On holiday in America and riding an array of bicycles

My wife and I are currently on holiday in the USA and staying with her family. Mrs BikeVCar is bringing back memories of her youth by baking an array of cookies and brownies with her mother. Which has provided a convenient window of opportunity for the male contingent of the house to sample the amazing array of bicycles contained in the basement. Saturday was a hilly 70 mile ride from Rockville, MD, up to Sugarloaf Mountain and along the Potomac river which separates Maryland from Virginia. I opted for a singlespeed road bike – an old steel frame randonneur which had been recently converted to a singlespeed but with a freehub so not a fixed gear. Other than a couple of hours riding a fixed gear on the track, this was my first real experience of riding singlespeed and for the most part I didn’t really have to think much about it. The gear ratio was 48×19 which was fine for most flat roads and any hills but had me spinning a little too quickly on descents or flat roads with a tailwind. I mostly ride in a low cadence so sometimes found it a little tiring spinning at high speeds for long durations.

Day 1 bike - first experience of singlespeed on the road

Day 1 bike – first experience of singlespeed on the road

A normal American residential road - in the UK a road this wide is called a motorway

A normal American residential road – in the UK this would be called a motorway

Out in the countryside and spotting Sugarloaf Mountain the distance

Out in the countryside and sighting Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance

In total we climbed 1500 metres, including the 150 metre ascent of Sugarloaf Mountain. At that height it’s more of a hill than a mountain, but at 6% average for just under 2 miles it was a good challenge on the singlespeed. The weather was also quite warm and muggy so we took a well earned break at the top and admired the views.

On top of Sugarloaf Mountain / Hill

On top of Sugarloaf Mountain (Hill)

Cooling off

Cooling off

Pete on his new touring bike

Pete with his latest addition to the stable – touring bike

Grabbing refreshments at a cycle-friendly store

Grabbing refreshments at a cycle-friendly store

I hadn’t done much cycling in America before so wasn’t sure how cyclists are generally treated on the roads. In comparison to the UK, car drivers seemed to be a lot more patient about overtaking and gave more room. This could partly be due to the roads being wider, but there were still lots of occasions when a car would patiently follow behind for a couple of minutes until it was completely safe to pass. One thing I did notice was the staggeringly large number of enormous, luxury houses in the suburbs, known pejoratively as ‘McMansions’.

Just like cycling in the Loire Valley

A family home … for a family of 45

The wide Potomac river

Cycling beside the wide Potomac river


Stopping beside a bridge

On Sunday we went for a flatter ride down to Washington DC. I opted to ride a 25 year old, 7-speed steel frame bike with gear shifters on the down tube. It was again a very different experience to my normal bikes, but also very straightforward to get used to.

Shifting without looking

After a while I was comfortable shifting without looking (and not worrying about sticking my fingers in the spokes of the wheel)

Club jersey proudly displayed while on foreign soil!

Club jersey proudly displayed while on foreign soil

Enjoyable suburban roads

Enjoyable suburban roads

It was great to see loads of other cyclists on the roads, and to cover 120 varied miles over the weekend on two very different bikes. Our average speed was above 16 mph for the two days which also made me realise that all this high-end, super lightweight cycling technology probably doesn’t make much of a difference to the performance of your average cyclist. It also made me realize that it wouldn’t hurt to add a few extra bikes to my collection …

14 thoughts on “On holiday in America and riding an array of bicycles

  1. bgddyjim says:

    I agree with you on both of those last two points – the carbon frames make no difference to speed whatsoever… Where they matter is in comfort – if you’d had your Merckx with you and ridden that just after the (presumably) aluminum bike, l believe you’d have felt a huge difference. My 5200 feels like a Bentley compared to my Cannondale. As for the bikes… N+1 brother. Glad you’re able to enjoy riding here in the US.

  2. tuckamoredew says:

    Looks like a great trip, especially the chance to ride multiple bikes. I’m a big fan of older bikes: they can give very good cycling fun for your money…as long as they are in good condition.

    • bikevcar says:

      I hadn’t actually noticed but just checked it out and they are original Biopace chain rings! Father in Law says he is considering scrapping that bike so I will make sure he keeps the rings for posterity!

  3. Adam C. Henderson says:

    Great read! Cool to get your perspective on riding in the States. I’m also very glad you had good experiences with automobiles. We DO have our losers, I’m very glad they weren’t on your road this day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s