- March 31, 2016
Tom, my boss, and owner/operator here at Golden Triangle Bike (don’t worry, we have more than just one bike,) scoffed at my idea to write an entire blog posting centered around, what I consider, the most invaluable piece of gear for riding the GAP. What is that most important piece of gear? The earplug. Think about it! What is more important than a good night’s rest? Nothing, that’s what!
O.k., maybe I was a little quick to make that claim. Maybe a bike is the most most invaluable piece of gear to undertake a multiday bike trip on the GAP. You do need a bike to do a bike trip. I think it should also go without saying that there are a few things that you probably can’t get by without while on the trail. Like pants. It’s probably not a good idea to try to ride 340 miles Porky Piging it. Besides the chafing, there are bound to be some legal ramifications. But that’s obvious right? To be safe, just try to keep all your clothes on while riding.
You’re probably going to stay in one of the many warm, welcoming, and doilyfree B+B’s between Pittsburgh and DC right? That’s what I would recommend. The only vital thing you’ll need here is your credit card. If you’re thinking about camping, then there’s absolutely no hope for you. You’ll load up with all sorts of outdoor cooking equipment, stakes, water filters, guy lines, and miniature toiletries. There is a high chance that those earplugs are going to be an afterthought and get left in the pocket of the jacket you were wearing before you left your jacket in your car at the beginning of the trail.
Earplugs though, very important. You might not realize this, but no matter if you camp or treat yourself to a B+B, you are going to hear trains. Trains, if you’ve never noticed, can be noisy. While their sounds become part of a symphony accompanied by bird chirping and river rushing during your daily riding, they don’t exactly observe ‘quiet hours.’
On the GAP to Cumberland, you’re riding on the grade that used to support a railroad. Mountains of coal and coke rode the rails to Pittsburgh’s many industries. At one time, the city of Connellsville had 5 different railroads coming through! You’ll see plenty of old stations along the route, many converted to use as visitors centers for the trail. Few trains run through the region today, but those left let you know it!
Plenty of riders use the Great Allegheny Passage as their first step into multiday rides, and with good reason. Maybe, since this is your first trip, you’re riding with a few buddies from college. Perhaps you haven’t seen them in a years and you spend your first day riding picking up where you left off, not even breaking cadence. You all shared a house in those days, so you decide to stay in a suite instead of separate rooms. Nighttime rolls around and you realize that Hank Henry’s snoring is louder than any locomotive. That’s when you’ll thank me for reminding you about those earplugs.
While originally meant for the ear, they also come in handy if one of your riding partners forgets to pack extra socks. On day 3, you’ll smell him from the next mile marker. Go ahead and just plug that nose. This one I learned from experience.
Not familiar with using earplugs? Check out this incredibly thorough and engaging video on earplug fit and insertion! Don’t forget to ‘practice and pay attention to your ears!’
To be safe, pack a few sets, just in case your fellow cyclists are in need. Keep the positive karma cycling your way.