Category Archives: WABA 50 States Ride

WABA 50 States Ride 2013: 45 States, Fueled by Espresso

50 States Ride

Plotting a shortcut

In my very first ride report about the WABA 50 States Ride I described it as a 65-mile ride that feels like a daily commute that keeps on giving.

At the end of my summary I expressed my doubts about ever doing the ride again. That was 2010, and every year since I have participated in the 50 States Ride. So much for one and done.

Back for another 50 States Ride

Back for another 50 States Ride. Photo by Felkerino

And guess what? Each year I end the ride with a variation of mixed sentiments, but somehow find my front wheel heading back when the ride comes around again.

Eric and the Proteus tandem

The beautiful Proteus tandem

I love seeing fellow BikeDC buddies out and about in the District, meeting new people, and doing a little window bike shopping along the way.

Felkerino, Tom, Kirstin, and Lane 50 States

WABA provides excellent support at the four pit stops along the 65-mile route, and staff and volunteers are friendly and upbeat.

Megan on the 50 States Ride


But make no mistake about it, the 50 States Ride is an intense urban excursion. Riders of varying abilities come together on a group ride in a busy city where the roads remain open to cars. I spend a lot of time minding the riders around me and managing my way through traffic while frequently looking down at my cue sheet to figure out the next turn.

Lane, Kevin, and Felkerino on 50 States

This year it also poured buckets in the final miles. Good thing we brought lights, rain jackets, and bikes with fenders.

Time for jackets

Time for rain jackets. Thank goodness we didn’t carry these around for nothing.

To temper the more stressful aspects of the event, Felkerino and I linger at the pit stops. We add our own coffee stops along the way to ensure moments of leisure. We often skip roads that we regularly ride.

Time out for coffee!

Time out for coffee!

After the ride ends and I have enjoyed a meal, showered, and had a full night’s sleep, I am happy that I toured all four of the District’s quadrants and took my wheels over roads I would likely not otherwise.

50 States Ride pitstop at Mike and Lisa's

It’s oddly satisfying to say you made it through the 50 States, even if you ended up riding, say, 45 of them.

My photos from the day are here. Thanks to all our BikeDC buds who spent part of their day with us.

And many thanks to WABA for another successful event. Maybe I’ll see you next year.

WABA 50 States Ride Last-Minute Taper and Training Tips


The WABA 50 States Ride is fast approaching (this Saturday!) and it’s important to be ready for the District’s ultimate concept ride. Are you?

Before you answer that question, I’ve put together some handy taper and training tips that you can follow for the rest of the week. Remember, you want to make it to the starting line rested, ready, and raring to go.

Brush up on your speed reading. Last year, the 50 States Ride cue sheet ended up being 10 pages of cues. In the initial miles the cue sheet will not be that critical, but as the group spreads out it will be handy to to know where you’re headed. Some state streets sneak up on you if you don’t pay attention, which is why I somehow missed my home state street of Iowa Avenue one year.

Attach a cue sheet holder to your bike. It’s much easier to read a cue sheet that is right in front of you than, say, one that you haphazardly pull out of your pocket every block. Felkerino and I like to use this homemade cue sheet holder, which requires but a zip tie, a shim, and a binder clip.

Choose your bike wisely. Make sure whatever steed you select for the day is in good working order and ready for the bumps and cracks of ye olde D.C. streets. For me, that means I will likely ride a bike with 32 mm tires. Also, because I am recently coming off of a marathon, I’m going with a bike that has gears. This ride is absolutely doable on a single speed, but my legs will be glad for the gears as the ride goes on.


Scope out the nearby coffee shops. This is particularly important to Felkerino and me, as we approach the 50 States Ride like a concept ride with a coffee crawl thrown in. There’s no better feeling than leaving behind the congested portions at Judiciary Square in exchange for a soy latte and a biscotti from Chinatown Coffee.

Create your own concept ride within a concept ride. For Felkerino and me, that means a coffee crawl within the 50 States Ride, but you can get really creative here. One of the ingenious ideas I’ve heard is riding the 50 state streets in the order they were admitted to the union. Note I said ingenious, not practical.

Avoid all state streets until the actual day of the ride. This may be exceptionally difficult if you either a. live; or b. work on a state street. But you don’t want to ruin the magic of the day so I suggest minimizing your exposure to as many state streets as you can. This is an essential element of the 50 States Ride taper.

Make a note to thank the volunteers as you go. The course marshals help keep us all on track. The rest stop volunteers donate their time to assist with any unfortunate mechanicals to keep our bikes on the go. Others facilitate our rehydration and fueling along the way. Be sure to give a special shout-out if you see our friends Mike and Lisa, who are hosting the Takoma Park pit stop.

Get into the 50 States Ride frame of mind. It’s not a race. No one shuns you if you don’t ride all 50 state streets– at least, not as far as I know and I’ve only ridden the full course one time out of three. It’s about the #BikeDC community supporting a great organization, sharing a fun urban event together, touring the four quadrants, and riding in parts of the city that extend beyond our day-to-day radius.


I know there are some 50 States Ride veterans out there. If you have anything to add to the list, please put it in the comments.

Are you ready? See you Saturday!

WABA 50 States Ride 2012: All About the People

This past Saturday Felkerino and I participated in another edition of the Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) 50 States Ride. Yeah, that ride with 500 participants that crosses over all 50 of the state streets within the District of Columbia and covers about 65 miles in the process.

Felkerino and me at the first 50 States Ride pit stop

True to our plan, we shortcut as our coffee requirements dictated and skipped a few state streets along the way. At the end of the day, Felkerino and I crossed off 34 of the 50 state streets. I don’t know if this means we have to do some Sharpie editing to our 50 States Ride t-shirts or what so if you know the protocol, please let us know.

50 States Ride, #fridaycoffeeclub peeps

Fortunately, we did manage to ride through all four D.C. quadrants so we are not completely hopeless.

The highlights of this year’s event included all the people we saw and chatted with throughout the ride. There were a few moments where we pedaled quietly along, but generally we rode in the company of other friendly riders.

Felkerino, John, and Dave

John, Felkerino, and Tony on Massachusetts SE

After doing this ride three times now, I’ve concluded that the descent on Massachusetts Avenue Southeast is one of my favorite parts. The road surface is good, it has hardly any car traffic, and it offers a beautiful view of the city.

Well-placed pit stops along the route allowed Felkerino and me to restock on water, talk with #BikeDC tweeps, and meet a few new people, too.

Mary Lauran and friends on the 50 States Ride

The post-lunch pit stop in Takoma Park was hosted by our friends Mike and Lisa, making it an extra fun pause in the ride.

Hanging out with Mike at the pit stop

We left Mike and Lisa’s to go up to Alaska Avenue Northwest, where someone took some great pictures of LOTS of riders and posted them on flickr. If you rode and made it to Alaska Avenue, check them out here.

After a day chock full of stops, twists, and turns, Felkerino and I called it a day after Alaska Avenue. When the route descended into Rock Creek Park, we remained on Beach Drive until exiting at Adams Mill Road and high-tailing it to the finish.

Despite our various shortcuts, our odometers showed 60 miles for the day. It also indicated a 10.1 mph rolling average; no speed records were set during this cue- and stop-filled excursion.

The finish locale, the Mellow Mushroom, teemed with bikes and people. We ate pizza, talked with friends, and picked up our aforementioned partially earned t-shirts.

Surly LHT at the 50 States Ride finish

I initially planned to take my Velo Orange mixte, but ultimately wound up riding my regular commuter, the Surly Long Haul Trucker. Not surprisingly, the Surly rode smoothly and had no mechanicals (though WABA offered mechanical support at all pit stops in the event it was needed).

Working on a bike at the 50 States Ride.

Oh, and I also managed to hit my home state street of Iowa. Phew! I missed it last year and was determined not to let that happen again.

Iowa Street and the Surly LHT on the 50 States Ride

This edition of the 50 States was the best yet. Through the #BikeDC hashtag on Twitter, Friday Coffee Club, and more participation in WABA’s events I’ve been able to get to know some of the BikeDC crowd. When I show up at a WABA event now, I almost always see a familiar face. That’s a great feeling.

Thanks, WABA!!

Thanks, WABA, for another successful 50 States Ride.

For another writeup of the event, please check out Port-a-John’s excellent summary. Oh, and BicycleBug has a good one, too, as does Rambling Rider.

And for more photos from the ride, take a look at our flickr sets. Mine are here, and Felkerino’s here.

See you out there next year? I hope so!

WABA 50 States Ride: Pre-Ride Prep for the Ultimate Urban Excursion

This coming Saturday marks the arrival of another edition of the 50 States Ride. While this ride sort of freaked me out the first time I did it, it’s since grown on me and now it’s a much-anticipated fall event.

Felkerino and me at the end of the 2011 50 States Ride

Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA), our local cycling advocacy group, organizes the ride. My entry fee supports WABA’s good work and in exchange I get a tour through all four quadrants and 50 state streets in the District with 500 other people.

The total 50 States route is around 65 miles. My plan is to not ride the full route. How about that for ambition? Rather, I’ll be doing the “More than 25, but fewer than 50 States Ride,” depending on where and how far I feel like riding. Last year, I pedaled over 40 of the 50 state streets and completed slightly more than 50 miles.

It feels good to accomplish the full route and all 50 state streets, but I found myself pulling out my hair at some of the more congested downtown areas. Since I ride those fairly frequently anyway, it doesn’t break my heart to skip them during the 50 States Ride.

Goals for this year’s 50 States Ride are:

  • See #BikeDC friends.
  • Stop for coffee along the way. Peregrine. Chinatown Coffee. Hmm, where else should I go?
  • Meet some new people.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Take pictures.
  • Enjoy enjoy enjoy.

Last year I chose my Rivendell Quickbeam for the ride. A single speed was ideal for me then, as there was no hill too tough for the Quickbeam, and the 32 mm tires set up well for the sometimes bumpy city streets. This year I’ve been nagged by some knee pain so I will be riding a geared bike, as a single speed seems unwise.

Velo Orange Mixte

Most likely I’ll ride my Velo Orange this time around. The Velo Orange is a mixte that, like the Quickbeam, is also set up with 32 mm tires and well-suited to urban riding. My posture on the mixte is more upright, but I have found both bikes to be comfortable. I’ll let you know for sure after the ride is over.

Over the weekend, I went to BicycleSPACE and picked out a new Crane bell for the bike. My mixte is set up with a bell, but it’s the worst bell ever. The bell ding is the equivalent of a loud whisper. Useless. Why did I buy the bell in the first place? Because it was in the shape of a coffee cup and I thought it was cute. So much for that approach.

Coffee bell on the Velo Orange. Possibly the worst bell ever.

In contrast, the brass Crane bell I purchased makes a beautiful yet stark sound that clearly announces a bicycle. It’s beautiful, but functional, too.

Shiny new (and functional!) Crane bike bell from BicycleSPACE

With that addition, the Velo Orange is ready to take on the 50 States Ride. Are you riding, too? If so, I’ll see you there!

WABA 50 States Ride, 2011 Edition!

This past weekend the Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) hosted its annual 50 States Ride. This urban cycling event meanders through all four quadrants of Washington, D.C., and passes over all 50 state streets.

It’s the only ride I’ve ever done that’s 65 miles and takes 193 cues to complete. That’s 10 pages of cues. And this year’s cue sheet is 19 fewer cues that last year’s! I admire the person who put that opus together.

50 States Ride cue sheet – “tricky maneuvers bolded”

I participated in this ride last year, and rode away from it thinking once might be enough. That changed, though, when my friends Rootchopper and Lane said they’d be riding. Felkerino and I decided we’d join in the fun and make the most of the adventure. In fact, we had a great time.

It was a pretty mellow crew that gathered in Kalorama Park on Saturday morning and the WABA volunteers did an excellent job of getting everyone smoothly through registration. It was fun to walk around and see all the different people participating and the diverse selection of bikes. Mixties, mountain bikes, custom tourers, vintage treasure, fixed gears, city bikes…  they were all there.

Lane rode his Bilenky, Felkerino was on his Rivendell Atlantis, and I picked the Rivendell Quickbeam as my steed of choice. I figured if it rained, the Quickbeam would be the easiest bike to clean and the single speed experience would give a different perspective on the event.

Felkerino and I also wore our D.C. Randonneurs jerseys to represent our club. Maybe it was a little overkill for a 65-mile ride, but they were comfortable and made for good conversation starters.

Lane and Felkerino with our 50 States Ride bikes of choice

After some announcements that I could not hear, we began our day. I spent a few miles examining the cue sheet, pedaling from light to light, checking out bikes, and saying hello to people (including Tweep @nikki_d!), until we reached the epicenter of the city.

The ride starts in Adams Morgan and then takes riders through the heart of downtown D.C.  The heart of downtown means lots of stoplights. LOTS! And for some reason, it seemed like most of them were turning red as I approached them. Go. Stop. Go a little more. Stop.

The ride started feeling like a bad commute and I was gritting my teeth. When Lane, Felkerino, and I reached Chinatown we took advantage of the proximity of Chinatown Coffee and decided to divert for cappuccino and croissants.

Felkerino says, “I’m having coffee. And we’re shortcutting!”

Since you only lose bragging rights for not staying on course, our little group chose to alter the route and morph it into a variation of the 50 States Ride. Our ride became the 50 States Minus a Few States Ride.

First, we decided to skip the Southwest quadrant since that is our quadrant of residence, we ride there all the time, and the road construction on Maine Avenue is giving me a headache.

We cut through the Capitol and rejoined the 50 States Ride in Capitol Hill and the Southeast quadrant. We crossed the Anacostia River via Pennsylvania Avenue and the Sousa Bridge (which seemed to have a little less debris on it this year, yes!).

A few miles later we were treated to our first official rest stop of the day. WABA and Bicycle Space did a great job with this stop. It was close to bathrooms, offered oranges and refills on water, and Bicycle Space distributed free patch kits there. Thanks, guys!

50 States Rest Stop, sponsored by Bicycle Space

At this point we were 15 miles (including our shortcut) and two rest stops into the ride. Let me just say, the 50 States Ride is not a brevet! Also, despite how it looks, we have actually ridden brevets before. But yeah, the 50 States ride is not a brevet. It is to be savored like a good glass of port. So you see, our rest stop/shortcut approach was deliberate.

We continued through Southeast and fell in with a fine group of riders. The hills started to put in an appearance, too, and the stoplights became less frequent. Yippee! I enjoyed seeing the streets and feeling the undulating terrain of Southeast below my pedals. I began to fall into a good rhythm with the ride.

Riding in the Southeast Quadrant

More Southeast Quadrant

Ten miles later, we returned to Eastern Market for lunch. Phew! I was starting to bonk after 10 miles of uninterrupted pedaling. Lane, Felkerino, and I went over to Peregrine for another cup of coffee and I grabbed sandwiches from the market.

Over lunch, we calculated our next shortcut opportunities, and decided to stay on course through Northeast and part of Northwest. We’d then divert to say hi to one of our Northwest friends.

After lunch, we fell in with another group and enjoyed chatting and passing the miles with them. I also happened to intersect with Chasing Mailboxes reader Justin. That was cool.

In this section we also missed a cue, and residents were so nice to shout out and bring it to our attention. That was kind as well as unexpected. Overall, people on the route were really good to us. I did not have any issues with aggressive drivers and we even had a few people on the course cheer us on!

Stoplight photo opp in the Northeast Quadrant

Northwest Quadrant

Due to an impending shortcut, we had to leave our post-lunch Northeast/Northwest group after 15 miles. We skipped a few more states, visited our friend Lisa, and ate lemon-lime popsicles. Delicious!

We rejoined the route just in time to descend into Rock Creek Park and climb out of it via Oregon Avenue. Eight miles later, we finally made it to the last rest stop at American University, ate bananas, admired a few bikes, and started plotting our return home. While there, we also ran into fellow D.C. Randonneur Calista, who was riding her beautiful new Waterford.

Calista and the Waterford

After chatting with Calista, we again diverged from the route and set off toward home, stopping at the official finish along the way to thank WABA and see if anyone we knew was there. We saw a couple of familiar faces and picked up a finishing t-shirt.

Did (most of) the ride. Got the T-shirt!

All told, we cut 12 miles off of the official 65-mile route and completed 40 of the 50 states. Sadly, one of the states we did not pass was my home state of Iowa. Grr. Oh well. I’ll be back to ride on you next year, Iowa!

My first time doing this ride, I refused to veer from the route. I really wanted to ride all 50 state streets. Anything less, and I would have gone home disappointed. This year, I didn’t care as much about that. I just wanted to ride my bike in some unfamiliar areas of the city. I looked at the event more as the Four Quadrants Ride (or Three Quadrants Ride, as reality would have it), as opposed to a 50 States Ride.

Since no one else in our group cared about bagging all 50 state streets, we discarded certain portions of the ride that were either: 1. areas we ride all the time and did not feel like riding; 2. congested; or 3. conspiring against us via the traffic lights. Eliminating or limiting those parts of the city made for a better overall ride experience.

The Quickbeam ended up being a perfect choice for the day. While sections of the course were fairly beat up and bumpy, that’s nothing new for the city. My 32 mm tires were perfect for the city surfaces and I just kept my eyes peeled for any uneven patches. The Quickbeam was also fun to ride on the short urban climbs. And I don’t have to clean it because, despite the forecast, we had no rain!

Quickbeam at the American University rest stop. Good job, bike!

Wearing the D.C. Randonneurs jersey turned out to be a good move. We got lots of compliments on the jersey and questions about the club. I felt like a D.C. Randonneurs ambassador although, as I said, I’m not sure we presented ourselves as very credible randonneurs with all our shortcutting and stopping.

D.C. Randonneurs jersey and Bicycle Space patch kit

I took pictures throughout the ride, and the full set is here. If you see anybody you know, please feel free to comment or tag them.

Thanks to WABA for the event, and to the organizations that supported the 50 States Ride, including: New Belgium Brewery (so glad we got t-shirts!); Bicycle Space; The Bike House; and the American University Cycling Team. You helped me get to know my city, as well as my fellow cyclists, a little better. It was fun, and I hope to be back next year!

WABA 50 States Ride

Want to do a ride in the District that’s 65 miles long, takes 212 cues, and feels like a daily commute that keeps on giving? Then maybe you would be interested in the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s annual 50 States Ride. That’s where I was this past Saturday.

Traffic light photo opp on the 50 States Ride (c) mcn7

The course is a drunken sailor tour through all the District quadrants, and takes you over the city’s 50 state streets. It’s a great concept, and I’m proud to say that I have now ridden my bicycle over all of the state streets in Washington, D.C. I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again, but I definitely think it is worth doing once.

I had no idea that the ride would be such an intense urban excursion. Like I said, it’s 212 cues to go 65 miles. That averages out to 3.4 cues per mile. If you weren’t skilled at reading cue sheets, then this ride would definitely be a good crash course for polishing up your skills.

Studying the cue sheet before the ride start

Some of the state streets were busy (even on a Saturday). In other places, the state street itself was a quiet road, but the path to get there was not. Throw in a bunch of stoplights, invisible street signs, speed bumps, and the occasional patch of glass, and you’ve got your 50 States Ride.

Oh, but I forgot the aspects that make it a good ride. It was toasty, but sunny. Good weather is always a plus, especially on a route that takes you through well-trafficked areas.

The course had several volunteer ride Marshals who made sure the riders stayed on track, and the volunteers at all the pit stops were friendly and encouraging. Thank you, volunteers!

Volunteering is awesome! American University Cycling Club volunteers

I enjoyed spending the day with one of my favorite randonneurs. I met fellow cycling residents of the area and saw some cool bikes. I ran into some familiar faces, including my neighbor.

Familiar Faces. Bob and his son doing the route on tandem

Hey, you’re my neighbor!

I rode through parts of the city that were new to me. My full photo set of the adventure is here.

Also, many drivers and area residents were patient and kind to us. Thank you, drivers! I only recall one honk of the horn and two cranky drivers, one who helpfully advised us to “ride on the sidewalk.” (No, we’re not doing that.) Pretty good for a 65-mile ride in the city.

My friend and I started riding a little before 9:00 a.m., and it took us until 5:00 to finish. That’s right. Eight hours to go 65 miles! That was a little more than I bargained for, but hey, it was a lot of stop and go and it was my first ride of any length since the Endless Mountains 1000K. (Yes, I keep mentioning that ride. Bragging rights are all I’ve got.)

I’d never ridden on Iowa Avenue before. Go Hawks!

I chose the Rawland dSogn as my 50 States Ride steed of choice, a 650b bicycle which is, according to the Rawland site: “designed for touring, commuting, club jamming, or a weekend century.” (I particularly like it for club jamming.)

My frame is set up for disc brakes, and I’m currently using fat 41 mm tires. While perhaps not the best climber, the bike smoothed out the ride on the many bumpy city streets. AND because of the rapid response of the discs, I was able to avoid colliding with a dog that had run out in front of me on Ohio Drive. (Ohio, not Iowa!) With any of my other bikes, that would have been a different story. Thank you, Rawland, and thank you, disc brakes!

My Rawland dSogn in front of American University

While I’m not sure you’ll see me on this ride next year (or the year after that, even), I’m glad I registered and spent the day experiencing the streets of the city. I just wish we could have gotten a 50 States Ride t-shirt! I definitely felt like we earned it.