This summer, combine sightseeing, socializing and your workout. If you're looking for a new hobby that will allow you to experience D.C. in a fresh new way, consider road biking, an excellent opportunity to cover extensive mileage while burning serious calories.
If you're intimidated by city riding, know that D.C. was just named a top five city in RewardExpert's ranking of the 2017's Best Destinations to Explore by Bike. D.C. gains a top five spot thanks to the most extensive bike-share program in the country and ties for first with bike safety.
Whether you're an avid rider or haven't been on a bike since grade school, there's a bike and a route for you. Before you take on the open road, get equipped with the right gear. Don't be afraid to test out a bunch of different bikes before you find the right one. Most bike shops will allow you to take the bike out for a spin to make sure it's the one for you. Be picky, hopefully, the bike you choose will be with you for many miles.
For a smooth ride from a trusted brand, check out bikes from Specialized. The Ruby SL4 features vibration absorbing inserts that, while great on paved roads, can really make the difference when rocky city streets and cobblestones come your way. Ruby starts at $1,700 and is worth the investment. If you'd prefer to start with a more beginner friendly and stable selection, try the Specialized Vita, complete with a lightweight frame and efficient gearing. The Vita is in the "fitness" bike category and will give you optimal control and comfort as you work up a sweat. Even better, it starts at $500.
If a used bike is more up your alley as you get into the sport, head over to Phoenix Bikes in Arlington; they refurbish donated bikes to give tired wheels a new life and more miles.
Once you've selected your bike, take the time to go through a proper bike fit at the shop. They'll adjust the settings to ensure you have the most efficient and comfortable set up. This will allow you to cover more mileage while avoiding unnecessary injury and overly sore muscles.
For newer riders hoping to get serious about biking, consider installing dual sided pedals; one side will clip in with cycling shoes and the other side will be flat for sneaker use. Clips are great to help you up hills and get the most out of your pedal stroke, but for newer riders, it's nice to know the flat side is there if you aren't quite comfortable yet clipping in. In addition to your new set of wheels, make sure to pick up a helmet, biking gloves and cycling shorts (you'll be thankful for the padding on those longer rides).
Now that you're equipped with all the proper gear, it's time to find a route. Feeling a little nervous for your first ride out in the D.C. area? Luckily, you can join a local riding group hosted by various bike shops. Check out Bicycle Spaces free weekly group rides, with options for total beginners to those looking for a challenge (check out the full schedule here) or The Bike Rack for Saturday and Sunday group rides (full monthly schedule is available here). During the beginner rides, you'll learn a thing or two from your experienced leaders; it's a great way to get comfortable on the bike in a safe and supportive environment while meeting other biking newbies en route. Also, check out the Washington Area Bicyclist Association to get more involved in the local biking scene.
If you prefer to take on the city solo or with a friend, there are endless routes to explore. Local rider Lauren Morse recommends the Mount Vernon Trail, starting her ride in Mount Vernon Triangle and riding along the National Mall, eventually making her way through Old Town Alexandria. The route shows off views of the Potomac and rides by D.C. monuments. The trail is fairly flat, making it a good option for casual weekend miles.
Another popular route and favorite of Lauren's is the Capital Crescent Trail. Make sure to build in extra time to wander through Georgetown and Bethesda, either spot is great for a coffee break or lunch outside. Try to start this ride early as the route can get extremely crowded on the weekends.
Local bike commuter Carol Casto and avid D.C. rider Megan Vanderbur both note Arlington Loop as their top choice. The route offers beautiful views of the National Monuments from across the Potomac River, with 17 miles made up of some of the most popular trails in the area including W&OD, Mt. Vernon, and the Custis Trail. Megan's other top picks to explore include Rock Creek Park and Great Falls. To help explore routes for newer riders, Megan points to this Subway-Style bike map that displays protected bikeways and will get riders exploring their city safely.
For riders looking to get their miles in, give back, and have fun along the way with a celebration at the finish, check out Bike to the Beach, a yearly event taking place on July 28th, 2017 (spots are still available!). Participants raise money to support Autism and then ride from Washington, DC to the finish line party at Dewey Beach, DE. The ride offers support along the way, making it a great experience for newer riders and experienced riders alike.
Whether you're commuting to work, riding with friends to brunch on the weekends, or you're working up to a century ride, the D.C. area has a lot to offer the bike community. Grab your set of wheels and let's start riding.