The 100th edition of the Tour de France kicked off in Corsica today. It’s the first time the peloton is riding through the “island of beauty” since the tour’s inception in 1903 (yes, if you do the math that’s technically 110 years, but the tour took some breaks during WWI and WWII.) Over the next 3 weeks, riders will pedal over 2,110 miles throughout the country before the maillot jaune and other cyclists’ final sprint up the Champs Elysees on July 21st. To honour le tour, I thought I’d dedicate a post to biking in Washington.
Earlier in the year, Walk Score ranked Washington, D.C. as the 6th most “bikeable” city in the country based on factors such as bike lanes, hilliness, road connectivity, nearby amenities, and the percent of people in that area who bike to work. Key to the District’s ranking are the new bike lanes and the expansion of Capital Bikeshare which has made getting around on 2 wheels easier for tourists and locals alike. For young professionals commuting by bicycle is great option if you don’t have a car and want to keep your transportation costs low. But bikes are increasingly more than just a cheap, eco-friendly mode of transportation. It’s a also a way of life and a culture with its own social calendar.
Since I’m only an occasional biker, I had a quick chat with Kate of the blog A Girl and her Bike to get a better sense of the DC-biking community and all the different “bike” happenings around town. Of course, there’s the annual Bike to Work Day put on by the Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, but there are also weekly, monthly and occasional social rides. Some are tied to D.C. bike shops. The Bicycle Space which host different classes (Tuesday at 7:15PM is basic bike maintenance for example) or social rides like Thursdays’ 7th Street Social (8PM) or Saturdays’ Cupcake Ramble (11:30AM). During the 20-25 miles Cupcake Ramble ride, participants visit different pastry shops and/or are treated to homemade goodies from pastry chef Sol Schott who also leads the tour (sign me up!!) These are pretty leisurely rides and for those looking for something a little more athletic, The Bike Rack, a full service independent bike shop on 14th and Q, offers both introductory (Saturdays, 10AM) and advanced (Sunday 8:30AM) 40-60 miles training rides on weekends. Occasionally they also give out free morning cup of joe in partnership with a local coffee shops to commuters on bicycles.
Then there’s the independently organized events. There’s the Friday Coffee Club, which was started by husband and wife cycling aficionados Mary and Ed as a way to get to meet other bike enthusiasts in the city. You can follow the group on twitter at the hashtag #fridaycoffeeclub or just make your way to Swings Coffee at 17th & Penn on Friday mornings. There’s the stylish and fun tweed ride founded by Eric Brewer and organized by Dandies & Quaintrelles. Modelled after the 2009 London Tweed Run, the first D.C. Tweed Ride took place in November of 2009 with 500 participants and has grown bigger over the years to include a summer seersucker social (save the date for this year’s, coming up on July 7th!) And there the monthly DC bike party, a freewheeling bash complete with a rotating playlist, theme and route that happens the second Wednesday of every month.
But let’s get back to the Tour de France. You can follow it on NBC Sports and the Washington Post will be updating this list of watch parties and spots to catch the nightly recaps. If you just want to learn more about the tour L’Alliance Française is keeping a few books on the tour in its library for members to borrow.
As for me… I’m not a big tour fan. But I am a big fan of the bar at Le Diplomate, so don’t be surprised if you see me sipping a kronenbourg 1664 underneath the vintage tour de France paraphernalia… I might even bikeshare there 😉