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 ;)