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The Washington DC area is rich with opportunities to ride outside with those of like ability. These organized rides, not races, come in all sizes and distances. They all offer food and support if you get a flat or cannot finish. Be sure to get on some training rides before the big day -- your local bike shop (BicycleSpace has wonderful all levels rides) or cycling club (Potomac Pedalers has many options) can help. But most importantly, get out there and ride. Here are eight events worth putting on your calendar:
50 States and 13 Colonies Ride September, 2018 [15 or 32 miles]
Ride each of the 50 state street names for 62 miles or choose the 13 colonies for a 15 mile ride through D.C.. Washington Area Bicyclists Association does its best to organize groups by ability and provides a marshall to accompany each set of riders. The event ends with food and drink at a D.C. bar.
DC Bike Ride May 19, 2018 [20 miles]
This is Washington, D.C.'s only closed road cycling event. The event is family friendly with a big party at the end. It is a great way to see the monuments without worrying about four-wheeled traffic impeding the view.
Baltimore Tour Dem Parks Hon June 10, 2018 [5, 15, 25, or 35 miles]
Experience Baltimore as you pedal through its public parks, landmarks, waterfronts and distinct neighborhoods. Maryland’s MARC train even allows bikes on weekends, so you don’t have to drive. Full support provided with a post-ride BBQ to boot! All profits from the event are donated to cycling advocacy groups.
Cap 2 Cap May 12, 2018 [15, 25, 50, or 100 miles]
In 2015, Richmond put itself on the cycling map in hosting the week-long world championships. D.C., and the surrounding area has long been a haven for cyclists. With Amtrak expanding its roll-on bike service to Richmond, make it a weekend and pedal on world championship roads.
Armed Forces Classic June 10, 2018 [8 - 63 miles]
OK, so this is a race ... of sorts. The Armed Forces classic is the biggest cycling event in the DMV. You ride the same course as the pros, just a few hours earlier. Riders are equipped with timing devices to record each laps. Ride as many laps as possible within the 3.5 hour time limit then hang around and watch the pros.
C & O Canal Towpath Anytime [1 – 180 miles]
Cycling the C&O Canal requires one of two things: mental fortitude or a bunch of friends to keep your company. The towpath, or two dirt strips that you ride on, goes from Cumberland, MD to Washington, D.C. The visual rewards are impressive with scenes from a past civilization and the still active natural environment. Consider taking Amtrak or MARC to Point of Rocks, Harper’s Ferry or Cumberland and riding back down. Several tour companies offer guides and assistance for this trip.
[Pic: the author on a ride from Pittsburgh to D.C.]
Bike to the Beach -- August 2, 2018 [50 or 100 miles]
Ride to Rehoboth Beach and raise money for autism awareness. It's a mainly flat jaunt with plenty of rest stops and support along the way. Bike to the Beach consists of a fantastic community who provide training and fundraising assistance. And yes, they will bring you, and/or your bike, back to D.C. once the ride is complete.
Bike Virginia June 22-27 [1, 3, and 6 day options]
Bike Virginia is a camping bike ride where the genius of the route means you don't have to pack up every day before getting on the bike. Routes leave from the same site every other day, allowing you to enjoy the hills and prairies of the Commonwealth. Find some multi-day adventure without venturing far from home.
Looking for a private/smaller excursion? Bluemont Connection offers curated rides through some of the most charming backroads in the DMV. You'll be joined by several support riders and they feed you at the end.
So what are you waiting for? WIth the winter that never seemed to end finally allowing for spring, take those indoor cycling skills outdoors. Let your legs express themselves.