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Thread: Moving to NoVA

  1. #1
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    Moving to NoVA

    Hey guys, just wanted to see who may have some advice for me. I will finally be leaving Louisiana (been here for 2 years) and moving to NoVA early part of next year for work (January/February time frame). Will be working at Pentagon City. Looking for some tips from my fellow cyclists. I will have my wife and son with me, we are looking at the Arlington/Alexandria area.

    Any tips on good areas to rent (homes, then townhomes, then apartments in order of preference) that are good for cyclists? I typically do a moderate distance run or bike in the mornings before work then a longer one on the weekend, so safe riding/running while dark is important. I am spoiled now that I am currently less than a mile from my work, so commute on the bike most days and am even able to go home for lunch. While the lunch thing is probably out, I would prefer to ride my bike to either work or to a metro station.

    While tips on finding a place is nice, I would really love to hear more about some of the local rides, clubs, etc. in the area. Where I am now there is basically no cycling presence, so I do exclusively solo rides. I do the periodic triathlon, so my only group experience is in TT (aka no drafting). I would love to get some experience in group riding, but am starting off a complete newbie there. Any input is greatly appreciated. While it is a ways off still, I am so excited to be leaving Louisiana that I cannot put off thinking and planning for it.
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    I live in Arlington. In short, this is one of the best places that I know of on the east coast for riding a road bike.
    Group rides? There are group rides during the warmer months at least 3 nights a week. The Freshbikes (shop) ride on Tuesday will be anywhere from 100-500 riders, and gets a full police escort over a 20 mile hill loop.
    Morning rides? I run the W&OD Trail 3 mornings a week. 18 mile loop on paved smooth trails around the Arlington and DC area. W&OD goes all the way out to Leesburg from DC- 47 miles- so you can do a century on a smooth paved trail.
    I could go on about this, but you get the idea.
    Places to live? This really depends on what you want. House? Apt? Close to Metro? Figure out where you will be working and that should narrow it down.

    Jason

  3. #3
    Not a climber
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    There are a ton of threads, even a long recent one, about NoVa cycling, group rides, and trail riding. Just do a search for NoVa in this section and I'm sure you'll find a ton of info.

    I lived in Falls Church, just bordering Annandale for a few years. The W&OD trail was about 3.5 miles from my house, which would be a bit far for running, but was fine for cycling. The trail is really long, so there is plenty of housing in close proximity to it.

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    Follow the WO&D trail - there's 46 miles of trail between Shirlington and Purceville and a billion neighborhoods within a 10-15 minute ride of the trail. There is some fantastic riding off the trail from Leesburg or Purceville (the end of the trail) north or south with tons of low traffic scenic paved and gravel roads. I'm in Ashburn which has me basically in the middle of the trail which I love as it's easy to get just about anywhere.

    From Pentagon City you can pick up the Mt. Vernon trail which adds another 25 miles (I believe) along the Potomac down to Mt Vernon (of course).

    Getting across the river gets you to the C&O tow path (gravel) and 100+ miles of trail plus access up into MD and some great riding in Montgomery and Frederick County. From the WO&D, Leesburg to Whites Ferry gets you to the same great riding aroudn Sugarloaf Mountain and Frederick/Montgomery Co.

    NoVA's a great biking area.

    Checkout these links:

    Friends of the W&OD Trail
    Bike Washington
    Grinding Gravel

    Good luck!

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    Just found the bike path feature on Google Maps. Wow... there are a ton of really great looking routes. I am excited. Depending on a lot of factors, looks like I couldn't go wrong in much of the area. I am really hoping to continue to not drive to work as well. While I could pretend it is for cost savings, environment, health, etc... I really cannot stand to sit in traffic. Biking would be great, metro acceptable (though savings starts to go away then)... but I get the sense driving home no matter what part would be a pain from Pentagon City.
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    My wife and I have a 2br apt in West Alexandria just north of I-395 and I ride to work in Pentagon City a couple of times a week. I ride on neighborhood streets, crossing a couple of busier roads at stoplights, connect with the 4 Mile Trail riding east, down to the Mt Vernon Trail heading north past Reagan National AP. Just past the AP, a spur leads to Crystal Rd, and a short street ride to Pentagon City and the Pentagon. It takes me about 50 minutes each way, with two small hills to climb in the process.

    The rents here are pretty steep, we chose a low end, older apartment complex and we got what we paid for; paper thin walls, creaky floors and so-so management, but it's well inside the beltline and I can be to work in less than 20 minutes if I chose to drive. Many apartments, including mine, offer shuttles to the Pentagon City Metro station. My shuttle leaves at 06:48 and drops me at the PC Metro station entrance around 07:05 at the latest unless there is a major accident on I-395 inside the beltway between Seminary Rd and the Potomac. The PC Metro station is an easy walk to the Pentagon and the northern end of Crystal City. The Pentagon and Crystal City Metro stops are both one stop away from the Pentagon City Metro station for those days when its raining or you don't feel like walking less than about .75 ,mile

    Riding is pretty good here, with several options for riding organizations to join. I found that living inside the beltway is good for the commute, but makes finding rural roads for riding a bit harder. I plan on driving out of town next year more to get in longer rides off the main trails. It is hard to get in speed work on the trails, WO&D included, as many walkers, runners, etc use the trails plus many of then cross roads that force me to stop or slow down.periodically. I previously lived in East Orlando and I could ride 80 miles from my front door with only 2 stop light and 4 stop signs to deal with so I was a bit spoiled when I got here.
    As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities. Voltaire

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    Are the trails pretty busy early in the morning? I usually get up at 4:30 during the week and ride from about 5-6:15. While I hate where I live, an there are not bike paths or routes to speak of, I have become spoiled that the roads are very quiet at those times and I can hold 18-22 mph stretches pretty consistently. It is one of the areas I know I will take some getting used to.
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    I dont have any idea what is going on at that hour, aside from what the inside of my eyelids look like.

    When I ride at about 8a, the trail is totally manageable- bordering on empty.
    Weekends during the summer are a different story, but even then, its still pretty great.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gte105u View Post
    Are the trails pretty busy early in the morning? I usually get up at 4:30 during the week and ride from about 5-6:15. While I hate where I live, an there are not bike paths or routes to speak of, I have become spoiled that the roads are very quiet at those times and I can hold 18-22 mph stretches pretty consistently. It is one of the areas I know I will take some getting used to.
    I roll out at around 5:30 and the traffic on the roads is still pretty light at that time except on I-395. The trails are pretty light as well comparitively, and the weather/season tend to influence that as well. I pass maybe a dozen riders in the morning and twice that in the afternoon. About half the morning traffic is latino day workers heading to the Arlington day worker meet up spot that is in Shirlington.

    The trails themselves in my case tend to keep me around 12-16 mph, there are lots of corners and poorly lit areas that make caution the wiser choice. At those times on the weekends the main trail in NoVa, the WO&D, would be a place where you could go that fast for reasonably long stretches, provided you are riding at 0 dark 30. Once the day gets going, around 9 or so, forget about it unless you are willing to risk running into a stroller nazi who is talking to her friend on a cell phone as she weaves along the trail.

    It is also possible to ride on the streets heading into PC at that hour, you would be able to keep a higher speed than on the 4 Mile trail. I see a lot of folks riding down Army Navy Dr. east of Glebe Rd., riding parallel to I-395. I have gone that way a few times and found it a pretty decent road to ride on. Downhill for the most part inbound, uphill heading outbound.
    As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities. Voltaire

    A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government. Thomas Jefferson

  10. #10
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    Biking in Arlington is hard to beat...one adjustment for you, coming from Louisiana, will be the hills. Along the river is pretty flat, but Arlington and some areas of DC actually are very hilly. Not long climbs, but lots of short, steep hills everywhere. If you didn't like hills before, you will learn to love them!

    In Arlington, there are very few areas that aren't bike friendly...I'd say the stretches along Route 50 and Columbia Pike are the least friendly to cyclists, but they're still better than most places in Fairfax. I live in a neighborhood called Westover and commute 7 miles into Fairfax, all on streets, and some days I can do the whole ride without unclipping. The trails tend to be busy, but I'd call it a steady flow of commuters rather than gridlock. On weekends in the spring and summer, some of the flatter trails get clogged with walkers and families, but if you plan your route carefully, you can get long rides in without having to rely on the MUPs for your miles...again, just be prepared for hills.

    Make sure you check out the BikeArlington forum. It is the single best forum for cycling in the DC area and is very active. As an added bonus, there are monthly happy hours for forum members and, because the cycling community in the area is so active, a good portion of the members ride together regularly or at least pass each other while commuting and know each other well.

    Despite it's size, DC/Arlington actually is like a small town in many ways, particularly if you're a cyclist...I see people I know regularly at varying points around the city...it's pretty freaking awesome. Best of luck with the move!

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    Thanks for the feedback guys. While I may use the MUPs some, especially on rides with the family, I think it is likely that I would ride the streets for my fitness/training rides if safe.

    I am looking forward to the hills... though I may not know what I am getting myself into as well. I am in North/Central Louisiana, where you at least get a few hills here and there. My favorite course here has the first stretch with some decent hills before I go down by the river and push out some long straight flats. While I can get more consistency of speed on long flat stretches, I get bored on that more easily. Also if you run into an open stretch with a long headwind... then you are in a whole different animal. At least going up a hill, even if it knocks you down to 12 mph, you aren't bored.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by gte105u View Post
    Thanks for the feedback guys. While I may use the MUPs some, especially on rides with the family, I think it is likely that I would ride the streets for my fitness/training rides if safe.

    I am looking forward to the hills... though I may not know what I am getting myself into as well. I am in North/Central Louisiana, where you at least get a few hills here and there. My favorite course here has the first stretch with some decent hills before I go down by the river and push out some long straight flats. While I can get more consistency of speed on long flat stretches, I get bored on that more easily. Also if you run into an open stretch with a long headwind... then you are in a whole different animal. At least going up a hill, even if it knocks you down to 12 mph, you aren't bored.
    A preview:

    Bike Ride Profile | Shut Up Legs - Tour of EOTR near Washington | Times and Records | Strava

    Bike Ride Profile | Just a couple of hills... near Washington | Times and Records | Strava

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    That 52 mile loop looks awesome.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gte105u View Post
    Thanks for the feedback guys. While I may use the MUPs some, especially on rides with the family, I think it is likely that I would ride the streets for my fitness/training rides if safe.

    I am looking forward to the hills... though I may not know what I am getting myself into as well. I am in North/Central Louisiana, where you at least get a few hills here and there. My favorite course here has the first stretch with some decent hills before I go down by the river and push out some long straight flats. While I can get more consistency of speed on long flat stretches, I get bored on that more easily. Also if you run into an open stretch with a long headwind... then you are in a whole different animal. At least going up a hill, even if it knocks you down to 12 mph, you aren't bored.
    I've lived in NoVA for 20 years and bike commuted most of them into DC. I started out in Falls Church and ended up in Vienna for the last 15 years. Riding on the inner suburban roads is something you really don't want to do. There's a lot of traffic and the roads were not designed for pedestrians. Much of the time, there's minimal or no shoulders and often no sidewalks. If you want to bike commute, locate near the W&OD trail. You can ride as fast as you want on most parts of it. The path runs next to the metro Orange line which will take you to work on days you don't want to ride. Between the bike path and the metro, you can avoid sitting in traffic -- something there's an abundance of here.

    This area is biking heaven. The path is great and the county maintains it really well. There are several bike clubs (Potomac Peddlers, Reston Bike Club) and shops that do rides. There's an active racing scene. Not too far out of town is the Shenandoah valley which is alot like Tuscany, without the olive trees and castles -- very nice scenery and some challenging climbing. Go the other direction and there's the eastern shore if pancake flat is your thing. Back before I had kids, it was no problem to find a century ride in the area starting in mid August and going into mid October. I'd pick one weekend and do two ... those were the days.

    If your kid is school age, you might want to consider fairfax county -- the schools are excellent. Just a warning -- housing costs are going to be a shock. I think you'll find Arlington really pricey, and Alexandria a bit of a dump. I guess the area up near Mount Vernon is pretty decent, and there's a bike path that runs through it.

    Post or PM if I can be of any help.

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    Metro access

    If you're not bike commuting and if you'll be metoring into work then you want to live near a metro. Look at nighborhoods near the yellow and blue line on NoVa, would be a stright shot to work or the orange line (connect to blue line). I bike commute 7+ months out of the year into DC from the Huntington Metro area, its a nice ride + you have the Mt Vernon trail nearby. Remember, rush hour traffic in DC metro area is one of the worst in the country.

    Good Luck...

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    I've lived in Atlanta, I've lived in Dallas. I have seen bad rush hour traffic and want no part of it if at all possible. I am management on a construction site, so I get into work before it is too bad... but getting home (when you really care about the time mind you) is what will get me. Bike commuting, possibly in addition to the metro, is a real option. The best part of living close enough to just bike commute is I don't have to pay for the train or gas. Combining the bike and metro adds some expense (locker maybe, fare, risk of theft, etc.) but is still better than driving. Since I will be at the Pentagon Mall, there is a stop at my work so it is simple if I am on the Blue or Yellow lines. I usually do my workouts in the morning before work, so it doesn't leave me a lot of time for train transfers which could come with the orange line. We shall see... Getting excited to go though. Being told it may be sooner than I thought, as early as beginning of January even.
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    Can't help that much with the arlington/Alexandria locations for riding or commuting or living, but can highly recommend recreational rides for the weekend west of the city. Skyline Drive in Front Royal is a great ride, you can make a really nice long loop doing what is referred to as Mass-Sky (it's also popular in the opposite direction, Sky-Mass, but I really prefer Mass-Sky...the climbs are better and the descents more fun that direction). http://www.winchesterwheelmen.org/Maps/Mass_sky.pdf

    Another great loop is Mt. Weather. Blue Ridge Challenge You can update the directions for where it's most convenient for you to start.

    There's plenty of other good riding, but two are a really good start.

    The W&OD trail is nice for commuting or a casual ride, but too many road crossings, pedestrians, dogs, etc for really getting a hard ride in. You mention doing TTs. Just don't be one of the fools who try to do TT training rides on the W&OD on Saturday mornings, all upset because everyone slows them down.

  18. #18
    @TwoWheelsDC
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    Quote Originally Posted by gte105u View Post
    Bike commuting, possibly in addition to the metro, is a real option. The best part of living close enough to just bike commute is I don't have to pay for the train or gas. Combining the bike and metro adds some expense (locker maybe, fare, risk of theft, etc.) but is still better than driving. Since I will be at the Pentagon Mall, there is a stop at my work so it is simple if I am on the Blue or Yellow lines.
    If you just need easy bike transportation without having to worry about theft/maintenance, check out Capital Bikeshare. While clustered in DC proper, there are an ever-expanding number of stations in Arlington and Alexandria. In fact, the Crystal City/Pentagon City corridor is the most used area for Bikeshare in Arlington (probably because it's the one area without a lot of hills).

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    Re: Moving to NoVA

    Moving up next week! Thanks for the info guys. As far as metro, am I to understand I can't wheel my bike on there?
    Picked up on world travels..."AFwan La KHabrak Bess Kullal Tura'at bil muntuk Mu sh la illek Bes"
    TRANSLATION:Sorry to give you the news but all the roads in town aren't here for you alone!
    Well at least it worked in the Arabic speaking world!
    Here in Florida where they kill quite frequently the best bet is ditch the conversation and dive off the horse!

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    You can take your bike on the metro. See here for the regulations concerning bikes on the metro: Metro - Getting Around - Bikes and Metro

    There are certain hours you cannot (unless it's a folding bike, then apparently you can almost always take it on), but most of the time you are able to take your bike on the metro.

    Hope that helps!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Otterinaround View Post
    Moving up next week! Thanks for the info guys. As far as metro, am I to understand I can't wheel my bike on there?
    Yes you can, but not at rush hour. The buses have bike racks on them, but I wouldn't put my bike on them.

    PM me, or e-mail me at featherpm@yahoo.com. I'll be glad to help you in any way I can. It's a rat race here, but good for biking. I rode 4800 miles this year and 3700 was commuting. I live in Vienna near the W&OD trail. All the stuff you see MB1 post, I see all the time. And more.

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    Moving

    Glad to be out of Florida where the idiots have the highest record of fatalities Car vs. Cyclist.
    I'm not sure how much worse it can get... But the places I've been and the driving I've seen... I wouldn't wish those on anyone!

    I'll be moving to Arlington and looking to get back to my old mountain climbing and racing speeds. I've read a bit about some of the social rides but I'm still quite shy about joining group rides.

    I've also gotten great advice on this forum which appears to be helping me get over a rather irritating plateau that urges me to get over that shyness.

    My goal is to maintain something a rowing guru once said... You go nowhere UNLESS it's ON A BICYCLE!

    4700mi!!! WOW!

    I'm only up to 1800 miles in a three months (I've been VERY bad during the past couple weeks before the move)... But, it's flat land here and quite different from the hills of VA.

    Hopefully while I'm at it the eating with the people at work flab and the pokey speed will soon become things of the past.
    Picked up on world travels..."AFwan La KHabrak Bess Kullal Tura'at bil muntuk Mu sh la illek Bes"
    TRANSLATION:Sorry to give you the news but all the roads in town aren't here for you alone!
    Well at least it worked in the Arabic speaking world!
    Here in Florida where they kill quite frequently the best bet is ditch the conversation and dive off the horse!

  23. #23
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    We lived there twice, both during my tours at the Pentagon. First time I lived out in Manassas...beautiful countryside, though considerly more built up now then when I lived there in the mid-90s. Second time I lived just inside the beltway, right off 395 & Glebe. Pentagon City is a great area for shopping/dining.

    Definitely liked living inside the beltway better than out...there are rail connections from the outlaying areas, but they do eat up your time. Driving is a royal PITB.

    Great part of the country, lots to do/see/enjoy. There are plenty of apartments/condo complexes associated with Metro locations, I'd put these on the top of my house hunting list.

    Best of luck with your move!
    Bill

    “You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing...We can make the best or the worst of it."

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