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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Biking DC: a Veteran’s Guide to the DC Area’s Best Rides


DC is a car city–we all know it. The traffic is, in some places, one of the country’s worse, and anyone can testify that downtown in the evening is a mess. But what if we didn’t have to spend all our travel time boxed into large, vapor-emitting metal cans? Guess what–we don’t.

Since the beginning of the year, most of my shorter distance travels have been by bike, a form of transportation which, since the beginning of public programs supporting its distribution, has gained a lot of attention as a cleaner and healthier alternative to driving. For me, commuting between school and home takes around fifteen minutes, and I use this time both for exercise and entertainment. DC, with its capital bike share programs and general biker-friendly quality, is excellent for anyone seeking to use a bike as a means of transportation and exploration. With the arrival of summer and optimum biking season, getting out (if the IB lets you) is a must. Below is a list of the five best bike rides I have experienced around town, from the short and scenic to the long and hard.

  1. Capital Crescent Marathon (26 miles)

For those seeking a long, easy ride through some interesting scenery (a one-day outing during the weekend, perhaps), this journey is a must. Starting from Georgetown, riders follow the Capital Crescent Trail, which skirts around the DC side of the Potomac for around 8 miles, then turn, passing through Bethesda towards Silver Spring, where the trail meets its end. Those with a sense of adventure however, will reach the terminus and turn back towards the Rock Creek trail, for a more entertaining pedal towards the home, making their way along the creek and to Connecticut Avenue. Expect beautiful forest scenery at the start and end, interrupted by a tasty lunch at Bethesda Row, and finishing with a snack at one of Connecticut’s “froyo” shops as a final reward.

The scenery around the Capital Crescent Trail is especially beautiful in the fall. Photo credit: Maxime Rotsaert

    2)   Great Ride to Great Falls (30 miles)

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This ride is fairly difficult if done at speed and takes around three hours, but the scenery, especially the falls, is entirely worth it. Start at the end of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Georgetown and simply follow the path, progressing at around ten miles an hour to arrive in ninety minutes. Riders can explore the canal, enjoying the beautiful water locks, houses, waterwheels, and more. The scenery is beautiful throughout and can be enjoyed year round, from the lively buds of spring to the quiet beauty of winter. The only tips I recommend prospective riders should heed are the importance of using a bike with large tires, due to the gravelly nature of the path, and to beware of the occasional narrowings of the trail, which nearly cost me a fall into the canal. Altogether a very enjoyable ride, and probably my personal favourite.

Great Falls in winter. Photo credit: Maxime Rotsaert

3) Mount Vernon Trail and Mall (32.2 miles)

Best done in summer or spring, this trail is both beautiful and historically important. Starting from the Key Bridge, follow the Mount-Vernon Trail until George Washington’s mansion, then head back before crossing the river on George Mason Memorial Bridge. Be sure to stop by Roosevelt Island and Alexandria where you can stop for a bite to eat or to take in the view of the area. At Gravelly Point, spot planes as they travel mere yards above your head before landing at Reagan National Airport. The end of the ride is the sweetest, however, as one passes along the tidal basin and Japanese cherry trees, before ending in Georgetown. 

The Lincoln Memorial, a favourite destination on the mall. Photo credit: Maxime Rotsaert

4) Ride to the Top  (50 miles)

A longer take on the Capital Crescent Marathon, this follows the entirety of the Rock Creek Trail from the end of Beach Drive to Lake Needwood in Maryland. This ride is a journey, and plan to spare at least three hours on getting to and from the lake. Do not be scared of the length, however, for it can be taken casually and does not involve difficult hills. The scenery is remarkably beautiful and will make the trip perhaps the most enjoyable on the list. The best time to enjoy this ride is the weekend since beach drive is closed to cars and bikers get the road to themselves. Bring water and a snack to keep yourself energised all the way through.

Montgomery County’s Lake Needwood is the ride’s final destination. Photo credit: Aaron Skolnick via Wikimedia Commons

5) Great Eastern Loop (40 miles)

This loop takes riders across the eastern expanses of the DMV area, through Glen Echo, Potomac Village, Chevy Chase, and Rock Creek Park. Discover new areas of the DMV and burn calories at the same time in this great weekend activity. The ride is long, yet does not feel like a challenge, as hills are short and sparse. The only major issue is hydration–especially on summer days, and so bringing water bottles is a must. Follow Reservoir road onto MacArthur Boulevard, then turn onto Falls road until River road, follow left until Norton.  Later turn left onto Glen Road,  left again onto Falls road, and right on Tuckerman lane.  Finally, at Grosvenor Place, turn right, and ride until Beach Drive, following it to the end.

Bikes at a bridge in Rock Creek. Photocredit: Maxime Rotsaert

In all cases, bring water to stay hydrated and make sure to have an alternative if you have a flat tire. The above photo was taken while waiting for an Uber driver to rescue me after my back tire broke. These rides are fun, but taxing, so it’s best to be prepared. Good luck in your adventures.


                                                                                                                          By Maxime Rotsaert



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