The heat of summer isn’t over yet, but fall isn’t too far away. The drop in temperatures brings a jump in organized rides in our area. Now’s the time to consider what you’ve still got left in your legs for 2012 — or, perhaps, to find out for the first time in 2012 what you’ve got in your legs. Read on to find out about some of my favorite organized rides – with all but one of them easily doable as a day trip from Arlington.
Why pay for an organized ride when you can just roll out on your own for free? Organized rides are a great way for casual cyclists to try longer distances without the worries of getting lost. They also remove the stress of long-ride logistics — no need to carefully plan your own water and food stops. Finally, as much as I enjoy a good long ride on my own or with just a couple of friends, there’s something energizing about sharing the road with hundreds of other cyclists.
First up is the Rappahannock Rough Ride, which takes place on Sept. 15 in Washington, Va. While it owes its name to some light off-road options, it’s a very friendly ride for the beginning road enthusiast who likes hills. It offers 12-, 35- and 60-mile routes on smooth pavement. Except for a couple of brief sections, this is a very low-traffic ride. I saved my cue sheet from the first time I did it and now ride out there regularly.
One of my favorite organized rides takes place the following weekend, on Sept. 22 — the Washington Area Bicyclist Association's 50 States Ride. Yes, I’m currently the president of WABA, but I’ve been pushing this ride to anyone who would listen long before I was involved with the organization. Because it routes you along every road in Washington named for a state, you’re just about certain to see parts of the district you’ve not seen before. Added bonus? You won’t even have to load your bike into the car for this one — just ride from your house or roll onto Metro. And I’m not kidding about the Metro option – you may need it to get home after you discover just how many hills we’ve got in D.C.
A little further afield — but still an easy day trip — is the Tour du Port in Baltimore. Taking place on Sept. 30, this ride offers something for everyone, with routes that range from 13 to 65 miles. Like the 50 States Ride, it’s a great way to explore a city. This ride is not only fully supported — with food, rest stops and mechanical assistance, for instance — but it offers musical entertainment at the end. It’s a great choice for families, though watch out for the trolley tracks around the Inner Harbor area.
Finally, there's the Sea Gull Century on Oct. 6 in Salisbury, Md. No, it’s not really a day trip (I’ve done that, and don’t recommend it). But it’s an ideal first century for riders from around the Mid-Atlantic region. The course is so flat the only real hill on it is the bridge to Assateague Island. The bridge doesn’t just get you to the island — it gets you to lunch and a chance of seeing the island’s wild horses. Salisbury University does an excellent job of hosting this ride.
Arlington’s a great place to ride. And lucky for us, it’s right in the middle of a lot of other great places to ride. Check ‘em out.
Some of you might have noticed the new awning that reads "BICYCLES" at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Pershing Drive. I had a chance to chat with one of the owners, and he tells me that they hope to open in September. They're the same guys that operate the used bike market in Clarendon on Saturdays and Eastern Market on Sundays. The owner told me that after 10 years of loading and unloading a trailer full of bikes every weekend, he's looking forward to leaving them all in one place. Check out their Facebook page here.
Speaking of used bikes, Phoenix Bikes (down on Four Mile Run) sure could use some help wrenching on a huge new load of donated bikes.
Mark Blacknell is a member of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.