Shakedown to Fort Washington

When most people buy a new bike, they jump on it and ride it until they are sick to death of the thing. Not me. Other than a five-mile spin around the neighborhood, I kept my new Surly Cross Check on ice for two weeks. I was waiting for a saddle bag to arrive before going for a longer ride.

The saddlebag is a Carradice Barley bag. It took about a week to arrive from England. For some reason they shipped it via registered mail so I had to sign for it at the post office after the mailman attempted delivery when I was at work. (You’d think the post office would have removed this sort of annoyance from its customers’ experience. You’d think wrong.)

I put the bag on my bike. I think it looks great. My bike is black with white decals. The Barley is black with white leather straps. It’s a bit small for my needs so I have ordered a Carradice Nelson Longflap bag. The Barley will go on The Mule.

A digression about Carradice products: I have two Carradice knock offs made by a company called Zimbale. They look nice but they are starting to fray from very light use. I noticed that at the very point of fraying the Carradice has a leather tab that reinforces the canvas on the bag. Long story short, you get what you pay for.

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The Cross Check on the left. The Mule on the right.

Before I headed out, I measured the seat height on the Cross Check and compared it to the seat height on The Mule. Based on this, I adjusted the Cross Check’s saddle down about 1/2 and inch.

And off I rode.

It’s hard to tell how much of the zoom factor was from the adrenalin of riding a new bike and how much was from the fact that my other three bikes are tanks. Either way, this bike is a blast to ride, not quite as fast as a proper road bike, but very forgiving on bumps and such. After three miles I felt I could ride forever

Bad idea. Anytime you ride a new bike, you should not go overboard. You’re body will freak out from the subtle differences between the new bike and the bikes you are used to.

After five miles of smooth riding, I decied to ride to Fort Washington, part of the defenses of Washington in the early 19th century.

The route took me across the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-95). There are some ugly explansion joints that gave me a jolt. They give me a jolt on all my bikes so I am not complaining. On the Maryland side of the bridge, there is a cool spiral ramp to take you down towards National Harbor. I was hoping to let the Cross Check rip here but it was packed with about 20 walkers.

After that, I rode up Oxon Hill, a long slow grind. It took a while to find a rhythm but once I did the Cross Check carried me up hill nicely.

I took a right on Oxon Hill Road and found myself on fresh asphalt. Maryland’s Department of Transportation (MDOT) did a nice job on this new road, throwing in a couple of roudabouts in the deal. The Cross Check loves roundabouts. So much fun.

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I jumped off Oxon Hill Road in favor of the less trafficky Fort Foote Rd. This road cuts through a suburban, residential neighborgood before it loops back to Oxon HIll Road.

This section of Oxon Hill Road needs some work. I zoomed down a hill, rolling right over all kinds of asphalt patches. Smooth as silk.

I banged a right on Livingston Road and another on Fort Washington Road. Soon I was digging out my annial pass to federal parks. I rolled through the park and eventually walked my bike into the fort. It’s pretty awesome. Tall brick walls protected by a dry moat. I stood next to where the old gun emplacements were.

After hanging out I headed for home, retracing my route, but skipping Fort Foote Road. Also, I stopped at St John’s church, built in colonial times.

There is one big hill on Oxon Hill Road that I wanted to try. Let’s just say, my pathetic ascending skills are not about the bike.

The down hill back to the Wilson Bridge was quite a lot of fun. I was cruising at 33 miles per hour. The bike was on rail. Weee!

After about 30 miles my lower back and neck were starting to complain so I headed home. I will probably need to tweak my saddle position a bit but for a first ride, this one was pretty darn comfy.

For some pictures of my excursion, check my Flickr page.

I have yet to name my bike. I have some pretty strong contenders though.

I wouldn’t want to rush into things.

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2 thoughts on “Shakedown to Fort Washington

  1. Thanks to your route directions, I finally rode over to Fort Washingon on Monday. Oxon Hill Road with the roundabouts was a blast. There were a couple of close passes by car drivers, but most were safe in their passing.

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