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).
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!).
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)