velo orange campeur

Tour1 C&O Ride

Over the course of the past few months I’ve discovered my niche in the cycling world – Touring and this weekend only confirmed that. The first of many tours was really fun and good for the soul. Admittedly, I was quite nervous pre-ride and during the planning process as to how it would go mainly due to possible flats, etc. It was quite different than being around the DC area with paved trails and always available for a ride back home if suddenly something unexpected happen. I should probably point out the actual mileage was of not much concern, it was the actual packing of overnight gear, supplies and clothing selection. I had to be prepared for anything that happened and it felt good to depend on myself only. My map was my guide and my food the fuel. With close to 40lbs of gear I was in the saddle.

5/25: 70 mi | 7 hr 38 min | 1,175′ elevation gain

Day one was originally supposed to take me to Antietam but with low temps overnight and into the morning (because, you know it’s Memorial Day Weekend) and terrible allergies I cut back the trip and left at a later hour – 10am at 53F. The previous 2 days of heavy rain was also a worry of mine but was made clear to me through various avenues that the trail was still fine to travel on. Clothes of choice was cycling tights and Pearl Izumi Windjacket. The first hour was very oddly the hardest part of the whole trip. To make my way to the actual trail I had to climb steep hills and traffic via Williamsburg St in Falls Church into Arlington to cross the river at Chain Bridge. Just before Chain Bridge, I encountered a trail off Military Rd that closely resembled a ravine. The trail was so steep I hopped off the bike and gingerly walked (because of the bike weight and on slick bike shoes) down the hill about 100 yards to the bridge head. Once on the actual trail, the tough part was over it turned out. What initially was an empty trail gave way to massive crowds at Great Falls, MD. I made my way through the crowds and once past the crowds turned to none but quickly came up to a fallen double tree where I had to lift the bike with all its weight over. One of the many things I was prepared to come across. Really only after the 20mi mark was the trail my own and smooth riding transpired where I just took off my helmet (hurts my neck after a while) and rode on.

Down Tree

The next segments and lock sections of the trail were a blur and what seemed to be the exact same until getting to River Rd ahead of White’s Ferry, detouring there for an actual road and a break from the trail. What was supposed to be a break from the trail turned out to add even more time to the trip. 30mi+ headwind ensued over this 5mi stretch with sharper gravel and dusty dump trucks and bull dozers to boot. I even had to stop to let some go past me while I turned the other way to not get dust in my eyes and lungs than was on the trail. Maybe on a less windy day I will try again. Once, back on the trail more of the same until outside of Dickerson, MD where a busy railroad provided a change of scenery and action. Turns out, the MARC train at Brunswick and freight trains frequent here constantly. I should point out as well, from 45mi mark onto Brunswick the trail appeared to not be able to hold as much water as previous miles had. Just before Brunswick, I encountered the trail being shared by motorcoaches and the dodging of “gravel basins” ensued thanks to vehicle traffic. Once past, the campground at Brunswick the trail led to its old self until finally arriving in Harpers Ferry. At points, the trail seemed such the same, I decided to use some battery life to play some “Trampled By Turtles” radio on Pandora, making this particular stretch a little more interesting.

Monocacy Aqueduct

Monocacy Aqueduct, Dickerson MD

I didn’t see anything written about this but if you go to the town via bike you have to carry your bike up the stairs of the train track bridge which leads into the town. I took off my bike shoes and switched to my NB Minimus shoes for this due to the metal slits in the stairs. Over breakfast in the morning I would come to find out a lot of first time Asian visitors to this great nation were extremely nervous about being on the bridge and refused to budge for some bikers just walking their bike across. Don’t mean to offend, but thought this was comical.


Just Outside Dickerson, MD
*No Sound*

Once across, I made my way to the Tea Horse Hostel where I discovered that Laurel (the hostel owner) had made sure I was coming still, out of breath due to the Washington St climb I told her yes. Note: Be prepared to walk up this hill or take the flatter route of Shenandoah St to get to the hostel. I was a little lost and because I didn’t want to traverse down the steep hill of Washington St again I asked for directions from multiple people for the hostel just to double check. Turns out no one in this small Civil War town knew where the Hostel was which turned out to be hilarious because one of the folks who I asked, he was running for mayor that lived in the nicest house in town lived two extremely small blocks from the hostel. Not sure who was more of an idiot – him or I. After checking in, I had a single bed but sharing the room with a couple from PA. Most of the folks here were hikers coming from the Appalachian Trail. Did you know that each hiker has their own nickname? A couple of the names were Newdeenie (because he had a new knee replaced) and ZZ Topless (because he hiked without a shirt on). Newdeenie was going to take my bunk if I didn’t show but he instead slept on the floor on his mat, he said “Oh, I’m fine, I’m right at home on the floor, been sleeping this way for years.” I didn’t feel too bad about it.

The Tea Horse has a locked shed for the bikes but somehow (and because I was near the lobby) I was able to be the only one to keep the bike inside. Laurel really liked the fenders and Crane bell. Once settled, I ate dinner at Anvils a couple blocks down with a couple of beers and took a nice shower. I had to wait for the shower but that left me time to write some notes down about the ride up, surprisingly I wasn’t too worn out which I was proud to have happen that shows my stamina is improving. I should also point out that most of the folks that were here were young and educated folks doing the same things such as I and mostly from DC. It was a surprised welcomed. If you’re nervous about hostels I wouldn’t be about this one because if you lived in a somewhat OK dorm in college you’ll be fine. Another funny thing about HP – the official Post Office/Police Department/Main Liquor Store all share the same building. Why not? Other thing was the Episcopal church several blocks down had open for consumption “Living Water” for the hikers. I almost went to church the next morning because checkout was at 9am but I don’t think anyone wanted to see someone with cycling gear darken their front door.

5/26: 52 mi | 5 hr | 1,230′ elevation gain

Day two started with a terrific breakfast of Belgian Waffles made to order, fresh cut fruit, OJ & coffee provided by the hostel – for $33 per bunk this place was no joke, FAR better than a Hampton Inn. Over breakfast, I got to know some folks from DC as well as my bunk mates from PA. Turns out most were riding converted road bikes and riding skinny tires. Whatever works… After breakfast, Laurel wished me farewell and I was off again a midst church bell rings and to cross the Potomac and Shenandoah once again. I made my way to Brunswick, MD where I strapped my helmet on and put the flashers on to make my way over the bridge into VA. Turns out the bridge was vacant on the Sunday morning and I took the lane pretty much the whole way cross, where I eventually made my way to Wenner Rd.

The map below shows how I took a shortcut from Brunswick to the W&OD trail.

Day two was shorter due to the C&O honestly being so boring the first day (apologies to people who love biking this by themselves). A fellow cyclist is priority on the C&O for many reasons and this is a main one I found out. Once on the VA back roads I meandered through steep gravel climbs and descents while bordering Catoctin Creek ’till eventually made way back to a paved road – Loyalty Rd at Taylorstown, VA. There is very nice farmland here with vista views to the mountains in the east. Loyalty Rd turned into Clarks Gap Rd where the traffic was borderline dangerous but I eventually made my way back via Paeonian Springs and onto the W&OD for lunch and a break at a rest structure.

Downey Mill Rd.

Downey Mill Rd.

Credit to @colintbrowne for this route. At the rest overhang, I must’ve looked beat because folks were asking me where I was coming from and my destination. An older woman with her grandkids were among some of the curious folks and her incessant talking of times gone by, “…remember when I used to ride the electric car near Shirlington..” Impatient looks by the kids abound led me to feel the pressure of abruptly ending the conversation. Mission accomplished.


Catoctin Creek Section
*No Sound*

W&OD was the W&OD but had a stiff tailwind which made me zip by the grandma who was actually leading the pack by a long shot. Outside of Leesburg, VA I stopped in a local cyclists hot spot – Carolina Bros BBQ where I had a sandwich. First time visitor but really good food. A surprise occurred when I saw Brook (@velowanderingdc) and Michael, two DC cyclists when I was about to leave. Ended up riding back with them to complete the trip.

Originally, this trip was going to allow me to finally do a century ride but I found out it was much more important to experience the journey instead post a number. I think cyclists, with me included, focus in on this a little too much at times. Ultimately, the challenge of relying on cue sheets, packed gear and food and meeting great people along the way were the parts most memorable. I look forward to the next tour, most likely completing the C&O to Cumberland and one day to Pittsburgh, PA. I hear the GAP Trail has nicer gravel. I do believe a front rack that will accept panniers would help but that’s not something I’d like to invest in right now. Meanwhile, M.E. has already volunteered to pick me up in Cumberland, MD :) Such a good wife. I’d prefer not to go alone though!

See all my 42 photos here. Taken with iPhone. http://www.flickr.com/photos/89311919@N02/sets/72157633728918866/

Additional notes for those who are planning a trip on the canal and are curious:

I traveled on 32mm (really 33mm) Michelin Pilot Sport Tires, Honjo Fenders, 2 Full Axiom Panniers, Full Ostrich Handlebar bag, 1 VO saddlebag.

Gravel Sections To Note

  • Before and after Great Falls was regular C&O gravel – that being dirt slash rounded light gravel. During GF the gravel was a little sharper
  • Near Brunswick Campground was a little sharper, as you get a mile or so from HP the same applies
  • Basically, wherever there are crowds is where you should pay attention to any mogul rocks on the trail

Trail Holding Up to the Rain

  • The rain a couple days previous was of concern to me and I know a lot of folks don’t trust the trails ability to hold rain and quickly dry. What helped this particular situation was the high amount of wind sustained for the previous 24 hours which greatly helped. I know this because I used to help out with golf greens. Yes, Creeping Bentgrass can wilt due to access wind at a certain temperature. The trail from what it looks like below can wick away some rain. I did not once find a section where I could not pass. There was always a route around a low depression which was holding moisture. The stats along the trail locations:
  • DC 2 days out .17” 1 day out .01”
  • Dulles Airport 2 days .49” out Trace 1 day out
  • Hagerstown, MD 2 days out .05 Trace 1 day out
  • I couldn’t get stats from in between Hagerstown line and Dulles, couldn’t find anything but I will tell you these echoed the Dulles location stats. The trail was fine in these locations
  • Little insight at least to HP – An amazing thing to me was that every single depression I came to, the way to travel around it was to go to the left (going west on the trail) and you could navigate around the wet parts. I took this as the whole canal leaning slightly toward the historic canal bed (to the right). So be prepared to travel to the left, again at least until Harpers Ferry. It’s not like there is any traffic along the path to contend with.
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Pack List | C&O Tour1

Gear

  • Spare secondary toe straps
  • Top Peak Pump attached to frame
  • 2x tubes
  • Cheap lock in case I have to go in a store
  • 2x panniers w/rain covers
  • Ostrich handlebar bag w/ decaleur
  • Spare brake cable
  • Spare chain quick-link (SRAM)
  • C&O Paper Maps
  • Pen/Notebook
  • Bike gloves
  • Chain Tool
  • Gerber Multiplier
  • 3 water bottles
  • Front/Rear lights
  • Multi-tool, Patch-kit, Chain oil

Clothing/Misc.

  • Sundries including suncream, rubbing alcohol for scrapes
  • Adidas sports shorts
  • 2x Under Armor athletic underwear
  • Windjacket
  • iPhone charger & perhaps a flash charger for charge while riding
  • Smartwool socks
  • Cycling shoes (of course)
  • Foldable NB Minimus shoes (backup shoes too)
  • Hankerchief, Towel for grease wipe-off when/if needed

Food

  • Granola/Salted nuts
  • 2x “recovery” Powerbars
  • 2x Powerbar gels
  • Bananas
  • Hearty b’fast at the house before takeoff
  • 1st day Dinner & 2nd day B’fast in Harpers Ferry

Edit: I should probably point out that not all century rides I do will be with this much gear. A tour is a tour is a tour. Things like pen/notebook fortunately come into the equation. And unfortunately, due to the unpredictable surfaces ahead I bring spares of  a lot of things.

*Special thanks to Cass Gilbert @ www.whileoutriding.com for (although not to his knowledge) help in gathering this list

Dry Run

20130504-212230.jpg

This afternoon I went to the petting zoo with Walt. Lot of fun. After that, I decided to do a test run of the Campeur for what it was made to do. Long loaded rides.

I plan on still doing a C&O ride later this month and wanted to feel close to what the bike would feel like on this trip. That meant both panniers fastened, front bag kept on and VO Baguette bag to the saddle loops. All of the bags loaded. I’d say the bike itself weighed around 35-40 lbs + my weight. I just filled the bags with as much weight as I thought I would bring with randomness.

It wasn’t a long ride but I tried to vary it with different conditions but mainly gravel. I had a nice tailwind on the asphalt onset where I averaged a good coasting speed of 18-19mph. I have to say, the bike doesn’t just bump along with the added weight at this speed but it is a well-controlled, predictable and smooth ride. Continue to be surprised by this.

From there, I jumped on the gravel where I negotiated sandy gravel and which ALMOST made me weary enough to slow down. Kept going and was controlled. This gravel almost resembles the towpath but slightly finer. On the gravel path a test of the uphills, downhills and turns was the goal. I did have an AHA moment where I took a low speed turn too sharply when hopping back on pavement. The gravel turned sandy and wheels went sideways and was barely able to unclip and put my foot to save a fall. Couple things from this-large gashes on the right pedal (doesn’t matter, not bike itself!) and learned the limits of gravelly sand and turns. I attribute this to the increased weight, have done the same turn w/o much weight and done fine.

Back on the long uphill climb, same story as the first segment but slower. Cruising speed was about 14 which I took as good. With the new front sprocket I am able to keep up a higher cadence and keep it at speed for much longer.

I was glad I did this run, although it is just a tiny bit of the whole picture. Onward ho!

Not So Tight

Last Friday I had the fortune of discovering a problem with my seat tube. A lot of folks seem to go to this blog by Googling “velo orange” or “Campeur” so this is more of a PSA statement and not a knock on Velo Orange.

After several mornings and afternoons of commuting I had to tighten my seat post. Not a big deal though until I was doing it each ride and noticing shallow gashes forming due to slippage on the post.

So it came to so something about it. In short, I tried to remove the bolt to see if a washer was present but it ended up I had destroyed the bolt by over-tightening it. I ended up having to take it to Spokes Etc for them to literally cut the bolt to remove. Ended up there was no washer so there in lay the issue.

Velo Orange was terrific through the whole process and shipped me a new bolt free of charge. The new bolt is great and doesn’t let the post slip.

Aside from this issue, I am remind how bicycles kind of amaze me for the fact that they are so light weight and if you think about it, all of the inner workings and small bolts to hold it all together most of the time don’t fall apart with basic maintenance. Maybe that’s an overstatement but it shows the great design of the modern bicycle geometry and how far they have come but at the same time, have remained the same.

Amazing machines.

Been Campeured

It’s been a while since last writing but it’s just because I’ve been busy enjoying my new bike but honestly I have been avoiding this northeast weather. I guess it’s not so bad, I hear my hometown (Memphis) is cold AND wet. I’d rather have just cold so thank you weather patterns and topography.

Oh yeah, my new bike. This bike was put together by Velo Classique in Purcellville, VA. This shop is owned and operated by Wayne Bingham. Look him up, but his website is down so don’t look there. See his Flickr page. You’ll see my build plus his various ones. It’s an amazing shop.

Last summer when deciding to even get a bike I realized that when I rode I needed to bring stuff with me. Duh. The only thing I (and most other people I see) brought was water bottles and enough food to fit in a 3×4″ seat bag. I really don’t know how I did long rides like that. Oh yes, I remember, I starved myself and didn’t drink enough water. But, if riding a bike means exactly that and for you it is a pure fitness/anaerobic activity then great! I’m trying to combine those two.

At this point, I was still new to the bike scene and continued to visit blog pages and came along Velo Orange, Lovely Bicycle, Off the Beaten Path etc to which the latter inspired me to ditch the lightweight racer and bring some s**t with me. What transpired was a discovery of French touring bicycles from the “old days” that lasted a long time due to being well-lugged and steel, loaded with gear to allow you to bike more than 10 minutes from your chateau and all while having a classic look that is pretty nice to look at. Quick note – look at the old PBP race, still functioning which inspired Constructeur bicycles. You have to complete 1200km/745mi in 90 hours, WICKED.

The decision of going forward with getting a bike wasn’t easy due to budget constraints but through manipulation of finances and having my knees worn from pleading with my wife I/we arrived to the conclusion that it could happen. The decision was to then buy a new bike built or either buy pieces myself and then put together. I looked at LHT’s first and thought those were good to look at and then I found Velo Orange (as mentioned earlier) and discovered I could buy frames/build sets and then eventually found out through correspondence to just wait for their new frame – the Campeur. I wanted to buy a bike new but I eventually decided to piece together a bike, more expensive yes but it’s a decision for now I am glad I made. I am very proud of the fact that I chose every piece of metal for this build and in so doing I learned more of the intricacies of a bike you don’t often know just by looking at one – some are bottom bracket spindle length, cluster sizing as it relates, low trail geometry and how that effects handling, wider tires for improved handling/not slowing you down, fenders because it’s not always dry, importance of stem length, spoke count, reasons for long cage derailleurs, etc…I could go on and on. But wow, was this time consuming and confusing! Fun though, right?

So, for the bike here she goes. I wanted a drop bar bike with the ability for touring/commuting/grocery getter. Is that possible? Still finding out so in essence a general purpose bike. Also, this bike is a size bigger than I actually need because they didn’t offer my size but a taller bike is always better I think..

List of goodies in no order because there is no standard way:

  • Campeur frame – 55cm
  • Grand Cru threaded headset – because you can adjust w/o needing spacers
  • Shimano pedals – click-in/flat – because you can’t always wear cycling shoes
  • VO Seat post, long setback – because of short Brooks side rails
  • Brooks B17 Narrow – performance reasons
  • 32mm Michelin tires – more like 33 or 34mm
  • 43mm Honjo fenders
  • Downtube Dia Compe (DC) shifters – because that’s where my hands instinctively go thanks to the old Fuji
  • DC brake levers
  • Grand Cru 44cm drop bars
  • VO Cantilever brakes – ease of mounting brakes over fenders and that’s what the frame calls for
  • Sram chain
  • 9 speed 12-27 Shimano cluster – might change to 8 in the coming months
  • Deore DX NOS Front/Rear Derailleur – :)
  • VO Diagonale Wheelset with quick release skewers
  • Velox tape – this is not “squishy” tape as it looks so doesn’t stain that easily
  • Rear VO Constructeur Rack – fits my Axiom Lasalle Panniers beautifully (not pictured)
  • (Updated) Front VO Pass Hunter rack – See (LINK) for this updated photo
  • 118mm Bottom Bracket for my…
  • Grand Cru Double cranksets – because I don’t need 3 rings due to the 34t/48t ratio
  • Water bottle cages – large cages so I can fit my coffee mug/larger bottles/wine bottles/beer/water
  • Ordered today – Chain slap leather strip for rear stay, to not let the chain take paint off
  • Best Part? Wooden bar plugs from Scotch bottles:)

Now, down to the stuff you skipped down to, captions written by Wayne Bingham…

We just completed this Velo Orange Campeur for one of our customers. Robert has a nice vintage Fuji that he's been riding, but he was looking to add a bike for commuting and all-around use to his stable. Robert hand-picked most all of the components, but we helped flesh-out some of the drive train and little details. He wanted a vintage look and feel, with enough practicality for daily use.

We just completed this Velo Orange Campeur for one of our customers. Robert has a nice vintage Fuji that he’s been riding, but he was looking to add a bike for commuting and all-around use to his stable. Robert hand-picked most all of the components, but we helped flesh-out some of the drive train and little details. He wanted a vintage look and feel, with enough practicality for daily use.

Hammered Honjo fenders are a nice addition.

Hammered Honjo fenders are a nice addition.

Non-aero brake cable routing and down tube friction shifters add to simplicity and the vintage feel. The shifters operate Deore DX derailleurs over the VO crankset and a modern 9 speed Shimano cassette. The wooden bar plugs add a nice classic touch.

Non-aero brake cable routing and down tube friction shifters add to simplicity and the vintage feel. The shifters operate Deore DX derailleurs over the VO crankset and a modern 9 speed Shimano cassette. The wooden bar plugs add a nice classic touch.

Classic Profile

Classic Profile

Down the Line - Behind

So, there you have it. My new bike. The pannier bags came yesterday and fit the bike great functionally and look-wise. I tried them out last night loaded and the bike felt even more stable with them on. They were right.