Disclaimer: Rakesh Dhawan is President of Falco eMotors.
It was the 4th July long weekend of 2020. Sanjeev, my friend from IIT Kharagpur days, proposed a long ride of 260 miles. I had no idea how I was going to complete this long ride.
The last 100 miles of this ride was painful not because of lack of stamina, but because of improper bike fitment. However, the most encouraging part was the fact that Sanjeev’s dad who is 83 years old was also going to ride with us. So I was inspired and I thought if he could do it, then I could surely do it.
I was on an electric bike Falco e5.3 eBike System. My interest was mainly to test this Falco eBike system rather than testing my own endurance. The new bike had a better fitment than the previous one. The handlebars were of mountain bike type rather than the normal road bike, which was more comfortable for my riding position.
The bike - A Motobecane bike converted to the eBike with the Falco e5.3 system.
Sanjeev is an extraordinary planner. He has been riding bikes for a while and I am a relative newbie on the block. His attention to detail is quite amazing. He rides with four panniers and a handlebar bag on his bike. Also, he carries all kinds of gears with him including extra tubes, tools, medicine, food, and water. I guess you can never be too careful on the trail.
The Ride Plan
We planned to stay at Holiday Inn Express at Brunswick on Wednesday, July 1st, and then take off from Brunswick right after breakfast. Thursday, July 2nd, we were going to stay at Motel 8 in Hancock. Friday, July 3rd, we were going to stay at the Trail Inn in Frostburg. Saturday, July 4th, we were going to stay in Connellsville, PA at the Comfort Inn. Sunday, July 5th, we were to ride back about 30 miles to Confluence, PA where we would get picked up by a van along with our bikes to get back to Brunswick.
As per Google, the complete ride plan covered 223 miles on the trail estimating a ride time of about 22 h 17 minutes.
C&O Canal from Brunswick, MD to Confluence, PA.
Elevation along the way.
The only difficult section was from Cumberland to the Eastern Continental Divide, about 7 miles past Frostburg.
Day 1 - Google estimates 60.2 Miles from Brunswick to Hancock, MD, and a time of about 5h 17 minutes by a bicycle via Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath.
Slight Elevation from the starting to the endpoint.
Day 2 - Hancock to Frostburg, MD is about 77 miles with an estimate of about 7 hours of riding.
The elevation begins to rise after Cumberland with a steady and slow incline to 2077 ft.
Day 3 - Frostburg to Connelsville via the Great Allegheny Passage. Google estimates 57.4 miles and 6h and 22 minutes on a bicycle.
The elevation is not that difficult and easy one to ride.
Day 4 - Ride plan from Connellsville PA to Confluence.
Google estimates 28.3 miles and ride time of 3 h 42 min via the Great Allegheny Passage.
There is a slight elevation which causes a bit of slowdown in speed.
C&O Canal Trail Mileage Chart
Google Maps is close enough but not that accurate. This site was useful in giving the right information.
As per the mileage marker, Brunswick to Hancock is 70 miles.
We started at around mileage marker 54.5. Without any deviations, point to point, we would have covered 70.5 miles.
Hancock to Cumberland is 60 miles and to Frostburg is 76 miles.
Cumberland to Connellsville is 89 miles. Frostburg to Connellsville is 73 miles.
The Journey Begins
Jul 2, 6:44 a.m Starting from Holiday Inn, Brunswick. Sanjeev, Baldev (Sanjeev’s Dad) and Rakesh.
The start was as planned.
Jul 2, 7:29 a.m Starting from Brunswick. Rakesh and Sanjeev.
Baldev (Sanjeev’s dad) took off before us to gain lead so that he does not slow us down. He is faster and better rider than me.
Fallen branches and trees on the way.
About 45 minutes of starting the ride, we came across fallen trees and branches. Some of these had to be cleared for us to get through.
Jul 2, 9:33 a.m, First Rest Stop.
Jul 2, 11:20 a.m Stop at Hydro Dam #4 . Sanjeev and Rakesh.
Dam # 4 is an amazing site. Ranger curt describes it beautifully here. For someone here for the first time, it is easy to get awestruck with the extraordinary natural beauty and serenity of this place.
C&O Canal Dam 4.
Jul 2, 12:11 p.m Second Rest Stop.
Jul 2, 1:55 p.m Second Rest Stop at Park.
Jul 2, 3:48 p.m Clear Springs, MD.
The day turned out to be adventurous after this. As we barrelled through to Hancock, I decided to overtake Sanjeev and power through with my Falco electric-assist eBike. I was able to catch up with Sanjeev’s dad. Thereafter we waited for Sanjeev and he never showed up. We waited for an hour and still, there was no sign of Sanjeev. Eventually, Sanjeev’s dad got worried. He said “we have to go back and look for him”. I called and texted him, there was no response. I told his dad that “I would rush back with my electric bike and see if I could locate him”.
Sanjeev had taken an exit to ride on the Western Maryland rail trail. He was 2 miles away from Hancock when finally he answered the text. I and Sanjeev’s dad went back six miles and then took the Western Maryland rail trail for another 10 miles to catch up with him. We checked into the Super 8 Motel at Hancock at about 8:30 p.m. It had been a long day, that day Sanjeev’s dad and I had covered more than 90 miles. We were toast. We had pizza at the neighboring pizza hut and called it a night at about 10 p.m.
Performance of Electric Assist
I weigh about 200 lbs. I was averaging about 10 mph. The 36V, 400Wh battery had lasted well over 60 miles at that speed. I was operating mainly in assist level 2. My battery was not completely drained but I decided to switch to the second battery nevertheless. The advantage of electric assist was the fact that I was not as tired as Sanjeev was at the end of the 92-mile ride. Although it was a long day, for someone who does not ride regularly, electric-assist gave the confidence to accompany a seasoned rider like Sanjeev and his dad. Overall, I was very pleased with the results of the system. Efficiency was high and the range was excellent. Assist was automatically available wherever and whenever I needed it.
Day 2 Adventure
Jul 3, Friday 11:19 a.m at Stickpile Hill Hiker Biker Campsite.
Jul 3, Fri, 12:02 p.m - Rakesh On top of Paw Paw Tunnel Near Old Town MD.
Jul 3, Fri, 3:24 p.m - At Oldtown School Cafe.
Oldtown, MD is quite an interesting place to visit. It is a tiny town and reminiscent of America’s glorious past. As per Wikipedia, it has a population of 86. In the cafe, there are pictures of various high school graduates. One of the earlier pictures only showed three graduates for the whole year. Built around a trading post, the town has a fascinating history.
Hancock to Cumberland is about 60 miles and Oldtown to Cumberland is about 18 miles. Our original plan was to move through Cumberland to Frostburg and Sanjeev was planning on renting an eBike at the Cumberland trail connection. He asked me to go ahead of him to get to the shop before 6:00 p.m. He was also getting tired of hauling my backpack on his rear carrier. I plowed through and reached the shop at about 5:30 p.m. The shop owner Hutch was closing the shop. However, he was kind enough to get me in and install a rear rack on the bike. That gave enough time for Sanjeev and his dad to get to the shop. After arriving at the shop, we discovered that eBike was not ready for rental and Sanjeev’s dad had also sustained a minor injury. Sanjeev decided to stay overnight at Cumberland. I also offered to give up my eBike to his dad so that he could complete the trip. With my eBike, we could get an early start. We decided to stay at the Fairfield Inn at Cumberland.
The service at Fairfield Inn was great. They had made excellent arrangements for breakfast under new COVID-19 safety standards.
Performance of Electric Assist
We roughly covered between 65 to 70 miles on day 2. It was a fairly easy ride. I did change the battery at around 50 miles or so. My assist level remained 2 for most of the day and for the last 10 or so miles I was at an assist level of 3 or 4 to get to the bike shop faster. I was quite pleased with the performance of the electric assist system.
Day 3 Adventures
Jul 4, Sat, 7:42 a.m - Start from the Fairfield Inn.
We were late getting a start from the Fairfield Inn. The late start was going to delay us significantly getting to our final destination of Connellsville, PA.
Jul 4, Sat, 8:29 a.m - Slow Climb towards Frostburg.
I did not have an electric-assist any longer. And this was the first time I was riding some distance under my own power.
Jul 4, Sat, 8:34 a.m - First Rest Stop after leaving Fairfield Inn.
Sanjeev’s dad did not get a good sleep so he had to rest and I needed to stretch to test my manual power.
Jul 4, Sat, 11:07 a.m - Arriving at Frostburg.
We were at the halfway point through the climb.
Jul 4, Sat, 12:10 p.m - At the Mason-Dixon Line.
Mason-Dixon line has a very interesting history with tremendous meaning for America’s past. It always gives goosebumps to stand on that line and experience history.
Jul 4, Sat, 12:35 p.m - A few miles from the top of the climb.
This is a scenic point with the valley on one side and mountains and windmills in the back.
Jul 4, Sat, 12:55 p.m - Reaching the top of the climb - the great continental divide.
I made it under my own power. I was quite a way behind Sanjeev averaging about 7-8 mph. He was averaging more like 10-11 mph. Sanjeev’s dad was ahead of all of us with Falco electric assist.
Jul 4, Sat, 1:49 p.m - Resting at Meyersdale.
The temperatures were climbing. We decided to rest here for a couple of hours before taking off. That meant we would be getting late into Connellsville, PA.
Jul 4, Sat, 7:36 p.m - Arriving at Confluence, PA.
Jul 4, Sat, 8:22 p.m - We picked up dinner at Confluence PA and headed towards Connellsville PA.
It is about 27 miles from Confluence to Connellsville. It had become quite late. We stopped at Ohiopyle for dinner. From Ohiopyle to Connelsville, it was quite dark and we had to turn our LED lamps on. The flies surrounded us and it would be a massive attack if we stopped. So we had to keep moving. I had a LED lamp on my helmet which I had to remove as the flies will find a direct hit to my face. We reached Connellsville around midnight. At the end of the day, we had covered close to 100 miles from Cumberland to Connellsville.
Performance of Electric Assist
Sanjeev’s dad weighs about 130 lbs. So I was not really worried about the performance of the electric assist at all. He switched batteries around 60 miles or so although the first battery was not depleted. He was able to cope with his minor injury and complete the 100 miles, thanks to the Falco Electric Assist. I was satisfied with the performance of the system.