If you have spent any significant amount of time driving through Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, or Pennsylvania, you’ve probably experienced at least a few moments of fist-clenching frustration when giving a little extra space to someone pedaling on a bike. We are often called Bikers, Bicyclists, Cyclists – and sometimes a combination of more profane commuter vernacular during rush hour.

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed area, we come in all different forms. You may see us charging our way to a DC office on one of the major artery trails like the Mont Vernon, The Washington & Old Dominion, or the Anacostia River trail, finding the balance between an on-time arrival or a slightly-too-sweaty 9 am meeting. Or you may have to pass us in Northwest DC, heading from the Georgetown Waterfront up along the Potomac River to enjoy the rolling farmland of Montgomery or Loudon County. You’ll see us on a foggy morning as far north as the historic battlefields of Gettysburg, and you may hear us as far South of the cobblestones of Shockoe Bottom in Richmond as we rattle towards a favorite coffee shop. We are grinding up Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, on high alert for black bears, or battling against the wind as we head across Verrazano Bridge to see the wild horses on Assateague. We are all over this area, representing all ages, shapes, sizes, demographics, and fluorescent colors of neoprene.

But before you get too annoyed by the fleeting inconvenience of having to pass a paceline of amateur riders, an army of weekend warriors, or a young family out riding getting some fresh air with grandma and grandpa… pause for a minute and be thankful that so many people choose your roads or trails to ride. Cycling, whether for sport or recreation, allows us to absorb everything this area has to offer through a slightly different lens. When traveling by bike, food taste better, beverages are more refreshing, and every view can provide some respite from the stresses of everyday life. It’s an accessible way to see new things, have some fun by yourself or join a local ride to meet great people of all backgrounds and maybe even support a local philanthropy effort. And if two years of COVID has you feeling like you could use the extra exercise, consider dusting off that bike sitting in the garage just waiting to help you elevate your heart rate, meet some new faces,  or just enjoy some time exploring the natural wonders. 

After spending the last ten years here, these are the top reasons I consider the Chesapeake Bay region to be one the of the ultimate cycling destinations:

1. The Best Types of Terrain

This area has it all: mountains, rivers, lakes, farmland, historic countryside villages, beach towns, and boardwalk. The hardest part of riding a bike in this area – aside from 20% inclines in Frederick or 40 mph headwinds as you crest towards the Atlantic Ocean – is picking what natural treasures you want to see. Whether you choose to ride a beach cruiser from your local sporting goods store, or a custom-built carbon frame from a high-end local bike shop, there are endless adventures for an hour-long afternoon cruise or a herculean all-day excursion.

Additional Resources

2. An Alternative to DMV Traffic

If you’ve spent time in the DC metro area, you are no stranger to traffic. You’ve probably spent time stuck in traffic on I-395 or the George Washington Parkway, and you may have begrudgingly noticed folks on two wheels buzz by as you are stuck in a bumper-to-bumper crawl. Over the past handful of years, Maryland, Virginia, and DC have all made significant investments to create cycling-friendly infrastructure to encourage commuters to consider an alternative to traffic. Over the last eight years, the DC Department of Transportation has even implemented a system of automated counters to measure the number of cyclists and pedestrians. If you’re interested in seeing the most popular commuter routes – check out DDOT’s Automated Bicycle and Pedestrian Counter dashboard.

Riding with my wife, Helene in D.C.

3. The Best Way to Experience Local Flavors

If you have ever ridden your bike somewhere on a hot summer day, you already know how refreshing a cold beverage or ice cream can taste as soon you get wherever you’re going. For whatever reason, EVERYTHING tastes better when you arrive on a bike. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you already have your favorite local spots to visit in your hometown or while you are on vacation. Traveling by bicycle can be one of the best ways to find that new favorite. When you opt for two wheels instead of four, everything slows down. You’re more likely to notice the little spots just a little bit off the beaten path. If you enjoy a good cup of coffee and pastries, you might be surprised and delighted to hear that many local bike shops will also double as cafes. I am partial to my favorite DC bike shop – Buna Bicycle Works… best cappuccino in the city – but you’ll find good options wherever you choose to ride!

Riding in Lorton County, Virginia

4. A Welcoming Community for All

Anyone who has purchased a bike knows it can be overwhelming. Cruiser? Road Bike? Mountain Bike? Hybrid? Learning where to buy and where to ride can seem pretty daunting. But fear not – the DMV is chock full of clubs and groups ready to help. With a simple internet search, you can easily find several resources ranging from informal public Facebook groups to 501(c)(3) non-profits dedicated to connecting cyclists of all ages and abilities with others that share the desire to get outside, break a sweat, and enjoy the natural wonders that the area offers. Whether you are looking for a handful of people to ride with on the weekend or trying to find a team to compete with around the country, there is a community of riders that meets virtually every skill level. If you have questions about finding the right group for your interests, stop by a local bike shop, and they can help point you in the right direction!

Me (Scott Clutterbuck) on the right with my biking community when I lived in Arlington, Virginia

5. Give Back to the Community and Support Local Causes

In addition to groups focused on raising awareness for cycling and uniting different types of riders, there are countless events every year that bring together thousands of cyclists to participate in fundraising events for various causes. Similar to fundraising walks or runs, these events allow friends and families to build awareness, fundraise, and ride together in beautiful locations. You’ll typically enjoy an initial event kick-off, motivational speaker, fully supported rides with all the snacks and nutrition you could ever need, and even celebrations at the end of the event that include food trucks, beer trucks, and live music. Brand new to riding and not sure how far you can ride? The events typically include several different options ranging anywhere from 15 miles to 100 miles to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate! If you’re looking for a local event in the summer to enjoy good people, good food, and support a great cause, check out my favorite: The Bike MS Chesapeake Challenge in Easton, MD. 

Alliance Staff member, Lucy Heller in the front with me on the right along with our friends in Easton, Maryland for the 2021 M.S Bike Ride. We will all be together again on June 25th for the 2022 M.S Bike Ride!

Scott Clutterbuck is a passionate and avid cyclist. Scott currently lives in Durham, North Carolina, but spent the previous ten years in D.C and Virginia. Thank you, Scott, for sharing your cycling knowledge!