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Old 03-22-11, 07:09 AM   #1
rpolt
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Best way from DC into VA (towards Manassas) / Leading Road Cycling Tour

I am leading a group of 20+ road cyclists on a three day tour of the Mid-Atlantic states. On day 1, we'll be riding from North Baltimore to Manassas, VA, heading through the Mall in DC. For the life of me, I can't figure out a sensible and safe route out of DC, into VA, and down towards Manassas. I don't know anything about riding in that area other than what I've learned from reading the maps. We're all very experienced road riders/racers, but that said ... I don't want us risking our lives.

1) Any advice on the smartest and most pleasant way to get into VA without having to ride on dirt or get off our bikes?
2) Can anyone point me to a cue sheet for a good route down towards Manassas.

Thank you on both fronts!
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Old 03-22-11, 10:23 AM   #2
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Have you checked: bikewashington.org (several possible routes), fabb.org (local bike advocacy), or Potomac Pedalers Touring Club (bikepptc.org) for ideas? The PPTC folks (also check their "Pedalers" google group at http://groups.google.com/group/pedalers ) should be able to come up with something that works. You may want to ask in the Southeast regional forum and the touring forum as well.

My thoughts: Take Key Bridge out of Georgetown to west on the Custis Trail, continue west on W&OD (Washington & Old Dominion). In the Reston or Herndon area (multiple food & rest stop options), I would start heading south. There is a side trail on Fairfax County Parkway that will get take you south at least as far as Rt 50 (and it picks up again past 66 - not sure how you get thru the Fair Oaks area in between!) if you don't want to use the subdivision streets. I would take Stringfellow Rd and Clifton Rd or a combination of Union Mill, Compton, and Clifton Rd into Clifton (another good rest stop/food break). I've rode down that way once with a friend last summer and I **think** we took Stringfellow Rd + Union Mill + Compton into Clifton and Clifton Rd back. Some sections of Compton I recall were NARROW but light traffic at least on a Sunday morning and rideable for experienced cyclists. I'm unsure how I'd go south of Clifton - I don't know how rideable SR 643 and SR 663 are into the Manassas area.

If you go slightly further west on the W&OD to Herndon, you can take Van Buren/Monroe south (approx MP 19.5 on W&OD - several food possibilities nearby and by the caboose at MP 20), then use subdivison roads and eventually pop out onto Centreville Rd (SR 657). Or go a bit further SE to Stringfellow. Centrville Rd has a rideable asphalt side path on the northbound side, and the road is rideable at least on weekends IMO. I use this as part of a commute from the Herndon area to Chantilly. Walny Rd might be rideable from there towards Manssas. There is a paved side path on the northbound side of Rt 28 south of I-66 and US-29, sorry but I do not recall where it starts. Other than the side path south of Cenrtreville, Rt28 is an absolute AVOID in my opinion. I'd also try to not be on the roads during the AM and PM commute times. NoVA drivers are in way too much of a hurry to get to the next stop light or backup.

Tourist option: The Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy access is bike accessible via Air & Space Parkway, Wall Rd, and Centreville Rd (near Kinross Circle). The A&S Pkwy is open all the way to Wall Rd as of a few months ago - online maps and aerial pictures (including google's) are not updated yet. There is ample bike parking at the museum and no admission or parking charges for bikes. The road south of the museum across Rt 50 is closed to visitors, so you'd have to ride east back at least to Centerville Rd and proceed from there.

PM me if you'd like details on how I would go from Herndon as far as the Chantilly area or Clifton. When are you going? Hope this helps.
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Old 03-22-11, 10:31 AM   #3
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Great feedback. Thanks for the thorough ideas. I think this whole thing is coming down to a philosophical choice about what the most enjoyable trip will be from Baltimore down to VA (and touching DC). The question to ask is this: is it crazy to be so close to our Nation's capital and NOT to ride through it's heart? OR... will the experience degrade so much from the overall enjoyment of the day that we should touch DC up north and skirt it altogether -- entering VA from MD? I don't have enough experience in the area to know the answer, but I feel like all my friends who are flying down to Baltimore will want to say they rode through the Mall.

I'll look at your suggestions closely. Thx!
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Old 03-23-11, 02:28 AM   #4
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Couldn't be easier to get from DC to VA if you take the Custis/W&OD route. Can't help you getting in from MD, except from Bethesda, where you can take the Cap Crescent Trail.
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Old 03-23-11, 07:32 AM   #5
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I ride between Manassas and Falls Church a couple times each year. I've explored many routes and keeping in mind hills, traffic and avoiding going too far out of the way, this is the way I would take.

From DC, either take the Custis Trail to the W&OD (several hills) or the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail to the W&OD (6 miles longer but no hills).
W&OD west to around mile 11.5 / Vienna Community Center. Cross in front of VCC to Cherry
Vienna to Fairfax City - Cherry, Center (R), Locust (L), Courthouse (L), into Nottaway Park (L), left hand parking lot to trail at end, Vantage, cross I-66 at Vienna Metro, straight and bear right around the construction onto trail thru woods, cross Lee Highway to diagonal side at the light to trail on left thru woods, cross Arlington Blvd (Fairfax Blvd) to diagonal side and south on Pickett, Old Picket (R), Old Lee Highway (L), North (R), University (L), right at light at GMU campus, Ox Rd/123 (L, sidepath on L optional)
Fairfax City to Manassas - Braddock (R, sidepath south side optional), cross Centerville Rd/28, Old Centreville Rd (L), Compton (L), Ordway (R), cross Bull Run turns back into Old Centreville, Polk (R), Manassas Dr (L), Mathis (R), Main (L)

Here's the map of the route http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=4370142
Relatively straight shot and low traffic (Braddock can be busy so you might want to use the side path). Some rolling hills on Braddock Road, but other than a couple of hills on the W&OD, one on Old Lee Highway and Ordway crossing Bull Run, the route is gentle.

ks1g's suggestion would be more adventurous and add a few miles. If you take that way I'd strongly recommend skipping Clifton and going west at Braddock Road (following my route)

For scenery, I'd favor my route over the other. W&Od is scenic, as are Vienna and Old Town Fairfax. You could also do a loop through the GMU campus. Braddock Road is just ok, but much better then the Fairfax County Parkway/Stringfellow stretch.

Is this a one day ride or a multi-day.

If I were leading a group, I'd probably ride through DC. Which route are your using to get to DC? The one parallel to route 1?
Depending one where you come in from, there are options on good routes.

Last edited by cc_rider; 03-23-11 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 03-25-11, 11:11 AM   #6
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rpolt, apologies--sounds like contacting Crista did not pan out.

Here's a route that we (Baltimore Bicycling Club's 'rando ramblers') use to go from the heart of Baltimore to the heart of DC leaving from the Baltimore Washington Monument and riding to the DC Washington Monument. The route was authored by 'greaterbrown' who resides on BikeForums, too. We've used this route for about 3 years, now:

http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path...nt-to-monument

I'm pointing this toward you in case you do want to ride into the city (but you'll have to come up with your exit route)

I don't recall where you are starting your ride, but if you need help with a route, say, from Towson (northside) or the eastside (Essex/Rosedale/White Marsh), I may be able to help with that too.

My Bikely routes are here:

http://www.bikely.com/listpaths/by/NoRacer

There may be something there that you can use.

Last edited by NoRacer; 03-25-11 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 03-28-11, 09:22 AM   #7
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There's another way to cross the river and get to the W&OD -- go from the Jefferson Memorial, cross on the 14th St. Bridge, then go north on the Mt. Vernon Trail to the pedestrian bridge at Roosevelt Island. Take that bridge into Rosslyn; it empties onto the VA end of the Key Bridge. There's probably still construction on the small bridge that you'll see once you cross the river, but they have an open lane for the trail.
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Old 03-28-11, 11:06 AM   #8
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14th Street Bridge make sense if you are going south to Four Mile Run.
If you are going north to the Custis, might was well take a prettier crossing at the Memorial Bridge or Key Bridge.
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Old 03-29-11, 03:18 PM   #9
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hmm anyway to get on this tour? sounds like a nice route
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Old 07-25-11, 07:47 PM   #10
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Cc_Rider,

A few months ago, you gave me some really fantastic route advice for a ride I am planning (see this thread: http://bit.ly/nbU71H). At the time, I thought my day one route would take me from Baltimore through DC and to Manassas. Well, much of the feedback told me to skip Manassas and make Leesburg my Day 1 destination – which I did.

As you can see from this more recent thread (http://bit.ly/qsOzY1), folks are advocating that I take the W&OD/Custis trails out to Leesburg from DC. But I am reticent to do so much riding on a trail system … too much dodging of people for a fast paceline of road cyclists.

Do you have some good ideas about how to get me from DC out to Leesburg? This is what I have done so far on the route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/29978916 (ignore the fact that I’ve started to take us out on the MD side). My thinking was to go up in MD and then take the Ferry over the river. But now I’m not so sure. We’ll be about 2/3 of the way through our century when we hit the Mall in DC, so we have 33-45 miles or so to play with to reach our destination, the Comfort Suites in Leesburg (80 Prosperity Avenue).

Thanks in advance for your insights.

-Rich
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Old 07-26-11, 07:50 AM   #11
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What day of the week and time of day will you riding from DC to Leesburg. Depending on the "when" the W&OD may not be very crowded.

Custis / W&OD is the most direct. It's well paved, relatively wide and a pretty ride. There are some busier patches in the towns (Falls Church, Vienna, Reston, Herndon) with less traffic between. If you are not going through during peak times, a large group riding respectfully would not be a problem.

There are road alternates to parts of the W&OD, but these add a lot of miles and can be very hilly on busy roads. There is road alt from Ashland to Leesburg, but this skips a pretty and isolated stretch of the trail.

Maryland side is an option. Here's a possible route.
http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=4672685
MacArthur is a pretty route out of town. As you reach the top of the hill as it turns into Falls Rd, look to your left for the remains of an abandoned gold mine (at the entrance road to Great Falls). River Road north (and south) of Potomac is VERY busy, so I suggest Glen instead. The upper part of River Road is less crazy. I've not taken it beyond Willard, but I think the North end is still ok to White's Ferry. On the Virgina side, route 15 is scary for biking, but you don't stay on it for long.

Have fun.
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Old 07-26-11, 03:24 PM   #12
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Thanks so much for the great advice cc_rider!

We will be doing this leg on a Saturday. I expect to be leaving Baltimore at roughly 6:00 am which means we would be hitting the trails in NOVA at around 11:00. Seems to me that this is prime time for people to be on the paths, and a compelling reason for us to ride up on the MD side (correct me if I'm wrong). Besides, I like the sound of the route on the MD side.

Two other Qs: 1) Is crossing the ferry a relatively easy endeavor (i.e., are the waits terrible or does it move pretty quickly from ride to ride), and 2) I'm having trouble opening the link you sent for the MD route. Sure it's the right one?
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Old 07-26-11, 06:15 PM   #13
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Your welcome.
W&OD busy time is weekends and after work, so you probably would reach it at the relatively crowded time.
The roads on the Maryland route are narrow and some (like MacArthur and River) can have a lot of traffic, so be careful.
1) I've ridden by white's Ferry several times on the C&O but I've never crossed on it. Supposed to be easy, since a lot of commuters and cyclists use it, but I don't know the current wait times.
2) The link opened fine for me.
The cue for the route
0 - Wisconsin and M street in Georgetown
out Canal Rd and up the hill
1.0 - bear L on MacArthur Blvd
12.5 - turns into Falls Rd,
15 - L on S. Glen
17 - L just over the stream crossing onto Glen (not Glen Mills, which will add a lot of miles),
21 - bear L on Query Mill,
21.5 - R on Esworthy,
23 - L on Seneca Rd (watch for traffic)
24.5 - turns into River Rd.

This is the part I haven't ridden. I think the roads are ok (i.e. paved)
31 - R on Mt Nebo,
32.5 - L on Offutt
33.5 - L on Edward's Ferry
34.5 - R on River Rd
39.5 - L to White's Ferry.
There's only one road up from the ferry on the VA side
L on route 15 (watch out for the traffic),
bear right into town on 15 business / King St,
L on Market / 7 business,
the hotel is a couple of miles on the R.

Hope that helps.

Last edited by cc_rider; 07-26-11 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 07-26-11, 07:39 PM   #14
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Yes ... super helpful. Here is the final route:
http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/43309046/

I am going to drive it with my wife this weekend so that I have a feel for the roads. I'm a bit concerned about miles 63-73, but realize there is no simple way out of DC. This is the price we'll pay for getting to ride our bikes through the Mall.

Thanks again for all your input and guidance! Let me know if you'd like to connect with us for a stretch of the ride.

-Rich
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Old 07-27-11, 06:58 AM   #15
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For the time of day you'll be passing through Georgetown, M street will be pretty hairy for a group of cyclists keeping together
Better would be to continue up 22nd to P Street, R on 30th, L on R, L on 38th, R on Reservoir.
Connects up with MacArthur about a mile down.
Much less traffic, gentler climbs, shade, stately homes and gardens. Also pass by the French and German embassies.
MacArthur is pretty straightforward. Multi-lane in DC, most of MD is one each way. You might get honked at for being on the road because there is a good, wide side path on the left. I use it for going either direction, but a lot of cyclists skip it and keep to the road.

What day is the ride?

Last edited by cc_rider; 07-28-11 at 07:24 AM.
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Old 07-27-11, 07:16 AM   #16
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Thx ... I had no idea how to route through DC. I'll make the changes that you recommend. The ride will be on Saturday, 9/24. Day 2 is Leesburg to Mt. Weather to Harper's Ferry and eventually up to Frederick. Day 3 is Frederick to Gettysburg to Westminster and back to Pikesville, MD.
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