Early on Saturday, May 18, Bill and I loaded our Salsa bikes onto the back of our car for a trip to DC where we were meeting Cruiser friends for our first time participating in the 4th-Annual DC Bike Ride, a 20-mile car-free ride through the streets of DC. Among our friends were Chuck and Bonnie, who also rode in the Bike NY Five Boro Bike Tour with us in early May.
Not to be a Nancy Negative (Debbie Downer is just too easy to use), couldn’t the organizers of the DC Bike Ride have come up with a better name? The name doesn’t invoke anything exciting – kind of like saying, “This Saturday let’s go on a DC bike ride.” or “This weekend, let’s go on an insert name of town here bike ride.”
I’m no marketing genius, but there’s gotta be a better name. How about Monumental DC Bike Tour? I like the word tour over ride, and since the highlights of the ride are the monuments and memorials, that seems like a catchier title. I digress…
Stylin’ in My Five Boro Bike Tour Jersey
The weather forecast leading up to the ride was much more promising than our previous monsoon of a ride. With temps expected to be in the mid-60’s at the start and no higher than the low-70’s at the finish, my new jersey from the Five Boro Bike Tour was the perfect choice. We even met a few other bikers who had also ridden in NYC who commented on my jersey. Every time we said the same thing, “At least it isn’t raining today!”
Getting To The Start
Bill and I arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot on the Virginia side of the Potomac River a few minutes before 6:30 AM where we’d agreed to meet our friends. While waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive, we had our friend Rich take our picture.
As our wait extended much longer than expected, I naturally needed to find a restroom. I’m always very good about hydrating and as a result, I’m always looking for a place to unhydrate. 😉
When the rest of our crew arrived, we headed on the path along the Potomac River toward the 14th Street Bridge, planning to stop at a restroom along the way. Bikers coming toward us said that the bridge was closed to bikers so after we found a restroom, we made a u-turn and hightailed it back toward the parking lot and beyond toward the Memorial Bridge.
Once we crossed the Potomac River, we had to carry our bikes down the steps next to Memorial Bridge to get down onto Ohio Drive for the easy ride to the starting line.
Seeding for Dummies
With an 8 AM start time, we were told that we must be in our corrals by 7:45 AM or we wouldn’t be granted access. I had visions of the Marine Corps Marathon and fenced off corrals with sentries guarding the few openings, checking bibs before allowing anyone through. My stress of arriving late was completely unfounded when we rolled up to the back of the pack and found no one kicking out late arrivers.
We quickly realized that we were probably too far back in the crowd and should move up. We had signed up as intermediates, but in hindsight, we probably should have chosen advanced and seeded ourselves at the back of that group. The grassy area along the side of the street was clear and we easily moved forward until we found an opening farther up in the intermediate section that had just enough room for our group.
Porta Potties Galore with No Lines in Sight
While waiting for the start, we made our way to the porta potties which hardly had any lines. This runner girl is always amazed when there are no lines for the potties! Worth noting is that unless you have a kickstand, you either have to lay your bike on its side or ask someone to hold it for you.
While meandering back from the porta potties, I witnessed a shark attacking a biker in a diving cage. The biker was happily posing for pictures so I supposed he wasn’t too frightened by the shark.
Roll, Stop, Roll, Stop…
As waves were started, we’d move forward for a minute our two and then stop until the next wave was released. It was a slow and steady process, but helped space us out and kept us from being packed like sardines after we started riding.
We were eventually set to roll with Chuck and Bonnie right behind us, but once we started moving we quickly got separated and didn’t see them again during the ride.
Rich was right behind us as well (taupe shirt, black helmet) and we played hide and seek with him the entire ride. With about 7,000 riders, it wasn’t always easy to find each other.
And We’re Off
As our bikes rolled under the banner we were officially off to see the monuments and memorials of DC!
In full disclosure, I hardly looked at the course map prior to the ride. Had I been running, I would have studied it, memorizing the important highlights.
As we started to roll down Ohio Drive, fond memories from my ten Marine Corps Marathon flooded through my mind.
The Potomac River was flooded from recent rain storms with water standing in the road at several different places along Hains Point. At a couple of places, the water stretched across the entire road and we had no choice but to ride right through the middle of ankle-deep water. As the majority of bikers slowed to a near stop, I did my best to avoid dismounting. Fortunately, the speed picked up just in time to pedal out of the water trap.
While riding out the Potomac River Freeway, we came to a sudden stop because there had just been a crash. As we made our way past an older gentleman (he was probably our age LOL) lying on the street, we could see that he was pretty banged up with blood on his face and arms. We didn’t see an ambulance, but as we rode by people were shouting for bikers farther behind us to move to the side so help could get through.
We rode out Whitehurst Freeway, made a sharp u-turn, and then rode back toward the city. In the video at the end of my recap, the news reported is standing at the turnaround point. It was much less crowded for our turnaround and we didn’t have to get off our bikes.
As we made our way back toward the center of the city we did a quick out and back on E Street and of course I was singing Bruce Spingsteen’s The E Street Shuffle in my head.
As we rode out Independence Avenue, Bill told me to ride ahead so he could get a picture of me riding with the Washington Monument on my left. Unfortunately, his GoPro (affiliate link) was mounted to his bike and I didn’t get into position quickly enough for both the monument and me to be in the picture.
As we rode across the 14th Street Bridge we stopped to look at the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument. How sad that there’s graffiti tagging stretching the length of he bridge.
While we were stopped, our friend Rich caught up with us (we’d been playing leap frog all morning). We took turns taking pictures before continuing on together.
Despite there being several rest stops and aid stations along the way, we had plenty of water and didn’t need to stop.
The Finish Line Already?
Just like with Bike NY, the finish line came up suddenly and took me by surprise. There’s such a difference in leisurely crossing the finish line of a bike tour and pushing to the max as you give it your all while crossing the finish line of a race.
My Garmin (affiliate link) showed the distance at 18.51 miles when I rolled to a stop just beyond the finish line. With a 4.65-mile ride to the start and a 3.64-mile ride back to our car, we finished the day riding a total of 26.8 miles. Our average pace for the official ride was only 11:97 MPH.
Finish Festival Fun
We debated leaving our bikes in the free valet parking area, but after standing in line about fifteen minutes we realized that retrieving our bikes could take much longer as more bikers finished and other riders returned to pick up their bikes. We left the line and just kept our bikes with us while tooling around the Finish Festival. Considering we only stayed a few minutes, it was a very wise decision.
Music was blasting from the stage while a lady lead a workout class. The stage and tables were at the far end of the festival and I don’t think many people were aware that seats were available.
Before we left, Bill snapped a picture of Rich and me with The Capitol in the background.
I returned the favor and captured this picture of Bill with the Washington Monument behind him.
After our pictures, we rode down the mall and back across the Memorial Bridge to our car. By the time we left, the tourists were out in full force and navigating around them became quite the challenge. At places it was easier (and safer) to dismount and walk our bikes.
Bill didn’t make a video after our DC Bike Ride like he did for the Five Boro Bike Tour, but here’s a short segment from NBC News 4 where the announcer is standing at Whitehurst Freeway.
We received a water bottle as part of our registration, but no shirt as has come to be expected at most running races. There were some cute DC Bike Ride shirts and jackets that we could have purchased at the Finish Festival, but we passed on buying anything.
Most likely, the DC Bike Ride was a one-and-done event for us. While we had a fantastic time at this well-organized event, we have plenty of local trails that aren’t nearly as crowded. Living just thirty miles outside the city, we can go see the monuments and memorials whenever we choose. We just have to make the effort!
- What other names do you suggest that would sound more enticing than DC Bike Ride?
- Have you been to DC?
- If you ride, have you ridden in a large group event?
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Happy Running! ~ Deb