The 2015 WABA 50 States Ride

If the Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a signature ride, it has to be the 50 States (and 13 Colonies) ride. Seven years ago I did the full ride for the first time. It is a 62 mile winding route that goes on every street named for each of the 50 states here in the United States. It has changed a bit since the first time I did the route. It is a ride that really shows you the distinct parts of the district that many never get to see. The the full route has a cue sheet eight pages in length with well over 100 turns. The first few miles lull you into a false sense of ease as you traverse the monumental core from your starting point in Adams Morgan. After you cross the Anacostia river, you are quickly taken out of that sense of ease as you climb and descend the terrain of DC many times.

The first year I did the route the weather cooperated, however, in recent years the ride has gotten a reputation for being a harbinger of miserable weather. This year lived up to that reputation As if on cue, rain began falling right as the mass of cyclists made their way from Walter Pierce Park. The sight of so many cyclists filling the streets of DC was definitely something to behold. The ride sold out very quickly after being opened up to WABA members. The mood was festive and upbeat and everyone seemed to expect the sogginess. I started out the ride with Friday Coffee Club regular Bob and we rode together in the dense mass of cyclists. With all the zig-zagging on city streets, the mass of cyclists started to stretch out due to lights and traffic. By the time we got to Hains Ponit there was a group getting out of the 3 mile loop, and when we got out of the loop there was another group just entering. So 10 miles in, there was at least a 6 mile spread.

After Hains Point the route made a bee-line to the Anacostia river where we crossed over the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge, went down the bumpy path to Anacostia Park, and arrived at the first pit stop. I stopped to water up, ate another half banana, and then was on my way to the first of the climbs that would consume the rest of the ride. Once you leave Anacostia Park there is a long climb up Martin Luther King to Malcolm X and then some more climbing for good measure up Stanton and Alabama. It was somewhere in Anacostia that I ran over some rebar (or so I'm told, I didn't see it, I just heard it). Everything appeared to be fine, but when I got home that night I would see that the sidewall of my tire had been damaged, causing brake rub on the sidewall. Thankfully, it would not put a wrench in my ride. After a quick descent from the heights of Anacostia on Pennsylvania, we made a climb back up to Fort Davis, and then enjoyed a long and glorious descent down Massachusetts. After some zig-zagging we crossed the Anacostia river and headed over to our lunch pit stop at Eastern Market where a break in the rain was our reward for our work.

This year lunch was provided by District Taco (if you paid the extra $10, which I did) in the form of a burrito and chips. I made quick work of the burrito and talked briefly with Boomer who was marshaling the ride and then got back on my bike and headed back to conquer the remaining states. The relative flat of Eastern Market gave way to the steep (over 10% grade at times) but brief climb of Mt. Olivet that the cue sheet mentioned you might want to walk up -- I spun up to the top and then continued to climb to Petworth and then to Takoma. On the way to Takoma the rain reasserted itself with a vengeance. By the time we got to the pit stop there the rain was nothing short of torrential. One of the volunteers advised us to make a detour on the next leg of the route as 36th street had been flooded. I topped off my water bottle, had a gatorade, and used the tent's shelter to change the page on the cue sheet with a minimum of water damage, and I was off to enjoy the free shower and bike wash. Our route took us down into Rock Creek Park and into some beautiful neighborhoods that many people don't even know exist. Then we skirted the Maryland line for a while before looping down a bit before climbing back up to Tenleytown for our final pit stop.

At the Tenleytown pit stop there was free coffee, which as delicious as it appeared to be, I wasn't in the mood to drink. There was plenty of water which I happily consumed. The rain had given up at this point and I enjoyed chatting with the volunteers and thanking them for making the event possible. At this point we were 8 miles from the finish, but I knew what was ahead from my previous time on the ride. This was no time to celebrate, it was time to prepare. Essentially, to get Arizona Avenue in, we were about to go from one of the highest points in the district to a stone's throw from the the lowest. Then we would be climbing back up on hills steep enough to have houses on terraces. After nearly 60 miles it certainly lets you know you're alive. I remember doing the same climbs on a slightly different route in 2008 and finishing, but feeling exhausted afterward. It was a slow and solo affair. This year I felt strong, really strong. I was able to hang with a group of obviously experienced riders, and at the finish of the climbs I was actually leading for a bit. As the end was nearing I felt good, which was fortuitous, since after the celebration at the finish I had another 20 miles to go home.

The celebration was at one of my favorite pizza places, the Mellow Mushroom. Oddly enough, it was my first time visiting the DC location. Upon arrival I was issued the requisite t-shirt and a coupon for a free beer. The beer was delicious and soon gone. I got my favorite Mellow Mushroom pizza and had a few more celebratory beers while chatting with friends old and new before heading home on the bike. By the time I rolled into the driveway I had biked about 82 miles for the day.

Even though the conditions were less than ideal, I am glad I did the ride again this year. It showed me how far I've come over the last few years in my biking ability. I went from struggling to finish to finishing with the pack and adding on extra miles to ride home. With the prior week's century and commuting miles I rode nearly 400 miles in a fortnight while completing the first and third longest mileage days I've ever done in the same period. I have another big ride scheduled this year that I'll be riding with my friend Reba and I can't wait.

A Summer Ending Solo Century

Throughout the Summer I have been quietly telling myself that I would take off one Friday and go for a nice long bike ride. As each week passed I would have plenty of excuses and the long ride never materialized. As the Friday before Labor Day was approaching, the promise to myself left unfulfilled was front and center in my mind. So on the day before I decided no more excuses. I decided on a route, put in for the leave, and basked in the anticipation for what would become the longest ride I had ever done.

The route was simple. I would start out on the Mount Vernon Trail, go into DC to have coffee with friends at Swing's for Friday Coffee Club, and then I would keep on going up the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal all the way up to White's Ferry. From there I would cross the Potomac on the ferry, hop on US-15 into Leesburg and get onto the W&OD Trail. Around lunchtime I would take a spur into Ashburn to meet my wife at her office, then go back to the W&OD to take it to its Northern terminus in Shirlington. Then I would hop on the Four Mile Run Trail to get back to the Mount Vernon Trail, and then head back to my starting point. From start to finish, about 105 miles.

Friday Coffee Club

The first leg to Swing's was routine -- it is a trip I take most Friday mornings. I enjoyed talking with friends and got some encouragement for the trip ahead. With a big helping of coffee and pastry I fueled myself for the ride ahead. I have ridden the C&O Canal many times, but most of those times my bike was fairly heavily laden for camping along the towpath. For this trip my motto was "fast and light", or as fast and light as I get. The only things on my bike besides myself were my rack trunk (with tubes and tools for breakdowns) and my water bottle. In my estimates for how fast I would go, I looked at things through the lens of my previous adventures on the canal with dozens of pounds of gear. I was immediately surprised at just how fast I was going. My average speed was actually faster than my first leg on the paved Mount Vernon Trail. I was making good time.

Leaving the Beltway Behind

Along the way the canal reminded me of why I have fallen in love with it each time I've followed its crushed stone pathway. The sheer beauty of the place, and the solitude under its green tunnel are a tonic for the soul. When I reached the beltway I felt the reality of the trip come into focus and felt a big dumb grin go across my face.


Wide Water on the C&O

There is something almost hypnotic about the sound of tires on the towpath gravel. When combined with the meditative one-two-one-two of your legs as you pedal, it works wonders for clearing your mind. I saw ducks and herons in the shallow waters of the canal and felt the warm glow of the morning sun. This was a vacation day well spent. As I continued on the towpath, I made it to Wide Water, one of my favorite sections on the canal. It feels as though you are biking alongside a rocky canyon with still waters that serve as mirror-like surfaces to make the rocky sides even more impressive. Shortly thereafter I made it to Great Falls, where I took a short break to take some photos from the bridge over the rocks by the falls and to get a cold drink from the concessionaire. After watering up, I continued on my way.

Great Falls

Me at Great Falls

After a few more locks, the watered section of the canal ends and nature has taken back what was once dug out for water-borne commerce. Trees filled the old canal bed and many creatures enjoyed traversing the lush green ditch. At one point I came upon three deer. Two of them crossed my path before I got to them, but a third was not fast enough to do so. She ran alongside me on the canal bed for almost a quarter mile before finally getting enough steam to pass me. It was an exhilarating ride. After that encounter the canal's green tunnel thickened and the variation in the scenery dropped by the wayside. After passing by some hiker/biker campsites (one of which was occupied later in the day than I would have expected) I made my way to milepost 35 and White's Ferry.

Historic White's Ferry

Me on White's Ferry

By this time the Summer sun had mustered its full strength to make the day sultry and thirst inducing. I took the opportunity to get some Gatorade and water from the convenience store at the ferry and enjoyed every last drop. The ferry itself was quick, efficient, and pleasant with some time to savor my recently acquired refreshment. Two dollars got me from Maryland to Virginia on the cable towed vessel and after a short but steep climb, I was on my way to US-15 and Leesburg. On US-15 there was a wide-enough shoulder that allowed me safe passage, however, once it became Business-15 that disappeared entirely. Thankfully traffic was light, motorists were polite, and Leesburg wasn't very far. Soon enough Business-15 became North King Street and then South King Street and then I turned left onto the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W&OD) leaving motorized traffic behind.

I made some good time on the trail, and even saw Friday Coffee Club friends Ed and Mary on their tandem heading out to West Virginia. The scenery on the W&OD is not as rewarding as the C&O, but the smooth surface is a welcome change. One exception is the section near Luck Stone Quarry, where there are some impressive views of the quarry from the trail. Lunch with my wife at her office in Ashburn was waiting at mile 65 of my journey, so I didn't dally, keeping up my pace as the skies started to open up above me. As I reached Ashburn, an impressive electrical storm was commencing, and I made it to her office in the downpour where I was graciously greeted by some of her co-workers who were excited to meet her crazy husband who was making this long trek.

After 65 miles, the sandwiches, chips, and drinks that my wife had gotten for me were positively delicious. I practically inhaled them. It was so nice of her to go out and get everything for me in anticipation of my arrival, I'm lucky to have such a supportive wife. The break was longer than planned since the electrical storm showed no signs of relenting and thunder could be heard reverberating around the office. Finally, a break in the storm allowed me to head back out onto the road, retracing my route to the W&OD.

Iced Coffee at the Green Lizard

Once back on the trail there were menacing clouds behind me, so I went straight down to Herndon where after continuing to outrun the rain I made a quick stop at the Green Lizard for a delicious iced coffee. Afterward I returned to the trail and the clouds looked like they might catch me again. Thunder was heard and flashes of lightning lit me from behind, but thankfully they finally faded off in the distance behind me as I continued down to Vienna. After arriving in Vienna around mile 84 I stopped for water at one of the old train stations they have along the route. I ended up having a great chat with another cyclist named Lee while slaking my thirst who was going on his own long ride that day and rode along with me for the next few miles on the trail.

A Mural in Vienna

The Northern Trailhead of the W&OD

I enjoyed the descent into the Northern terminus of the trail at Shirlington and after a stop to take a picture of it, I was back on the bike and onto the Four Mile Run Trail. At this point I was starting to feel the mileage that I had undertaken on this sunny and hot day. The last few miles were on my very familiar Mount Vernon Trail, but I could feel myself slowing down as the miles made me more tired. I crossed the 100 mile mark in Jones Point Park according to my cycle-computer, and a bit before that on Strava. I took a break there to cool down and stretch and then went to Belle Haven Park to water up one last time. I decided to take my normal route with its last two finishing climbs and was happy to make it home before dark. It is the longest ride I have ever completed.

Jones Point Park

When I set out on my journey, I wasn't sure if I would be able to complete it. I had done a mostly full week of commuting in the preceding week, so I had many miles under my belt already. By the end of the weekend I surpassed 200 miles for the week. I ended up exceeding even my most positive expectations for the trip. I think this is due to my consistent riding all year and all those miles I have racked up on this record breaking year. I was surprised that while I was tired, I wasn't hurting at the end of the ride. It was great to be able to reach a personal goal and surpass my own expectations. It was definitely a fun ride.

Me at the end of the ride

Breaking mileage records everyday

I have been doing a lot of cycling this year. Last Year I hit 3,143.2 miles by the end of the year. This year I hit 3,000 miles by the middle of August, and as of this post I have surpassed last year's mileage record. Every mile from here on out is a new record for a calendar year.

Why is this year so much higher in mileage than the past? A big part of it is that I decided make my default decision for every commute to be to bike, unless there was a compelling reason not to do so. Comfort was not a compelling reason. nor was snow, nor rain, nor extreme temperature. Lightning, distant appointments, equipment failure, and illness were about the only reasons that kept me off the bike with a few exceptions. What I found out was that rain, snow, cold, and extreme heat just aren't that bad. On the days when I didn't bike, I missed biking. On the days when the weather was 3°F or when the heat index was at 110°F it was certainly challenging, but there was a sense of accomplishment in being able to test my limits and find myself up for the challenge. When it was pouring down rain, snow, or sleet I found out it just wasn't that bad. I've even come to enjoy riding in the rain. I have also started to take on the majority of the routine maintenance on my bike, which helps to reduce equipment related time off the bike.

In the Winter, Freezing Saddles helped me to stay motivated in the face of the cold weather and challenging conditions. As of this writing my highest mileage month was January at 455 miles, which is not something I would imagine most people would be able to say. February had my lowest mileage at 349 miles, due in large part to the lack of snow removal on my commuting route. But I was able to get around that by finding new routes and eventually wearing through my studded tires. I've biked in all but one week this calendar year (largely due to illness) and my mileage has been remarkably consistent.

Most importantly, it has been a lot of fun.

Bike Commuting in Spring: An Appreciation

After a long cold Winter, the beautiful Spring we have been experiencing this year has been deeply satisfying.  As the season has been progressing, I have been enjoying the changes that nature has offered up as temperatures have been steadily rising.

At first Spring brought challenges.  Instead of dressing solely for the cold, now you also had have appropriate clothing for the afternoon's warmer conditions, too.  It was well worth the price paid.  As the chill fell out of the air the first shoots started to make their way from the barren brown branches.  Suddenly, what had been stark and mundane exploded in pink and white as the first harbingers of the vernal renaissance, the cherry blossoms, came into their full splendor.  With the trees no longer barren, the paths also exploded with tourists enjoying the fluffy clouds surrounding the Tidal Basin.  The mornings, still brisk with the lingering memories of the winter cold, became awash in more and more sunlight shimmering over the Potomac. The trees became increasingly green in waves just as regular as those on the river they surround.

In time those small shoots became broad leaves providing some shelter from the sun on the trail, reminding me of life starting anew.  The green stalks of flowers broke through the ground after the ample rains. They reached ever skyward with delicate buds becoming an astonishing array of petals of every color soaking in the light from above.  Soon the mornings lost much of their chill and the air became heavy with the sweet perfume of honeysuckle and the vegetal bite of freshly cut grass.  As the temperature rose, the need for cover in the rain fell, and the sheer joy of cycling as gentle drops came down upon you took hold.  What may have been a source of annoyance in the preceding months became a source of child-like wonder and broadening smiles.

Eventually, the relative solitude I enjoyed on the trail in winter was replaced with an army of cyclists and runners savoring its every inch. People sat on benches and at tables to feel the warm breezes gently caress their skin while watching the beauty of nature.  New life entered the trail in the form of goslings, ducklings, turtles, and birds of every variety.  Each day brought new discoveries.  Gigantic bald eagle aeries, osprey nests, brief glimpses of a fox that failed to see you were there, deer watching you glide past them, and scores of people enjoying the beauty surrounding them. The air filled with birdsong, making the turn off the trail to go into work progressively more difficult each day.

If I were not on two wheels, pedaling through this verdant strip of ever-changing beauty, I would miss all of this.  Either with my hands angrily gripping my steering wheel in traffic, or by passing the time reading the paper filled with bad news on the train, I would merely be transiting through nature on the way to get somewhere.  On a bike, the journey is every bit as important as the destination. You are a part of nature, not apart from it. I am truly fortunate to have one of the most beautiful commutes in the world.

As Spring becomes Summer, I look forward to enjoying each moment of serendipity as I ride with the wind at my back and a smile on my face.

Bike to Work Day 2015

Every May the bike community has its biggest event of the year, Bike to Work Day. I have been a regular attendee, more often than not, every since I started commuting in earnest many years ago ... I have a whole wardrobe of t-shirts to prove it! The event is always a fun time, even when the weather doesn't cooperate, as it failed to do last year when I got to ford some flooded areas with water a foot deep.

This year was much more pleasant with temperatures in the upper 50s to mid 60s, mild winds, and many cyclists out on the roads and trails. I made it a point to get up early this morning so that I could have time to explore a few pit stops, hopefully see some friends, and enjoy the festivities.

My first stop was in Alexandria, Virginia, where I have stopped many years in the past. This year there was coffee from Misha's, donuts from Sugar Shack, and many informational booths from the likes of WABA and LocalMotion. I had a good chat with the folks at WABA, enjoyed my coffee and donut, and continued on toward the District.

The Alexandria Bike to Work Day Pit Stop

My next stop was a slight detour off the Mount Vernon Trail to Crystal City Bike to Work Day Pit Stop. Here there were bananas, bagels, Corner Bakery Coffee, granola, and a few informational tables. I had another hit of java (not quite as good as Misha's, but still pretty delicious) and half a banana (they had them pre-sliced) and then took back to the trail.

The Crystal City Bike to Work Day Pit Stop

After a few minutes at each pit stop, it was getting a bit later in the day, so the number of cyclists on the path took a rather dramatic up-tick. Next up was the location where I registered for my t-shirt, the Freedom Plaza Pit Stop in downtown DC. Years ago, this used to be the only real pit stop downtown. Now there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 in the region. While this makes it easier for people to have a stop near their place of work, it does have the downside of spreading out everyone so that you're less likely to see your friends while you're there. That said, there were still plenty of people at this pit stop.

The Freedom Plaza Bike to Work Day Pit Stop in DC

Being the traditional biggest stop of Bike to Work Day you tend to get some heavy hitters come down to speak to the assembled masses. This year included U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan, and DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan (speaking) and U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer

DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson

I got a chance to speak to Representative Blumenauer and discussed the possibility of the National Park Service maintaining the Mount Vernon Trail in the winter like they do the adjacent George Washington Parkway, he agreed that it would be a good thing to do. I also spoke to Greg Billing of WABA about it, who has a meeting with the George Washington Memorial Parkway staff next week and has that very issue on the agenda. With any luck, maybe things will change for the better.

Advocacy aside, it was a fun pit stop. I got to see a friend from the Friday Coffee Club, got another banana, a KIND bar, another Corner Bakery coffee, and an ice cold cup of water from DC Water. After all the giveaways were done I headed on to work, where I was happily greeted by one last pit stop, right in front of the office. After a having a bottle of water and getting some free bike gear, I headed in to get to the work part of Bike to Work Day.

Almost every day is Bike to Work Day for me -- riding in this morning put me over 1,700 miles for this year. It is fun to see what it could be like if even more people decided to get out of their cars, out of the buses, and onto two wheels. Maybe a few of them will stick with it. At the very least, I hope it will make those using other modes of transportation more courteous and accepting of those on a bike. While we still have a long way to go, things have improved dramatically over the last decade. I definitely look forward to more progress ahead.

The 2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival

Every year in DC thousands flock to the Tidal Basin to gawk at nature awakening from its winter slumber with an explosion of pink. The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates this ephemeral beauty and the traffic that comes along with it brings all movement to a crawl around the Tidal Basin. Luckily for me, I get to see the trees every morning on my bike commute before most of the tourists have left their hotel rooms. The ride home is a bit more exciting.

The first cherry trees were planted in 1912 as a gift of goodwill from the city of Tokyo. In 1935 the first Cherry Blossom festival was held and it continued until World War II, resuming afterward. There are several different varieties of cherry trees along the basin, but the Yoshino are the ones I see most along my route. The blossoms are quite short lived, usually lasting for less than a week with peak blooms for a few days. Rain and strong winds can shorten the fun, but we were lucky this year to have a gorgeous showing of Spring color with enough time for people to see them in their full glory.

Normally I make it a point to get down to the Tidal Basin when the blossoms are in bloom with my family to revel in the beauty of nature and to record it with my "good camera". Unfortunately, life didn't let that happen this year. However, I did get to take some photos using my cell phone's camera as I biked past the cherry trees on my commute and I thought I would share some of them here.

1,000 Miles Before Spring: A Freezing Saddles Odyssey

Although I haven't been posting with great frequency this Winter, I have been riding.

A lot.

As of this posting I have surpassed 1,000 miles before the first day of Spring.

This isn't the first year that I've bike commuted through the Winter months, but it is definitely the year that I have done it most. I decided to leave the excuses behind and bike as much as I could. Snow, sleet, rain, ice, unplowed paths ... I experienced it all this year, and it was a lot of fun. One thing that helped to motivate me was Freezing Saddles, a friendly competition run by some people on the Washington Area Bike Forum. The basic idea is that you get put into groups of 10 people and get points for riding (10 per day ridden, 1 per mile). My team is currently in 2nd place, after starting in 11th. I've definitely had a lot of fun with the competition, and have made some great new friends along the way. The competition goes until the last day of Winter (next week), but I will definitely keep the riding up, no matter what the weather brings.

One of the hardest parts of riding through the winter was the fact that the Mount Vernon Trail is not plowed. I have studded tires, and while they are almost magical on ice, snow and icy ruts are still a very challenging obstacle that can make a 14 mile commute quite difficult. Arlington County really stepped up to the plate this Winter and plowed their trails just like they plow their roads, but my route does not go on those trails. Alexandria City also has done a good job of clearing off some of the alternate routes I've found, for which I am grateful. Unfortunately, the National Park Service, who maintains my main route, the Mount Vernon Trail, did not follow suit. As a result, I found alternate routes into work with a lot more on-road riding with the help of other people on the forum. I now have a route that limits my exposure to the MVT when it is an icy mess to about a quarter mile, and avoids the 14th Street Bridge (which DDOT doesn't plow either) altogether. Hopefully the NPS and other governmental agencies will make alternate routes unnecessary in future years by plowing the path, but until then it is good to have another way to commute. The cost to plow a bike path is a rounding error in comparison to a 4 lane highway (in the same park). It is time to stop discriminating against taxpayers who don't want to use a car to travel through a national park.

What might surprise many people is that actual riding wasn't particularly hard or unpleasant this Winter. With the right gear, it is possible to be quite comfortable out there. The coldest day I went out on the bike was 0°F with a wind chill somewhere around -13°F. It was the only time during the Winter where my bike glasses formed a sheet of ice from the moisture from my breath (which also made icicles on my beard). It was surprisingly okay to ride, though. I had 4 layers on top (base layer, another wool base layer, wool jersey, and jacket), 2 layers below (fleece lined bib tights and wind pants), wool socks, biking boots, foot warmers, hand warmers, liner gloves, lobster style gloves, and a hat under my helmet. Although getting dressed could be a chore, once I got out there and my core temperature rose from riding, I was quite comfortable. A lot of people thought I was crazy to ride on some of the coldest days, but I always got into work with a big grin on my face that no other form of transport can provide. Every day I was on two wheels I was saving about $14 compared to metro (fare, gas, and parking) or $25 compared to driving (gas and parking). That adds up quickly, and even with the cost of maintenance and equipment, biking not only pays for itself, but generates a surplus.

I am looking forward to a lot more time on the saddle this year. I won't lie, it will be nice to have warmer weather and not need to spend a long time getting dressed for the ride. But, I will (and already do) miss the solitude on the trail on a cold Winter's morning, frost glistening under the first rays of the sunrise, everything quiet except the sound of my tires against the pavement and that of my own breath as I move alone beside a frozen Potomac River.

The First Snow Commute of 2015

This morning was the first snowfall of 2015 here in the Washington, DC area. The majority of the snow fell during the morning rush hours, so it also meant the first appearance of the "Snow Beard" this year. The icicles held on tightly for the duration of the ride and even managed to last until I had my shower at work.

The commute went pretty well, with only one bit of slipping and sliding at a hairpin turn, thankfully I landed on my feet. I put on my studded tires last night in preparation for today's ride and they have done a pretty good job so far. With lower pressures and increased rolling resistance, the ride took much longer than usual, but it was fun to be out in the snow.

Tonight will be more of a challenge as the tire tracks on the bridges and trails become icy ruts. Hopefully things won't get too bad out there tonight.

2014: The Year in Review

As we ring in the New Year, 2014 has come to a close. It was a good year for biking, 3,143.2 miles ridden on two wheels and 269 hours in the saddle. I had been out of the saddle for a while and started getting back on two wheels in April and May. On Bike to Work Day (May 16) there was a torrential downpour with flash flooding, however, I decided to stick with it, and made it in with a smile on my face and lots of water on everything else.

As June came along, my mileage started to rise as I rode a lot more consistently with 330 miles ridden that month. In July I had my highest mileage month of the year with 635 miles, or 1,012 km, my first time breaking one million meters. I rode into work all but 2 days. In the following months I kept riding consistently, although not to the same level as I did in July. Life tends to get in the way with appointments, illnesses, and the unexpected.

August saw my longest ride at 46.5 miles, where I biked from Alexandria to Ashburn to meet my wife to celebrate our 6th Wedding Anniversary. It was a fun ride down most of the Mount Vernon Trail, The entire Custis Trail, and the better part of the Washington and Old Dominion trail. I ended up making it there before lunch with time to spare.

December ended up being my second highest mileage month of 2014 with 503 miles biked and only 4 work days missed off the saddle. This was largely due to a decision to stop making excuses when it comes to commuting into work. In the past I would avoid riding in if it was raining in the morning, but I decided to reverse that decision (aided by some additions to my bad weather gear). I never minded riding in the rain, in fact, it can be quite fun. The problem was getting gear to dry out while at the office for the ride home. A new jacket helped to mitigate (but not eliminate) this problem and doing it consistently revealed that it wasn't as much of a problem as I had thought.

In all, I ended up biking all but two weeks since I got back on the saddle in April.

Aside from mileage, I have had some additions to my equipment and routine. I had my Brooks B17 saddle repaired after one of the rails snapped and in December picked up a Brooks Cambium C17 for an unbelievable deal from Bicycle Space during their moving sale. The Cambium will allow me to bike in extreme weather conditions without worrying about covers and damage to the leather (the Cambium is made of sprung rubber instead of leather). Both have their own seat post, so I can swap them back and forth, but for the Winter, I will probably stick with the Cambium -- it performs admirably well in a downpour and is quite comfortable.

The application Strava has also become a big part of my routine. I used it initially as a way to log my miles and collect some statistics without having to crunch the data myself. However, I've really enjoyed using segments to compete against myself and see how I am progressing. It also has been fun to connect with some other riders and get and give encouragement for efforts on the saddle.

For 2015 I hope to ride more consistently and in all weather conditions. I would like to log some longer rides as well, with an eye to doing at least a metric century and maybe even an English one. I also plan to add a heart rate monitor to my Strava logging to help me to reach fitness goals and increase my performance on the saddle. Most importantly, I am looking forward to another year of fun in the saddle.

Happy New Year and keep riding.

Bald Eagles on the Mount Vernon Trail

This morning on my commute I looked over across the George Washington Parkway near the outlet of Cameron Run and I saw two bald eagles sitting on a tree by the Belle Haven Country Club. The only camera I had on me was my cell phone, so this is a cropped version of a digitally zoomed image that is a little rough. There were hundreds of cars whizzing by and I doubt even one driver noticed them sitting high above. On two wheels, I was able to roll to a stop and enjoy a rare view of nature's splendor in my metaphorical back yard.
When you're on a bike, you're a part of your surroundings, not apart from them. It is a beautiful world out there, keep riding.