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World Bicycle Day

To celebrate World Bicycle Day, we sat down with Cardinal's most avid cycler – Jonathan Sucher to learn more about his passion for riding, safety tips and some of the best trails in our area. This interview is full of information for advanced riders, people who are new to biking and even people who may not have an interest at all. After reading, I think everyone will have a different level of appreciation for biking!

How long have you been into cycling and what drove you to become passionate about it?

I grew up in Falls Church literally two houses down from the Washington and Old Dominion (W & OD) Trail. When we first moved into Falls Church the train still ran. My formative years revolved around riding all over the neighborhood, Falls Church, Arlington and Vienna. While working at a community swimming pool in high school, the bicycle was my mode of transportation to the job. In college at James Madison University it was also my transport for getting to class. It turned out I could get to class quicker riding my bike than driving a car to a far-flung commuter lot and walking to class. Teaching my kids to ride bikes was fun (and exhausting). I remember running down the street after them and being thrilled with their accomplishment to join the two wheel set. Teaching kids to ride a bike is definitely for the young!

Do you ride road or mountain bike?

I ride both a mountain bike and a gravel bike which is like a road bike. While cycling can be an expensive hobby it does not have to be. Generally my bikes cost around $500 and will last 20+ years or more. All of them have been bought from my local bike store (Bull Run Bikes in Manassas) which provides excellent service and is a fantastic resource to the community.

What are some of your favorite places to ride i.e. trails, routes, locations etc?

We are fortunate enough to have excellent places to ride including:

  • The Mount Vernon Trail is 18 miles long and generally parallels the GW Parkway. It runs from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon. A great waypoint is Gravelly Point where you can watch the airplanes arrive and depart Reagan National Airport and take in some soccer or football.
  • The (W & OD) Trail runs from Arlington out to Loudoun County and goes by a number of the communities we manage.
  • The Chesapeake and Ohio (C & O Canal) runs from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland. On my list is to ride the entire 184 miles. If you park at the Maryland Great Falls and ride north you will miss much of the crowds and see some great sights including lock houses and all kinds of nature.
  • DC, which has lots of area to explore by bike. I typically park near East Potomac Park. That serves as a base of operations. A favorite route is to ride to the Jefferson Memorial, sit on the steps and take in the view, then move on to the FDR Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. From there it is an easy pedal to the Lincoln Memorial and a great view of the Reflecting Pool. I also ride past the Vietnam and Korean Memorials, onto the WWII memorial, and the Washington Monument. It is a nice route and gives you a lot to think about while reading the inscriptions on the monuments. A quick trip to the White House is always interesting and full of lots of people from all over the world, followed by a ride past the Capitol and Supreme Court. All of this is a relatively easy ride. There is a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, but there are protected bike lanes and it is a great way to see lots of DC history. This route can also be a waypoint to see any of the Smithsonian Museums or other private museums—and you don’t need to worry about parking!
  • I ride a lot in my hometown of Manassas and they have been progressive in having dedicated bike lanes which includes a route to our airport. Community bike trails that link together other trails are presently in vogue and maximize safe travels for families.
  • For Mountain bike riding, I prefer Fountainhead Park near Clifton but there are many trails including the Fairfax County Cross County Trail which you can find on the Fairfax County Gov website.

What advice can you give to people who are new to cycling or looking to get into cycling?

Bike riding is one of those skills that you never really lose. It can be intimidating to get back on a bike, if you have not cycled recently or want to learn to cycle whether a kid or an adult there are many ways to learn. I am a member of WABA (Washington Area Bicycling Association) advocates for safe cycling and offers learn to ride classes.  I am also a member of the Rails to Trails Conservancy which promotes converting old railroad lines to multi use trails. A goal of the Conservancy is a coast to coast and north to south continuous trail systems. Companies such as REI also offer learn to ride classes in a safe environment.

Any specific safety tips you’d like to share?

Wearing a helmet is a must in this area as well as having a bell that can sound an alert as you come up on other people whether joggers with earbuds in, people walking with pets or little children who may not be the best at controlling their path! With so many distracted drivers, I prefer paths to streets and as a bicyclist am hyper aware when I see cyclists on the road and provide plenty of room.

Tell us a fun story from your time on the road?

Riding on two wheels at less than 15 miles per hour gives you a great opportunity to see things that you might pass by when driving. I have rented bicycles at the Biltmore Estate and ridden the roads and grounds there several times over the years. I have rented bikes at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania and ridden the Schuylkill River Trail when we visited the National Park. When in San Diego for a business conference I used the opportunity to take the ferry to Coronado and rented a bike and rode it around the “island” which is home of the Navy Seals and the Coronado Hotel.

When in Austin Texas last summer we rode around the city bike trails which afforded great views. When traveling one of the first things I like to do is see where you can rent a bike or where the trails are in relation to where we may be staying. Again, a fantastic way to see things that you might drive right by. It is a great form of exercise and I use my time on the road or mountain bike trails to contemplate various things going on in my life at any one time. I will also ride my bike to work a few times per year. I am fortunate enough to live 11 miles away and have a paved path the majority of the way. I try to participate in WABA’s annual Bike to Work day in May.  

I will also throw my bike on my car and use it to perform inspections of my larger community path systems as a way to see if any repairs are required and where they need done. It allows me to effectively inspect the property and get some exercise in at the same time. IF you have not tried bicycling lately, give it a shot, you will be glad you did!