15 December, 2020

Shawn's Rail-Trail Explorer

by Igor

The Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal rail trails are great gems of our area. If this is your first time hearing about these trails, the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) goes from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD and the C&O Canal continues from Cumberland to Washington DC. The combination of 0 (read: zero) car traffic, low elevation change, cute trail towns, and free camping, and ample water sources makes this trail combo world renowned. People come from all over the globe (in normal times) to ride this route combination of nearly 333 miles. And since these trails are basically in our backyard, we've ridden them a lot.

So while the trails can be ridden on most wide-tired bikes, having a bike built up with the knowledge of what the trail entails and what the rider needs, means that the bike can disappear and one can simply enjoy being in the moment - surrounded by the beautiful scenery that the Mid-Atlantic has to offer.

That brings us to Shawn's Low Kicker Polyvalent build. He lives nearby to the trail and was ready to upgrade his current ride to a bike with dedicated front and rear racks, wider tires, upright position, fenders, and a timeless aesthetic. After a few conversations, we settled on a build list and went to work getting everything fitted. This is one ultra smooth and comfortable ride.

Let's talk cockpit. Trekking Bars are one of those love 'em or hate 'em sort of selections. Shawn liked them for their upright position and multiple hand positions. They're super popular in Europe for that reason, too!

The drivetrain is a simple 1x11. There isn't much elevation change over the whole trail, so you don't need a double or triple crankset. We often get questions about clutches on rear derailleurs for 1x systems. Basically, the clutch on a rear like this acts like a strong spring and retains chain tension over the whole drivetrain. It prevents the chain from bouncing around over roots, potholes, and the like. They say the GAP was built by machine and the C&O was built by man. I would agree.

Braking is handled by our favorites, the TRP Spyres, which we paired to our Grand Cru Brake Levers. The calipers have a piston on either side of the rotor, so it squeezes more consistently.

The wheels are our Rear and Front Disc Hubs laced to Voyager Rims. So while they are extremely shiny, they're also super tough as well as tubeless compatible. We opted for Ultradynamico 650bx48mm Cava tires. I really like these for all sorts of crushed limestone and roughly hewn trails.

Shawn also opted for Front and Rear Campeur Racks. They aren't terribly heavy, so he can try out different loading and luggage arrangements.

These trails can get pretty messy after rains and when the snow starts melting, so a good set of full coverage fenders should be a must. He opted for the 650b Wavy Fenders (a personal favorite) and front and rear mudflaps. 

This is one ultra smooth and beautiful machine. Happy riding, Shawn!

If you're looking for a very complete build list, here you go!


Unknown said...

Sweeeeet ride!

teamdarb said...

Come ride today. The snow and ice is at champion level once you pass Swains Point.

gary jacobson said...

I'd love to ride a bike like that!. What is the reason that the racks aren't as low as possible? Would mounting them low cause clearance problems somewhere? Does the geometry of the bike make a higher center of gravity a good idea? Thanks.

Igor Shteynbuk said...


The racks are mounted pretty low. Definitely low enough to get the benefits of low-riders.

Much lower and you'd be dragging your bags!