear at the start of the trip. In addition to the Panniers, I also used buckle lash straps to attach my sleeping pad, tent, tarp and poles to the rear rack between the panniers. By the end of the trip, as food stocks were depleted, I was able to fit my tent, tarp and poles inside the panniers and had to attach only my sleeping pad to the back rack. I also had an inexpensive Bell handlebar bag on front but after the trip replaced it with a 5L Topeak Handlebar Bag for the ride from Hancock to Frostburg.

            I used an old Sierra Designs Ultra Flash three season tent for shelter from rain and bugs which I supplemented with a 9’6” x 9’3” nylon tarp with nesting poles to put up over picnic tables. It rained so much our first couple days and nights that I was really glad I had the tarp with us as it allowed us to cook, eat, sit, and stand out of the rain.

            I slept in fairly new Marmot Cloudbreak 30 synthetic bag supplemented by Sea to Summit Thermolite REACTOP sleeping bag liner. The liner helped me keep my bag clean. On warmer nights I used just the liner on top of the bag until the temperature cooled down enough to slip into the bag. A Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOlite served as my sleeping pad.

Vince using our cooking gear
            Vince and I both carried MSR Whisperlite Internationals to boil water and cook over. We also both carried 20oz bottles of MSR liquid fuel and burned about a total of 20oz between us. We could have gotten by with one stove but each of us wanted to be self-sufficient in case the other  had to bail out early.
           I carried two water bottles on my bike plus a collapsible Nalgene three liter canteen in a pannier to use while camping. I did not carry a water filter because I trusted the water sources, but Vince carried a Katydyn Hiker Microfilter water filter that we used to filter any iodine taste of the pump water along the Towpath. Be aware, however, that beginning January 1st, 2017, the National Park Service will no longer consider pump water along the Towpath potable and will recommend that all pump water along the Towpath be either filtered or chemically treated before use. If I were to repeat this trip in the future I would carry my own water filter.
            In addition to my riding shoes I also carried a pair of Teva sandals which I wore in camp. I carried two pair of synthetic riding socks and two pair of Smart Wool riding socks. I was really glad I had the wool socks the first couple of days when it was cool, raining, and my feet were getting wet.
            I took two pair of Novara Forza Road Bike Shorts and alternated their use, rinsing one pair out and letting them dry while wearing the other pair. I also took a pair of mesh lined trail shorts which I wore while in camp.

            Two of my riding Jerseys were short sleeved and one was long sleeved. I wore the long sleeved jersey the first day when it was raining and chilly but did not wear it again. I also took a long sleeved and a short sleeved Smart wool top for wearing around camp.

Tents and tarp at Antietam
            My Novara Stratos Bike Pants kept me dry and warm during those first couple of wet and chilly  days but after the rain stopped and the temperatures rose I did not need them. They worked so well that I wish I had left my Marmot PreCip pants at home. My Marmot PreCip jacket also kept me dry and warm the first couple pf days and I may have used it again after that for chilly evenings and mornings and would not have wanted to be without it. I also wore a Marmot PreCip brimmed cap under my helmet the first day to keep both my head and my face dry and was glad I had it.

            I had taken one shop cloth for cleaning up my bike but wish I had taken a small plastic bottle each of dry and wet chain lube as well as a small plastic bottle of chain degreaser and a brush to clean dirt and mud out of the gears and derailleurs. The mud was so thick those first couple of days that it was affecting my shifting but I did not have anything to clean it out with other than squeezing water from my water bottle with as much pressure as I could to clean out the derailleurs and gears.

            While Vince was more creative with his breakfasts and dinners, he also used more fuel. I enjoyed packets of Quaker Instant Oatmeal and Starbucks Vanilla Latte VIA every morning.  For dinner I relied on just add boiling water Freezer Bag Meals I prepared at home. Both Vince and I depended on no cook tuna and tortilla wraps for lunch. Crackers and homemade GORP supplemented or meals.

Here are the link to previous installments in the "Spinning Wheels" series:

From DC to PGH - Day 10 (27th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 9 (26th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 8 (25th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 7 (24th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 6 (23rd Installment)
My First Tour the Montour (22nd Installment)

From DC to PGH - Day 5 (21st Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 4 (20th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 3 (19th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 2 (18th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 1 (17th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 0 (16th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Prologue (15th Installment)
Transitioning (14th Installment)
Flats (13 Installment)
Beware Dehydration (12 Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (11th Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness 
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Starting Over (1st Installment)

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