ridesAndy KarrComment

Damnable Machines

ridesAndy KarrComment
Damnable Machines

A Ride by Kevin, Rich, Alex, and Andy

Words by Andy

Pictures by Andy and Kevin

The Bikes

A lot of the online published reviews of cyclo-cross bikes end with the same phrase or series of phrases. Something about the bike also making a good commuter or all around adventure/multi-surface bike in addition to its service as a cyclo-cross race machine. For those who don’t know, cyclo-cross racing is an odd-ball form of bicycle racing where people ride what are essentially lightly modified road bikes around in big wobbly circles in the grass and dirt.

Part crit racing, part mountain bike racing, part cross country running the sport is essentially pure pedal powered idiocy. I like it, at least as much as I like any kind of racing, but it isn’t why I bought a cyclo-cross bike. That after thought at the end of that cross bike review is why I picked one (and then another…) of these damnable machines up.   It’s a road bike when you want it to be, it’s a mountain bike when you want it to be, and it’s a touring bike when you want it to be.

 The Damnable Machines

The Damnable Machines

Which is great, because the roads around here that criss-cross Montgomery County, Maryland are bisected over and over again by sweet, sweet single track that flows from the hills down to a dirt tow path that runs along the length of the Potomac River for hundreds of miles upstream.

The Ride

Most people don’t usually consider the DC area a great place for getting “out there” and catching some rustic vibes. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, though. Armed with our perfect multi-surface vehicles we were ready for some local adventuring , following the red dirt deep into the farmlands north west of the city. Well, mostly ready. The author forgot to mention to one of the out riders that we would in fact be topping out around 70 miles and he brought only one water bottle. Also it was the hottest day, of a hot DC summer. Rich is a fucking champ though and took it in stride.

 One-bottle hero

One-bottle hero

irst thing we did was catch the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail out of DC headed west. We are so incredibly lucky to have this national resource at our fingertips, you can follow this uninterrupted ribbon of dirt about as far out of the city as you would ever care to go. In our case we blew past Great Falls and into areas further a field in only a matter of a couple hours.

 Endless dirt summer

Endless dirt summer


there is more dirt out there, keep riding

We got to our first of two stretches of singletrack after only a couple hours. The first dive into the woods would be a short one; just a 3 mile climb from the river banks up to our first pavement of the day. The climbing was pretty brutal in the heat, but the reward was pizza and wine at the Rocklands Farm Winery, conveniently located a short ride up the Muddy Branch Trail from the canal, right at the mouth of the Seneca bluffs trail, and a short(ish) ride down some empty country roads to the Cabin John Trail.  Problem was, we crushed it so hard on the way up, we actually arrived prior to their opening time. There is only one thing to do in 98 degree heat waiting for your wine and pizza. Jump in the creek.

 Watch out for snakes!

Watch out for snakes!

After a bit longer of a stop than we intended, heads full of wine, bibs full of creek water, and bellies full of pizza, we transformed into road mode and hauled ass to the Cabin John Trailhead. About Ten miles later we were back under the cover of woods and out of the summer sun.

 The best kind of mid-ride refuel. Do you not?

The best kind of mid-ride refuel. Do you not?

Cabin John dropped us near enough to the canal trail to spit on it, and soon we were back on the finely ground gravel of the C&O and on our way back to Washington. This is for sure one of my new favorite road rides. And only about 10 of 70 miles were actually on the road. Gotta love cross bikes.

 Smooth Cruisin' 1-track

Smooth Cruisin' 1-track

(Editors note: I believe this was the hottest day of the summer this year in DC. It sure felt like it. You can peep the suffering/strava here:)