My Life as a Single Speed Rider: Railtrail vacation


Hi! It’s KL again. This time with a single speed update on all my adventures.

A couple weeks ago we started out on what was supposed to be a short vacation. The goal was to ride The Western Maryland Railtrail. We stopped in Roanoke, Virginia to visit with a friend and while we were there I found 3 more Railtrails that looked interesting.

We had hotel reservations already set up in Maryland so I only got to explore one out of the three trails at that time…but that was also the beginning. Excited to find all these wonderful places, we ended up extending our vacation.

Over nine days I managed to hit four trails.

Trail one was The Jackson River Scenic Railtrail. This is a very nice trail, well maintained, great mountain views, and it runs along the river but it is kind of short. It was a cute little find, though and great for starting off the riding vacation. One drawback. The last couple miles of the trail are not finished, it is just grass. So if it is wet it might be hard for people on road bikes. We didn’t cover that last bit, but did see mountain bikes coming down from there. There is supposed to be some amazing scenery and a waterfall. Maybe next time, eh?

Trail two was The Western Maryland Railtrail. Now, I love this trail. It’s paved, very well maintained and it runs along the C & O Tow Path so if you want to ride farther you can cross the trail at certain points and pick up the Tow Path for a super long ride. This is a dream ride for experienced and beginner riders alike. The C&O is dirt and runs from Western Maryland to DC!! It’s huge and you can see all the old locks from when they transported goods by small boat and mule. The Potomac has some wild/crazy rapids and isn’t suited for sailing down but there are some nice spots to canoe…and one category 5 rapids for the adrenaline junkies. We’ve been there after a storm and it’s like watching a maelstrom sucked through a straw and dragged down a cliff…incredibly powerful.

Trail three came as a surprise. We were driving to West Virginia to meet up with a friend and we discovered the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage). I had heard of this railtrail, of course, but had never been to it. I didn’t try it out that day because we were on a timeline but that night at the hotel we made reservations at a tiny little place near the trail so I could go back. The GAP is an awesome trail. I chose the uphill route so I would have an easy ride back to truck when I finished. Now, when I say uphill I don’t mean straight up…it was doable on my single speed but I could never get over 10mph. NOTE: This trail starts where the C & O ends…and heads north to Pittsburgh. Yes, you can bike from Pittsburgh to DC, a bit over 300 miles. If you like pain, start in DC…it’s mostly uphill all the way.

The GAP has beautiful scenery so I really didn’t mind that I couldn’t zip along like a mad woman. It is very well maintained crushed gravel. Most of the people I saw on it were on mountain bikes. I don’t think you need a mountain bike to ride it…I didn’t, but you will need a headlight. There are tunnels.

Unfortunately, it started to rain in the middle of my ride and I was not prepared. Totally my fault. I did get to find out how easy my ride back to the truck would have been as I made a mad dash through a downpour. I ended up taking refuge in a tunnel until the rain stopped. Creepy but cool. All sorts of neat ideas from that pitstop. They have these neat little man shaped indentations in the tunnels and the roof is arched and discolored from years of coal smoke.The conductor for a local tourist train operation told us that they were built in to let men in the tunnel dive into if a train came through. We also were regaled with stories about prohibition…and all the interesting ways they made liquor and hid their drinking establishments. In Frostburg, the tunnel goes through the town, well, under it…and that just sends my imagination into overdrive. Do you wonder how many side tunnels and hidden caverns there might be under there? I do.

I can’t wait to go back and ride this trail again.

My last and fourth ride was on the New River Railtrail. This is a pretty difficult trail for me to describe. It’s nice and kind of difficult in areas but it is not well maintained. I had three incidents in 21 miles on this trail. This is also the only one that made me pay to park which I gladly did, I just hope the money is going in to rehabbing or fixing it up. For some reason they say it is handicap friendly…I don’t see how. The trail is very bumpy and rough, it has quite a few washouts that if you hit the wrong way or too fast, you might not only fall but you also stand a chance of falling down the mountain side. On the plus side it has lots of trestles. I crossed 5 and the views were outstanding. On the downside, the trail is so bad in spots I ended up with a flat and had to walk the last mile to Foster Falls so my wife could find me and pick me up.

All the Game Wardens and the couple of park employes I saw were all very nice, the problem was there just wasn’t enough financial support. This place should have been crawling with people, it was beautiful…very photogenic and had horses in their pastures and access to the river for boating.

Will I do this trail again…yes. I will also carry a spare tire and maybe try it from Foster Falls because that area looks better maintained. Oh, and it is about 56 miles long. Be very careful with the freeway and GPS instructions. If you take a wrong turn you might have to backtrack 20 miles to get back on track.

I don’t blame the workers for the lack of upkeep to this trail, I blame the cuts to funding our trails.

So here is my plea to you. If you have trails you like or want to try and you get there and it has an honor system to cover parking…please pay the couple dollars. It might not seem like much but if everyone thinks “Oh, my 2 dollars won’t matter.” well, that adds up. Every dollar matters when funding keeps getting cut. If you’re political, keep an eye out on the guy that see’s dollar signs and oil rigs, or, worse yet…fracking lines, when they see a national or state park. Once these places are gone, they can’t be recovered. Even if they could, they will never be the same. You can only cut down old growth forest once…

Keep riding and stay safe.


One Comment

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  1. Agreed on the paying of the $2. Support parks, bike trails, etc Those dollars count. Keep cycling – good for the soul!

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