Monday, September 05, 2005

Capital Crescent Trail and Elitism

This weekend, I got up (sort of) early and hit the Capital Crescent Trail that runs from downtown Bethesda to Georgetown. It was the maiden voyage for my mountain bike and I on a real trail and a legit trip. Though I wanted to get there closer to 7:30, I didn't make it to the trail until 9:40. My worry of having to deal with lots of people at that time came true, but you'll be happy to know I did not get into any accidents. The trail is about 7 miles each way with the first half a nice downhill ride, and of course a much tougher uphill ride to get home.

As my first trail ride in who knows how many years (okay, about 4 years, 3 months, and 19 days, or something like that), it went really well. From the start, it's clear this trail is enjoyed by families and little kids. Sure there are people who look the part of hardcore riders and runners, but more people are on their training wheels and running with their strollers. Nevermind though, it's a paved trail that is shaded almost the entire way with some water fountains (but no restrooms). I'd imagine the serious users made their roundtrip by 8.

I hopped on my bike and quickly learned a successful ride on the trail depends on your ability to weave between runners and slower riders. Fortunately, as I got further from Bethesda, the crowds thinned out and soon, just us (I gotta give myself some credit) serious riders and runners were on our own. I got the weaving down really well after a few passes. If it was going to be close, I'd yell "passing on the left," (since I haven't bought a silly bell) or else I'd just cross into the other lane and back over without any trouble. Of course, I played it safe a few times and slowed down until there was a safer opening, but many of those times would've been avoided if the other trail users had some common sense - and of course this creates some trail elitism.

I know the other riders feel they own the trail b/c they're the fastest travelers, but the reality is the trail is to be shared with every traveler, and for the most part it is. However, a few people are just dumb when it comes to the safest way to travel. I don't mind people running with their strollers, or even a double stroller (though it takes up an entire lane), but don't run with two strollers...and your dog on a long leash! I quickly came up on this group and made sure they heard me approach, but you shouldn't travel so wide that you go halfway into the other lane. Outside of a large group of people stopped in their lane when a safe break area is a few feet away, I got bothered by rollerbladers. They still think they're so "extreme man" so they try to take turns with lots of speed and reckless abandon. Well you're not extreme, you're not cool, and nobody likes you. Phew, that felt good. Their problem is a full roller blading stride is very wide and crosses into oncoming trail traffic. They're also going fast and if their stride isn't timed/placed just right to miss my bike's wheel or a runner's foot, there'll be a bad accident (esp. those rollerskating folk who don't have helmets, etc)..

The ride to Georgetown was a breeze thanks to its downhill topography, I rode in the 3rd cog and 8th gear (highest setting) most of the way. I went about a 1/2 mile or so past the Key Bridge in 30 minutes. If I really push myself, I could do better, but much of it depends on how slow I have to go around other trailgoers. The ride back is a nice uphill trip that quickly made me enjoy the ease of the trip to Georgetown. It took me an extra 10-15 minutes to make it to Bethesda and kept me in the 3rd cog and 5th gear except for a some small steep ramps to bridges.

The trail was a great introduction to riding and is a nice hour or so workout that's right down the road. Its shade, paved path, and incredible quietness for the area earn it high marks. To have such an unbalanced ride (all downhill then all uphill) and busy trail isn't that great, but it does provide a good workout for someone like me, though it wouldn't be worth your time if you're actually in riding shape and used to "real" bike trails.

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