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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 07-01-07, 02:23 PM   #1
ericy
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Dry run for commuting on the 4th...

I have been putting this off for a while, and I had a family emergency that kept me off my bike for a month or so, but the time has come to bite the bullet and dry run the whole ride. For me it is about 18 miles each way - all on bike trails or on quiet side-streets. In past years, 40 mile rides have been common for me so the total distance doesn't scare me - just a matter of getting used to the heat again, and building up the endurance a little after the time out of the saddle. I just did 25 yesterday which went OK, so I figure that since I have the day off, I will take the time and give it a shot.

I have only been on the 1st 10 miles of the trail so far - as best I can tell, the bit that I have done so far has all of the hills such as they are, so I am hoping that the remaining 8 miles aren't a big deal.

When I get to the office, I will probably go inside, take a cold shower to cool down, rehydrate, eat, rest and surf the web for a bit , refill the water bottles, and then return. Basically to try and make this as much like a normal workday as I can so I can see how I feel when I get home.

I already have a pannier for clothes and stuff - still not sure about the laptop. I suppose I could go to the office without it if I had to. The laptop might just fit into the existing pannier if I don't pack too much other stuff...
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Old 07-01-07, 03:51 PM   #2
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My commute is not as long as yours is, but that is what I did (a dry run). In a week it will be easy. In two, you will start getting faster. In three, you'll wonder why you ever drove.

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Old 07-01-07, 04:14 PM   #3
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I take it you're riding the W&OD......which direction? If you're commuting towards Reston/Herndon, you've already seen the worst of the hills (just after Hunter Mill Road). If you're going in towards the district, the overpass over 66 is the worst (in both directions), but at least it's short.

Are you staying on the W&OD, or turning in on the Custis Trail? Past Ballston, it has some hills that are a bit worse on the return trip, but nothing that's worth writing home about. I think the hill up and over 66 is the toughest one.

I do a 43 mile RT from Herndon to Ballston, and it's much more hilly getting to the trail than it is once you're on it.
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Old 07-01-07, 04:42 PM   #4
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Dry run for commuting on the 4th
Ya, keep your powder dry, and wear some sunglasses to help with the rockets red glare!
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Old 07-01-07, 06:07 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by kokomo61
I take it you're riding the W&OD......which direction? If you're commuting towards Reston/Herndon, you've already seen the worst of the hills (just after Hunter Mill Road). If you're going in towards the district, the overpass over 66 is the worst (in both directions), but at least it's short.

Are you staying on the W&OD, or turning in on the Custis Trail? Past Ballston, it has some hills that are a bit worse on the return trip, but nothing that's worth writing home about. I think the hill up and over 66 is the toughest one.

I do a 43 mile RT from Herndon to Ballston, and it's much more hilly getting to the trail than it is once you're on it.
Yes, starting in Vienna on the WO&D, headed outbound. At the 10 mile mark, I hit Fairfax County Parkway, and then follow the trail there down to about I-66 where the office is. It is the bit along the parkway that I haven't done yet - I see lots of bicycles there - both on the shoulder and also on the trail.

Just for fun, I did try a ride inbound - there was that big hill just after I-66...

I also ride an OCR2 - we may pass each other some day...
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Old 07-01-07, 08:07 PM   #6
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Cool......although, on my commute, I ride my JTS....in safety orange, you can't miss it.

So...on the Fairfax County Parkway.....It's fairly straightforward - Just take the exit of the W&OD in Reston, and turn onto the parkway. It's a small climb to the high point at the top of the Toll Road, then slightly downhill towards 66, with some rolling hills.

Things to watch for:

Crossings at the Toll Road, Sunrise Valley, Fox Mill, West Ox, etc. Drivers tend to rush into the crosswalk without looking, in hopes of making the right turn. With all the Northbound traffic, they never get to sneak in, but they DO NOT see a cyclist, even when I'm all lit up, and in the middle of the intersection. They also tend to stop right in the middle of the crosswalk, too. That's why I carry an Airzound.

The path runs along the Parkway all the way down, but I don't know what the crossing is like at Route 50....so your dry run is a good idea. Between West Ox and Franklin Farm Road, there's a steep downhill/uphill with a NARROW bridge at the very bottom. There's some guy doing Tai Chi right in the middle of the bridge some mornings, so be careful. I take the shoulder in that section.

If you're comfortable on the roads, (up to you of course), Sunrise Valley Drive inbound shaves about 10 minutes off the trip, and is a fun downhill ride - there are 3 downhills leading up to the W&OD crossing at the bottom of SRD. Going towards home, I take SRD to South Lakes to Reston Parkway. Lots of cars, but they (usually) give me a wide berth.

Good luck - post again after you try it out.....
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Old 07-01-07, 09:13 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by kokomo61
Crossings at the Toll Road, Sunrise Valley, Fox Mill, West Ox, etc. Drivers tend to rush into the crosswalk without looking, in hopes of making the right turn. With all the Northbound traffic, they never get to sneak in, but they DO NOT see a cyclist, even when I'm all lit up, and in the middle of the intersection. They also tend to stop right in the middle of the crosswalk, too. That's why I carry an Airzound.

The path runs along the Parkway all the way down, but I don't know what the crossing is like at Route 50....so your dry run is a good idea. Between West Ox and Franklin Farm Road, there's a steep downhill/uphill with a NARROW bridge at the very bottom. There's some guy doing Tai Chi right in the middle of the bridge some mornings, so be careful. I take the shoulder in that section.
Cool - thanks for the tips.

I drive the parkway heading home, and I have been trying to pay a little attention to the bike path. At Route 50, there are a couple of crossings not unlike what there are around the toll road, so I expect that caution will be required. The parkway goes up and over US 50, and the bike path follows the parkway up and over the bridge. I don't know how much traffic to expect at those crossings - won't know for sure until I try this on a real work day.

Sunrise Valley is worth considering - according to gmap-pedometer, it would only cut about 1/4 mile, but you make it sound kind of fun . I don't mind riding on the road as long as the quality of the pavement is good, and the drivers aren't all pretending that they are driving Formula-1.

There is about a half mile near the office that is the only question mark. I *think* there is a trail that connects, but if there is, it is in the woods somewhere that I cannot see from the road. I just see where the path comes out at the intersection, but I am not positive where it ends up. Part of the reason for the dry run is to nose around and figure this part out.
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Old 07-02-07, 11:11 AM   #8
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Good luck on Wednesday. As far as riding on SRD - I've gotten comfortable with it, but you'll need to decide what works for you. Make sure that you're highly visible, and that you watch for folks coming in from the side streets or turning in front of you. The interesctions at Soapstone and South Lakes have lots of folks doing a 'no stop' right run on red - they'll look right at you, but they don't see squat.
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Old 07-04-07, 01:44 PM   #9
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Good luck - post again after you try it out.....
It went OK, I guess. A couple of observations. The weight of the pannier wasn't something that I really thought about before, but I started to feel it in the ride. The trick seems to be to not overpack . Although I suppose for training purposes it doesn't hurt to carry extra weight (anyone want to borrow my dive weights ?). I had originally thought of bringing my laptop in a pannier - right now I am starting to think I can live without it.

The trip down Fairfax County Parkway went OK - I had an 8-10mph headwind most of the way, or so it seemed, so it was a lot of work getting down there. Parts of the bikepath have minor potholes and frost heaves, but it was still quite ridable. There were some sections (esp closer to I66) with a good downhill that winds around back and forth, so it really isn't safe to tear down those things at full speed .

At the parkway and Monument Dr, the trail goes off into the woods, so I wasn't sure where it ended up. Turns out it dumps you out at the intersection of Fair Lakes Parkway and Fair Lakes Circle, which is optimum for me. On the return trip however, the trail dumps you out into a blind intersection where people turn right off of the parkway - there are trees and bushes that go right up to the road that block the view around the corner. In my mind, that was the most dangerous intersection.

The return trip on the parkway was a lot easier - according to the topo map, there is an overall drop in elevation of about 100 feet going back to Herndon, and not having the headwind was an added bonus. The heat was worse in the middle of the day, so I took it slower to avoid overheating. While I took the bike path this time, I am tempted to try the shoulder in the sections where it seems like one can ride them safely. Hard for me to say how long it took overall - I think 1hour 40 for the 18.5 miles going down, which will get better as I ride more.

Other than that, not much else to say. On a holiday, nobody is at our building to give me grief about bringing a bicycle into the office. At our company nobody would care, but you never know about the others. Although yesterday I did spot a bike rack (wave style) by the side door next to the loading dock, so it isn't like it would be a show-stopper if anyone gave me crap about it.
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