Author Topic: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel  (Read 822 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline mzimmerm

GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« on: June 23, 2020, 09:32:13 am »
Wondering if there might be a “preferred” direction of travel on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O?? Currently planning from Pittsburgh to DC but curious if anyone has an opinion otherwise? We can obviously go either way.

Offline John Nettles

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2020, 11:24:34 am »
I have ridden the GAP in the past couple of years W>E and the C&O many many moons ago (but probably hasn't changed much).  The GAP is probably a little better W>E due to the  big climb near Frostburg you would have if E>W.  Otherwise, other than the elevation gain from DC to Pittsburgh, it would not make too much difference.

BTW, if you felt you needed 35+ mm tires on the Katy, you should probably do the same for the GAP & C&O as the GAP is similar and the C&O is worse.

Tailwinds, John

Offline mzimmerm

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2020, 12:12:44 pm »
THANKS. MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2020, 07:14:22 am »
I rode the GAP in both directions last year and W to E back in 2013. The ruling grade, according to the official website, is 1.5%. (That must exclude the few hills between Boston and PGH, and a few other places, where you are not on a former rail right of way.) I didn't notice any appreciable difference. Wind, however, was a factor. After reaching the divide there is an open section heading west. I had a very strong headwind heading towards Myersdale. The trees and grasses were whipping around. But there is no way to predict wind. You could have a southeasterly flow and thus encounter a headwind heading east like I did on Day 1 from PGH to Connellsville in 2013.

Offline canalligators

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2020, 06:04:20 pm »
As for elevation change, the GAP has the previously mentioned 1.5% average, downhill going west.  I found it pleasant going westbound, it was a more relaxed ride with just a touch of downgrade.  The C&O is basically flat, except for short grades at the locks and hills on the occasional off-canal segments.

Offline UncaBuddha

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2020, 02:25:00 pm »
The grade references are deceiving. From E to W, there is a 2.5-3% grade out of Cumberland to the Eastern Continental Divide for 23 miles, then a .5% downgrade the rest of the way into PGH. Having ridden both directions it is nice to INTO Cumberland (Eastbound) but I like to climb hills so the direction was a wash. On a loaded touring bike, you can basically coast all the way down into Cumberland for 23 miles going Eastbound so the ride is shortened for your legs!

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2020, 11:38:38 am »
The grade references are deceiving. From E to W, there is a 2.5-3% grade out of Cumberland to the Eastern Continental Divide for 23 miles, then a .5% downgrade the rest of the way into PGH. Having ridden both directions it is nice to INTO Cumberland (Eastbound) but I like to climb hills so the direction was a wash. On a loaded touring bike, you can basically coast all the way down into Cumberland for 23 miles going Eastbound so the ride is shortened for your legs!

Then the official website is wrong, because it lists the ruling grade as 1.5%. Ruling=maximum in railroadese.

https://gaptrail.org/plan-a-visit/mileage-elevation-charts

And unless my math is wrong, an average elevation gain of even 2% for twenty three miles would produce an elevation change of over 2,400'. The Divide is shown at 2,392'. Cumberland is shown at 605'.


From the official site:

"Built mainly on abandoned rail beds. The steepest eastbound grade - 0.8% - is from Harnedsville to Markleton and Garrett to Deal. The steepest westbound grade is from Cumberland to Deal at 1.75%. Near the Big Savage Tunnel, the trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. From that point going east, the trail drops 1,754 feet in 24 miles to reach Cumberland and, going west, it drops 1,664 feet in 126 miles to reach Pittsburgh. View the Elevation Table. The Great Allegheny Passage trail is open daily, dawn to dusk."

 

Offline John Nettles

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2020, 12:03:52 pm »
While Bikelicious' answer seems to be more correct, the 1,754' drop over 24 miles equals an AVERAGE of 1.3% descent.  I do know that when I rode it W>E, I had a monster freewheel (no pedaling) descent many many miles.  However, I doubt I would have had a freewheel descent with only a 1.3% on crushed limestone.  Pavement, sure.  But IIRC, it was a fairly fast descent too which supports the 2%-3% descent claim.  However, it is very rare for a railroad track to have more than a 2% ruling.  Maybe we dropped say 1,500' in 14 miles which would equal a 2% drop and then the rest was at a more gentle descent.

I say we all get together and ride it both ways so we can come up with a consensus as to which way is better.  Next year we can ride the TA and hopefully settle the same question for that route.  ;D

Tailwinds, John

Offline mzimmerm

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2020, 12:10:36 pm »
Thank you all!!!
I’m going Pittsburgh to DC!!

Offline canalligators

Re: GAP/ C&O Towpath. Direction of travel
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2020, 12:00:48 am »
One v two percent grades...  compared to pushing my bike over Big Savage Mountain (before the last tunnel was rehabbed), it's insignificant.  The worst effect of such a grade difference is that you ride a little longer than you expected to that day.  I say ride it whichever way the shuttling or logistics would be easier for you.