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Category Archive: Noble Experience

  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. A Photographic Tour of the Great Allegheny Passage

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    Great Allegheny Passage, Point State Park

    Noble Invention Rider Spotlight: Brian

    Brian Collins joined us for a trip on the Great Allegheny Passage in October 2018 trip as a solo rider. From San Francisco, California, Brian clearly has a great eye for what makes a good picture – at the end of his trip he sent us two folders (one for the GAP, one for the C&O Canal Towpath) full of images. The images are a visual documentary of what a cyclist can experience along the trail.

    So Brian’s rider spotlight is a bit different – aside from this introduction, his entry is entirely made up of images documenting various segments of the GAP/C&O. The images tell the story of Brian’s tour. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did!

    Pittsburgh to Homestead

    Downtown Pittsburgh Bridge strut, train Great Allegheny Passage, Braddock

    McKeesport to West Newton

    Great Allegheny Passage, river overlook Great Allegheny Passage, waterfall West Newton Visitors Center Old train station

    West Newton to Ohiopyle

    Great Allegheny Passage, Ohiopyle High Bridge Great Allegheny Passage, bike on trail Great Allegheny Passage, bridge Great Allegheny Passage, river

    Cumberland/Canal Place – where the GAP and C&O Canal Towpath meet!

    Cumberland, Md, Canal Place Canal Place, train station Canal Place, boat replicaCumberland train conductor Cumberland train station

    Cumberland to Little Orleans

    C&O Canal houseC&O Canal, Paw Paw Tunnel walkway C&O Canal, Paw Paw Tunnel C&O Canal trail C&O Canal , bike on fence

    Little Orleans to Shepherdstown

    View from Town Hill Town Hill B&B C&O Canal, Lock remains C&O Canal, Big Slackwater

    Shepherdstown to Whites Ferry

    Whites Ferry Trail at Whites Ferry C&O Canal, aqueduct Harpers Ferry House, Harpers Ferry Bike at Harpers Ferry

    Thank you, Brian!

    C&O porch

  3. Tropical Storm Gordon and Hurricane Florence Prompts Cyclist Jim Mullane To Switch Gears

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    Noble Invention Rider Spotlight: Jim

    Jim Mullane, from Cleveland, OH, is an avid cyclist who spends most of his time on the Ohio and Erie Canal Trail (OEC). Having explored over 100 miles of the OEC, Jim decided it was time to explore other trails and try out a multiday trip. Having read an article about the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O, Jim decided to do the entire trail in one ride.

    As with many trips this last summer, Jim’s plans got derailed. Between the tropical storm Gordon and hurricane Florence, Jim decided to reschedule the GAP and C&O trails and instead tackle the Katy Trail, where the weather looked to be a bit more predictable.

    The Katy Trail is a state park that runs east-west through central Missouri. It’s a recreational rail trail 240 miles (390 km) long and it follows the former Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. The nickname “Katy” comes from the phonetic pronunciation of ‘KT’ in the railroad’s abbreviated name, MKT, and it is one of the country’s longest Rails-to-Trails systems.

    The Katy Trail is similar to the GAP in overall experience. Peppered with charming small towns, the trail is not quite as smooth as the GAP’s crushed limestone but is close second. Unique to the Katy are the scenes of prairie and soybean fields, wineries and grain silos, plus the mighty Missouri River running alongside.

    Jim did an amazing job at detailing his preparations for the trip and his actual bike trip in a series of blog posts. Below are a few highlights we’ve pulled out that may be of benefit to others who are considering a Katy Trail tour with us.

    Training:

    Jim trained for four months, putting in approximately 80-100 miles each week (a combination of outdoor trail riding and indoor trainer riding). Jim writes “The main training objective was to get used to spending 5 to 6 hours per day in the saddle.”

    Type of bike:

    Jim rode a Trek Checkpoint SL6 “gravel” bike, a full carbon bike with wider tires for the trail. Writes Jim: “The geometry of the bike is a little on the aggressive side but I like the lean forward posture it provides. The bike has SPD pedals and I’ll be wearing SPD compatible shoes (clip in for the duration of the ride).”

    Purchasing gear:

    “I used a review website (dcrainmaker) for gear advice and reviews. Ray Maker is an interesting individual who writes a blog about sports and fitness tech. The links I’ve included regarding the gear are linked to his site. If you decide to purchase something, do it through his site.”

    * Jim provides details on specific types of gear including GPS/bike computers, lights, video cameras, and bags.

    Terrain:

    “The first part of the trail was fairly open and followed a highway for about 5 miles. We veered away from the highway and headed through a number of open fields. The open fields soon turned into tree covered “tunnels” as I made my way across the farm land.” (Note: the terrain varies and this is just one excerpt from various references to terrain in Jim’s blog posts).

    Descriptions of towns/stops:

    “I stopped at a bike shop at the trailhead and a very nice proprietor allowed me to check my tire pressure and fill up. It was a short ride from that point to the Hotel Frederick which was my stop for the night. Boonville is a quaint small town on the Missouri River. Since the restaurant was closed in the hotel, I walked a around “Main Street” and found a nice little local restaurant.”

    This is just a sample of the great commentary to found on Jim’s blog. We very much enjoyed reading it and Jim allowed us to promote it since it provides such a great firsthand account of his actual experience on the Katy Trail.

    In addition to great exercise and travel, Jim’s trip also was a fundraising effort for Bike Cleveland (BikeCLE). Bike Cleveland (BikeCLE) is a 501(c)(3) advocacy non-profit organization for people on bikes in the Greater Cleveland area. Representing over 1000 dues paying members and more than 32 local businesses, they make sure that any time the conversation turns to transportation — that people on bikes are being considered alongside people in cars. They work to improve policy, infrastructure, and legislation to help make our roads places that serve people and communities, not just traffic.

  4. Daily Progress Reports on the GAP and C&O Canal

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    Pittsburgh, Point State Park

    Noble Invention Rider Spotlight: Paula and David

    Paula and David kept us entertained during their 7-day Pittsburgh to DC self-guided bike trip last season as they shared their trail photos with us daily. We love their enthusiasm for the trail!

    DAY 1. PITTSBURGH TO CONNELLSVILLE

    Hi Kelley. We made it. Had a great trip to a Pittsburgh and a great nights sleep at the Marriott Had hamburgers and dark beer at the best place in town. Made it to Connellsville by 4pm. What a great ride. Met all kinds of nice people on the trail. Love love love the Connellsville B&B. Good choice, thanks very much. Lucy is very sweet. 🚴‍♀️🙂🚴🙂

    Pittsburgh, Point State Park

    DAY 2. CONNELLSVILLE TO MEYERSDALE

    Good evening Kelley: We are having the time of our lives, thank you! 🙂🚴‍♀️ 🚴🙂

    Rockwood, Great Allegheny Passagebridge, Great Allegheny PassageBridges and tunnels on the GAPLevi Deal Mansion, Meyersdale

    DAY 3. MEYERSDALE TO CUMBERLAND

    I walked the Paw Paw Tunnel detour with another couple and David rode his bike behind us all the way up and then all four of us rode all the way down together. It was great 🚴‍♀️🙂🚴🏾🙂

    Paw Paw Tunnel trail

    DAY 4. CUMBERLAND TO HANCOCK

    What a great day we had today. We enjoyed a lunch stop at Desert Rose Cafe Our lodging in Sharpsburg is amazing. We took the lower road so we would be able to ride the whole canal path and tomorrow will ride around the battlefield before getting back on the Towpath. We are the only guests here so it is quite special to say the least. Each day is better than the day before and the beauty of the Towpath is amazing. Thanks for all your help to make this trip so enjoyable. The memories we are making together are precious. 🚴‍♀️🚴

    Western Maryland Rail TrailDam along the C&O Canal TowpathBiking on the C&O Canal TowpathDesert Rose Cafe, Williamsport, MDC&O Towpath

    DAY 5. HANCOCK TO SHEPHERDSTOWN/SHARPSBURG

    Having the time of our lives continued …

    Iron truss bridge along the C&O

    DAY 6. SHEPHERDSTOWN/SHARPSBURG TO LEESBURG

    These are from today. Great time with Chris and Amy Vincent at the Inn. We road the long way both ways somas not to miss part of the Tow Path. Took our bikes to Harpers Ferry. Making the most of our trip for sure. Great hotel here in Leesburg. bob is very nice as well as his staff. 🚴‍♀️🚴

    Stairs to Harpers Ferry bridge Harpers Ferry bridgeC&O Canal TowpathMononcacy AqueductJacob Rorhbach Inn, SharpsburgAntietam National Battlefield

    DAY 7. LEESBURG TO DC

    We did it 🚴‍♀️🙂🚴🙂Mile Marker 0, C&O Canal

    Had a great time with the guy who drove the shuttle. Took us under the convention center so we could load our bikes. On our car after David got it out of the parking garage for Amtrak and Greyhound. 🙂🚴‍♀️🙂🚴

    C&O Canal TowpathBiking the C&O Canal TowpathPotomac RiverC&O Towpath at GeorgetownBiking the Towpath

  5. 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.