Bike DC 2012

Today I participated in another edition of Bike DC! Unlike many others, I had a great time again this year (even if Kiah wasn’t with me). I’ve seen some grumbling on Twitter and read a couple of blog posts about people who had a bad experience, so I feel it is only fair to the ride to share my good experience!

I rode my bike down, but of course I left late, so while I was planning on riding with the Sassy Sisters, I got there too late to leave with them. So I headed out by myself. Well. Not really by myself. Because how alone can you be when you’re surrounded by 100s of other cyclists?

This year saw an added loop out on Rock Creek Drive. I really enjoyed this bit. I loved all the trees and the awesome bridges. I even saw 2 unicyclists! That seems like an added challenge…

There were so many cyclists out! It was awesome seeing the bunch in front of you and the bunch coming back towards you.

After the loop on Rock Creek Drive, we had a pit stop before heading out on the GW Parkway. At the rest stop, I remembered what I really don’t like about big organized rides- too many bananas! The smell of bananas makes me feel a bit sick and as they are the go to “power food” for rides, that means there are always huge piles of the bananas and their nasty peels.

As always, the route was packed with all sorts of riders- lycra clad riders, families, t-shirts and flip flops, tandems, recumbents, and trailers! This ride felt a lot more like RAGBRAI than Sea Otter ;) The best family set up I saw had the dad pulling two kids AND two dogs in a trailer! And honestly, the boy was not doing nearly enough work- Dad was pulling the whole weight!

The only real snafu came near Iwo Jima- half of the road down to the memorial was torn up, so both up and down riders were sharing one lane. Most people had to get off their bikes and walk down, as the hill was steep and the pace was very slow.

But after that section, it opened up again! We rode around the Memorial, took a couple of pictures, then headed off to the Air Force memorial.

 It was cake from then! Rolled over to the Air Force memorial, hung out a bit, then headed back!

While I had a great time, this ride is not perfect. Apparently I was really lucky to have a relatively uneventful ride, except for the Iwo Jima bottleneck. I heard lots of reports of riders being turned around right before the Iwo Jima memorial and the  leg to the Air Force memorial and being forced to go back to the finish without any directions or guidance- a scary thing for those who rarely venture out on city roads. I heard of others who were on the Roosevelt bridge when it got opened back up to traffic. Besides these huge mishaps with communication, I’m always a bit amazed that they seem to run out of food, and sometimes even water. I don’t know if it’s because people jump onto the ride that didn’t sign up, or because people take way more than there share, or because they underestimate the number of people that are going to show up, but often unless you get to the rest stop early, you don’t get much. This is a bit frustrating- especially when they run out of water, because it can get HOT out there.

However! Despite some the miscommunication and unintentional rerouting that happened this year, which I’m sure scared off a lot of riders, this ride is a great ride. I’m sure it’s a bit of a logistical nightmare for the organizations putting this on to get all those roads closed. But with a few improvements, it could be good every year. I heard many people who got caught in the chaos suggest that staggering the starts of the full ride and the family ride would help with any overlap that might happen between the experienced riders and the true families out there- even though this might not be very possible, what with the time constraints on the closed roads. In addition, there needs to be better communication between ride marshals. It seems to me it would be useful to have radios in at least a few of the ride marshals’ hands, that way everyone can be kept abreast of situations that develop.

To those who had a less than ideal time, don’t write off Bike DC yet!! It is great fun. If you’re nervous about doing it alone, try and find a more experienced cyclist to go with you. I’m always available ;)

Check out the rest of my photos on Flickr and follow me on Twitter!

Bike DC

Last weekend I participated in Bike DC with my friend Kiah. And it was fabulous.

When I signed up, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured a ride around DC in car free streets couldn’t be a bad thing! I was just going to go by myself, but luckily Kiah stepped up at the last minute and saved me from a solo ride. Kiah lives near me, so we decided to just ride downtown instead of bothering with the metro.

I couldn’t believe how many people were down on the mall for the start. It was crazy. And there was such a wide range of riders there- cruisers, hybrids, fancy mountain bikes, cycling shorts, workout clothes, team kits, young, old and everything in between (including this guy, who seems to love Fabian Cancellara).

Insanity at the start

When we rolled down Pennsylvania Ave, totally closed to traffic, I was on a serious high. No cars- just hordes of cyclists. How cool is that?! And that feeling persisted throughout the ride. As I rode my bike on roads I have never even been on in a car, it was fabulous to ride down on ramps, see the big three lane highways empty except for cyclists stretched out across them, marvel at how large the green highway signs seem when you’re not zooming in a car, laugh at the motorists stuck in traffic on the other side of the divide (probably because of us!).

Penn Ave just for the cyclists!

Poor suckers stuck in their cars

Highway, what?!

The route was a bit more difficult than I expected. Not for me of course, but I could see how it might be a bit of challenge for some. The sheer number of people there made it more challenging to start with. Then, there were some not insignificant hills to climb, and add to that the wide variety of abilities and age and the riders who clearly didn’t get the memo that this wasn’t a race and you get a more challenging ride than some were expecting.

And let’s talk about this route. The most exciting thing for me was that I was riding my bike in places I had never even been in a car! We went to the Air Force Memorial, where I had never been, mainly because it is not metro accessible. We rode down the George Washington Parkway, which follows the Potomac River on the Virginia side, and it was so pretty! You can be sure that it is wasted on most motorists, stuck in their metal beasts. A beautiful view of the river, lush and green, surrounded by bluffs.

I did learn some interesting things about riding in a big group (I won’t say group ride here, because it wasn’t really). First, the importance of HOLDING YOUR LINE! Just ride straight, please. Swerving around does no one any good. If you’re a little kid/teenager, fine. Or an adult who’s just learning to ride, fine. But if you’re a semi-fit adult, with a nice bike that illustrates you’re not a novice, please, please, PLEASE just ride in a straight line. And to go along with that, no matter what you skill level, pay attention! Be aware of your surroundings- who might be behind you, who’s ahead of you, where the road is going. If you’re going to pass someone, please check your blind spots, just as you would if you were in a car.

The whole ride was wonderful, the weather was great, the route was fun, and I’m really excited to do it again next year. In all, Kiah and I rode 40 miles! That’s a new record for me, and for Kiah, who hadn’t been on her bike in about 3 months. I was impressed with Kiah’s stamina- especially once she realized how awesome having a triple is. (check out more picts here)

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