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  1. Bike Touring as a First-Time Solo Rider

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    solo rider selfie

    C&O Canal Towpath 5 Day

    In July 2018 Claudia S. set out on a 5-day bike trip on the C&O Canal Towpath as a solo rider. Claudia, from Rockville, Md., had never done a solo trip so embarking on her first one brought some trepidation.

    We love Claudia’s rider story and we think it can help others considering their first solo bike trip. Claudia not only faced any fears of being a solo (female) rider but also accomplished the physical challenge of riding 5 consecutive days in a row.

    She’s a great example of how you’ll never be totally prepared for your first trip, but despite that, if you are enjoying the ride you’ll find a way to persevere. If going on a bike tour is something you’ve dreamed about, don’t let riding solo be a barrier!

    In this rider spotlight, we’re featuring Claudia’s firsthand account of her ride. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

    GETTING READY FOR FIRST SOLO TRIP

    “Doing a solo bike trip for five days in a row through the U.S. has been the adventure of my life. It had been on my mind for some time, but the idea of doing a solo trip sounded a little scary. As a friend posted their experience in my women’s biking Facebook group, I got interested and decided to give it a go. This trip could not have been made possible without the support and guidance of Noble Invention that provided all the logistic support, the detailed routes, the planning and accommodation and all the required tips.”

    BEST PRACTICE: PREPARE

    bike on C&O trail“Even with that, I failed to study all the material in detail and did not watch all the videos just to realize on the start that I had packed way more than I needed and that my bike tyres were at the lower limit in grip and size for the C&O canal path. There has been an unusual, extreme rainy season in June, so the trail had very muddy portions. This, in combination with the extra loaded bike and the weak grip of the tires forced me to go very slow as the bike was very hard to manage. Over time, I learned to deal with the heavy bike and the terrain and could get up to speed, still going slowly. I managed to get everywhere at the right time and to enjoy the whole trip. And made a note to myself to be more judicious on reading the material and watching the videos for the next time.”

    THE WEATHER, TRAIL, & WILDLIFE

    shadows on C&O Towpath“It was also a record hitting heat wave on the week that I traveled, but the trail is shaded and while biking I did not feel the heat. Only when I stopped or when I had to leave the trail to get to a rest stop or a lodging the heat hit hard, but it was only for short moments.

    “Everything about the trip was amazing. The experience on the trail, with nature, the trees, the river was peaceful yet exhilarating. And the wildlife. I saw a black bear on the second day in the paved portion of the trail after Little Orleans, he was walking across the trail and stopped to look at me, I hit my brakes hard and he got scared and run away. I also got scared so I rang my little bell when I started pedaling again hoping to scare him more. I also saw dozens of red cardinals, a giant turtle, two white ibises and several deer.”

    THE AREA, LODGING & FOOD

    Town HIll breakfast“I loved to get to know this part of the country in such an intimate way, and to end the day in a beautiful bed and breakfast where I was always well received, pampered and engaged in conversation. I cannot say which one was the best because each one of them had something unique and personal. Also, in each stop, the surrounding area had something to offer, from a quiet amazing view in the countryside to a small city feel. All the breakfasts were great and everybody I met had a gentle caring way to connect with me.”

    “I’M ALREADY THINKING OF THE NEXT ONE”

    C&O Towpath “The last day I was already feeling the effort of the previous four days, but I got home rested and energized from the experience. I am already thinking of the next one.”

    *NOTE: Claudia completed her solo bike tour of the Great Allegheny Passage with us in August 2019!solo rider on GAP

  2. Bike Touring Lessons Learned So Far: Two Days and 84 Miles

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    Ready to roll with my trail bike rented from Bike the GAP and Eric’s commuter bike, which we brought with us in a box.

    Barb is an active rider, a biking advocate, and a proud Washingtonian (the state, that is). She and Eric undertook our GAP/C&O trip in the fall of 2017 and it became an eye-opening experience for them – creating a new love of bike touring in this experienced daily cyclist. She shared her entire journey on her bike style blog and she graciously allowed us to excerpt one of those entries here. These are her lessons learned and you can read all about her entire trip at her Bikespeditions pages.

    Thank you Barb and Eric for traveling with us and sharing your trip to educate and inspire others!

    Bikespeditions

    None of this will be news to people who have bike toured for years, and I’m sure blog posts and videos and lists abound that could have spared me some of the lessons. But hey, I’ll remember all this firsthand learning.

    1) I overpacked. Some of this was due to not fully factoring in the chance to do laundry even though I knew that would be available. Some of it was not realizing how truly warm it would be farther south. I mean hey, it’s fall, which means frosty mornings. Except when it doesn’t. I packed the right things, just too many of them, and one heavier wool top layer I truly won’t need.

    So tomorrow morning I’m walking to the post office to mail a box of extra duds home. This will cut down on weight and make it easier to root around in my bags.

    2) Eat before you think you need to, which I know from past long rides. Slower, flatter miles aren’t so much easier that this doesn’t apply.

    I’m not into the nutrition science that some people really dig, so I don’t calibrate the carb/protein ratio in my meals or anything like that. It’s uncomfortable to ride on a really full stomach so I’m not tanking up to the brim at meals. This means a bar of some kind is my friend, especially if I eat it before I start feeling like I’m running out of fuel.

    3) Read the cue sheet before you start to ride. We’re almost entirely on a separated simple path but at the very beginning, caught up in photographing the marker and starting my tracking app, I forgot we had specific instructions for leaving the park. So we toured a scenic construction project, then a nice couple steered us out and onto the trail.

    4) I now have a list of little things to pack for the next tour, like hand sanitizer (some park potties don’t have it) and a corkscrew. None of these are fatal, just nice-to-haves.

    5) The rain cover for my bike bag makes a great impromptu laundry bag. 

    So far so good, though! Some warm rain, mostly of the veggie mister variety with one soaking bit as we wrapped up Sunday’s ride but at least it ended rather than started the day. People on the trail are friendly — lots of waves and hellos — and the mileage has been challenging but doable. Not that I’m sorry that tomorrow mostly consists of touring Fallingwater, then riding just 12 miles to our next overnight.

    Day 1, Pittsburgh to West Newton, 41 miles

    Day 2, West Newton to Ohiopyle, 43 miles

    Total mileage so far: 84

    (Total mileage per day includes getting to and from our lodgings so it doesn’t match the trail mileage)

    At Backyard Gardens Market in Ohiopyle they track where people came from and why they’re in town: biking the GAP, whitewater rafting, Fallingwater, something else. We were the first this year from Seattle to add a blue dot, representing riding both the GAP and the C&O.