THE OUTSIDE LINE

Alternative On Two Wheels

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

For me, cycling has always been an individual pursuit. There's nothing like riding under your open power, with 27 gears at your disposal and the open road ahead. As the body becomes hypnotized by the motion, legs pumping a rhythmic cadence mile after rolling mile, the mind can wander.

As a kid, I spent hours on my bike plying the streets of a Long Island summer town, daydreaming down roads without traffic lights, where the cars were guided exclusively by stop signs and rural gentility.

So I found myself last weekend in western Montgomery County, wending through the back roads around Poolesville, cruising by farms and fields, with no more company than the occasional horse I'd pass in a pasture.

Sugarloaf Mountain rose on the horizon like a dolphin fin above the water. The sweet smell of manure wafted in the air. Hills rose, at times severely, but always relented into long, languid descents along which I'd cascade with a feeling that resembled triumph. It's not a bad way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

For lots of people, though, cycling is a shared experience. Potomac Peddlers, a Fairfax-based nonprofit that is one of the largest cycling clubs in the country, offers rides virtually every weekend around the Washington region, for riders of almost every experience level and speed. To learn more, visit http://www.bikepptc.org .

Prefer to watch? Check out the Maryland National Off-Road Bicycle Association state championships today at Greenbrier State Park off I-70 in Boonsboro, Md. The beginners race starts at 10 a.m., followed by the intermediates at 11:30. Experts and professionals kick off at 2 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.potomacvelo.com .

To ride for a good cause, check out the Tour de Cure at http://www.tour.diabetes.org , which sponsors rides designed to raise money to combat diabetes.

There are two rides scheduled in our area. The first is May 13 in Columbia, the other is June 4 in Reston. Call 1-888-DIABETES for more information.

-- Christian Davenport

Have an item to list in the Outside Line? Send it to davenportc@washpost.com


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