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!
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.