Last Saturday marked the first Cider Ride put on by the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA). WABA has done the Vasa Ride every spring for a number of years which tends to be pretty cold but until now there has never been a WABA organized ride in the dead of winter. The ride sold out which speaks to the growth and passion for cycling in the DC region.
Washington, DC as a general rule is not a tropical paradise in the month of December. To add temptation (or motivation), WABA promised hot cider along the way and hard cider (or other adult beverage of your choice) at an after-ride party. Hence, the ride name. Ok, I’ll bite.
Riders had the option to sign up for the 60, 35 (which turned into 47 miles), or the 15 mile versions. I chose the 60 mile Honeycrisp (thats right, all the rides were named after apples) version. Of course, I signed up for this ride during a warmer time. I started to reconsider my course of action a little as the week approached, the mercury plummeted, and forecast deteriorated. In the end, I decided to cowboy up and ride the 60 mile version.
The day of the ride, I awoke to near freezing temperatures as I wrapped myself in multiple layers of merino wool before I left. As I wheeled my bike out the door early enough to ride the longer Honeycrisp route, I wondered if I was crazy.
Thankfully, I was not crazy. Once I arrived at Canal Park I found John (a.k.a Rootchopper) looking cold but chipper as always. Soon, I got the opportunity to finally meet Justin and Peter, known from Twitter, but I had never actually met before. Soon, Mary and Ed (The Kind & Queen of Caffeine) rolled up on their Co-Motion tandem. We all rolled out together as the ride started.
The route became challenging fairly quickly as the route steepened along Good Hope Road in Anacostia. This first hill devastated the cohesiveness of our group. I had intended to ride with John most of the day but the hill and smaller wheels on Little Nellie slowed his progress. I hung back for a while but eventually fell into a comfortable pace with Justin and Peter. Meanwhile, Ed and Mary were far ahead of us on their bicycle built for two. It is amazing to watch them move that Co-Motion with such speed and synchronization.
Along the way, our group rode through District Heights, Bowie, and Largo. As Justin and I rode through a neighborhood in District Heights Justin noticed a bird soaring in the sky. He slowed down, pointing skyward. “Is that a Bald Eagle?” he exclaimed. Sure enough, the eagle was turning slow circles in the sky possibly looking for prey (hopefully, not us). It was one of those terrific moments during a ride that just makes you stop and watch.
Slowly but surely the urban and suburban environment released its grip on us eventually transitioning into a mostly rural landscape with the occasional McMansion around Queen Anne, Maryland.
The halfway point of the Cider Ride was a stop at Queen Anne Farm. This provided an opportunity to stuff my maw with Chips Ahoy and hot cider. As I pulled into the pit stop Mary felt it necessary to snap a photograph as evidence of my attendance.
After consuming a few calories and warm cider, we topped off our water bottles for the 30 mile trip back to DC. Immediately after leaving Queen Anne Farm the road deteriorated considerably to the point there were too many potholes to warn other riders. It was hard enough to maintain my grip on the handlebars. It all got a little ridiculous so I started to sing with the continuous potholes rumbling under my tires to create a tremolo effect to my voice. No standing ovation from the audience was to be had. After a couple of miles we emerged from the “road” with sore butts and hands but still in a festive mood.
As we started to reconnect to the suburbs near Landover, MD, Justin, Peter, and I caught of glimpse of something on the horizon ahead. Was it a bird or a plane? Nope. It was Ed and Mary on the tandem approaching Fed-Ex Field, home of the Washington Professional Football Franchise which doesn’t actually play in Washington, DC (this is a whole other story). We quickly caught up to enter the Fed-Ex Field grounds as Mary turned her camera rearward at us.
I had never been to Fed-Ex Field so it was an thrill to ride my bike around it on empty streets. Little did we know the utter destruction the Washington football team would be subjected to the next day.
The five of us stayed together for the rest of the ride. We reentered the District of Columbia near Fort Dupont Park. I had previously looked at the elevation profile of the ride so I knew there was one major downhill with a series steep but short uphills. In other words, the Cider Ride was ending basically like it started…… with hills. Our group turned right onto Massachusetts Avenue for the downhill portion. This is a relatively steep and long downhill section where considerable speed can be achieved. I had previously ridden this section of road during the WABA 50 States Ride from two years ago so I knew what to expect. Justin challenged me to reach 35 mph on the downhill. Sadly, on knobby cross tires and a 48 tooth front chainring was not a recipe for speed. In the end, I could only manage 33 mph. I hung my head in shame.
As expected, the last few miles of the Cider Ride made you earn it. As we turned onto Southern Avenue, a steep and multi-block uphill stared us right in the face. This hill was followed by another set of hills. The WABA staff member who designed this route definitely wanted to punish us and/or make us work for adult beverages. However, our group of five would not be denied. Eventually, we made it back through Anacostia, over the 11th Street bridge, and back to Canal Park.
After the ride, WABA held a post-ride party at Park Tavern featuring food and drink specials where hard cider flowed like water. I chowed on some Italian flatbread pizza and a cold beer while I enjoying a room full of the who’s who of #Bikedc.
Overall, I had a great ride. I felt strong the entire day which allowed me to enjoy my surroundings and the people around me. The route was well chosen despite its diabolical hills at the end. Prince George’s County has a long way to go in terms of bike infrastructure. It is very random and doesn’t really connect to anything. However, it is making steps in the right direction. I got to ride on new roads which is a reward in and of itself.
I want to thank WABA for organizing a great event, Queen Anne Farm for the use of your farm as a pitstop, and Park Tavern for the hospitality afterward. Finally, a huge thanks to #Bikedc for coming out and proving your support for cold weather cycling in DC.