Bike Rides: From Take-It-Easy Tours to Off-Road Inclines

By Chris Richards
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 17, 2007

What did John F. Kennedy and Freddie Mercury have in common (aside from their fantastic coifs)? Both were bicycle enthusiasts.

It was none other than our 35th president who once said, "Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride." And if you've never heard the late Queen frontman croon, "I want to ride my bicycle," get thee to a computer and download the 1978 hit "Bicycle Race," pronto.

Heck, while you're at it, why not register for an actual bicycle ride? With bike clubs and other organizations hosting an array of rides and races all summer and into fall, it's easy to find an event to match your level of expertise.

(And if you need more than a classic rock tune to get you fired up, go watch the City Bikes RFK Criterium, a series of breakneck races, at RFK Stadium today starting at 8 a.m. Details at

Here are six scenic pedal-pushing pursuits that caught our eye, from easy-breezy day rides to nitty-gritty off-road races.

Cycle Across Maryland

Why waste a long weekend in beach traffic when you could spend the time pedaling across Maryland's Eastern Shore? This noncompetitive bicycle tour based in Princess Anne, Md., consists of novice and family-friendly rides that range from 17 to 100 miles. The rides roll through scenic wetlands, farmland, Janes Island State Park and Delaware's Trap Pond State Park; there's even a ferry ride across the Wicomico River. The event is run by One Less Car, an advocacy group that promotes bicycling, walking and using mass transit in Maryland.

July 12-15. Online registration closes June 29. $150, ages 13-17 $90, children $55. Meal plans and lodging also can be purchased. 410-235-3678.

50 States Ride and 13 Colonies Tour

Did Pierre L'Enfant have bicyclists in mind when he designed Washington's street grid? Find out for yourself on this ride hosted by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The event is low-key: Riders are given a few pages of route directions, and then they're on their own. The 50 States Ride visits all of the District's state-named streets and spans more than 60 miles. Those looking for a shorter trip can try the 13 Colonies Tour, a 15-mile ride that follows Virginia Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue . . . you get the picture. "It's a great ride to do with your friends," WABA executive director Eric Gilliland says.

Aug. 25. Registration information to be announced (last year, the recommended donation was $10). 202-518-0524.

Shenandoah Mountain 100

This off-road course in the George Washington National Forest near Harrisonburg, Va., is sure to test the mettle of the most masterly mountain biker. In an event run by Shenandoah Mountain Touring, riders will climb more than 14,000 feet of inclines and dart through myriad twists and turns over this 100-mile course. Challenging, yes, but don't forget to take in the scenery. "It's beautiful," race director Chris Scott says of the course. "It's a really remote back-country race, and it's a great opportunity for cyclists to ride a great distance." Afterward, participants are rewarded with commemorative pint glasses and, thanks to sponsor Old Dominion Brewing Co., some suds to fill them up. "We go through about 12 kegs, and it's a mellow, good time," Scott says. "One hundred miles gives you a lot of stories to tell."

Sept. 2. Registration open through race day. $150, after Aug. 5 $170. 877-305-0550.

Civil War Century

Bike enthusiasts and history buffs cross paths during this scenic tour in Thurmont, but don't expect to see anyone pedaling around in full Civil War regalia. The toughest of the five rides organized by the Baltimore Bicycling Club is a mountainous 105-mile trek that passes the South Mountain, Antietam and Gettysburg battlefield sites. For a breezier course, there's the Covered Bridge Quarter Century, a gentle 25-mile ride that crosses three bridges from the Civil War era. The Three-Quarter Century ride offers 6,400 feet of climbing over 77 miles, while the 62-mile Metric Century and 50-mile Half Century have all the farmland views without the back-breaking hills.

Sept. 8. Registration open until ride day. $25, after Aug. 27 $30. 410-653-2363.

Indian Head 100

This casual trek caters to bikers and bird-watchers alike as it winds through the rolling roads of Southern Maryland, where you might spot a blue heron or two. The ride kicks off at the town of Indian Head's Village Green, rolls through Smallwood State Park, provides great views of the Potomac and Port Tobacco rivers and wraps up where it started with a picnic. For those who aren't willing to go the full 100 miles, there are 63-, 29- and 16-mile rides. The event usually draws about 400 cyclists, and it's largely a family affair. Last year a father and son completed the 100-mile course. "And the son was only 8 years old," says Jim Hudnall of the Oxon Hill Bicycle and Trail Club, which organizes the rides.

Sept. 9. $20, day of the ride $25. 301-567-0089.

Charm City Cyclocross

When the trails get tough, the tough sling their bikes over their shoulders. That's the idea behind cyclocross, a form of bike racing in which riders speed across various surfaces and occasionally dismount to trudge through sand pits or climb over obstacles. The third annual Charm City Cyclocross will be in Baltimore's Druid Hill Park in September. "I would refer to it as a classic cyclocross course," says race promoter Kristopher Auer of Charm City Cycling. "There are four dismounts per [1.5-kilometer] lap, lots of grass, some pavement, some sand. It's a very technically demanding course." And though the race might be harsh on riders, it's much more hospitable to spectators. The start-finish area offers a view of most of the course, so you won 't suffer whiplash watching the riders zip past.

Sept. 23. Registration details will be announced in late August. 443-253-9055.

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