Adventures in the DC

It’s a holiday weekend! And that means I get off work early Friday and have Saturday and Sunday and Monday to catch up on R&R. I’m still chugging through CPA exam materials, really wishing I had this done but plodding onward nonetheless.

Today I harassed said study materials for awhile, but then got a brainy idea to bike the Capital Crescent trail and return through Rock Creek Park in DC. Now I haven’t been on a proper bike ride since leaving Flagstaff at the beginning of July due to bike issues that weren’t (more on that later) and just being plain lazy with skewed priorities.

I rode the subway into Georgetown where the trail began, feeling like a guerrilla carrying my bike through subway turnstiles and onto subway cars. It was a 90/90 day (90F + 90% humid) so it actually wasn’t very pleasant, but it still felt great to be out riding. Most of the trail was shaded by huge trees which made the heat somewhat tolerable.


Bike + subway

I highly recommend this trail. It’s nonstop beautiful scenery starting with the historic canal sunken into Georgetown, past the old canal locks, beside huge roaring streams, past waterfalls, along the river, and through spectacular Rock Creek park on the way back. I started at the beginning of the C&O Canal instead of getting directly on the Capital Crescent path; I love the canal, how it goes through historic Georgetown. The bike path is brick here, not as wide and not as smooth as the paved CC, but very nice. At places the canal water is crystal clear and I could see big fish swimming beside the bike path.

Within a mile the canal towpath merges with the CC, so I crossed over and followed it along the river until it headed into Maryland. The trail is slightly uphill all the way to Bethesda, and from there it’s mostly downhill to Georgetown as the trail winds beside Rock Creek. The creek is no joke; it’s huge and full of big rocks, descending fairly rapidly all the way back to the river. See GPS track below. The mileage for the track was 22.7 miles. The Georgetown (Foggy Bottom subway) is at the bottom of the loop where the lines look lost (I was). The White House is at the bottom right corner.


Part 2:

I had bike trouble along the way, but a little background first (well, a lot of background). Last month I got my bike “serviced” at the dealership where I purchased the bike. The bike went into the shop working fine; I just needed a shock boot replaced, a fairly simple procedure on a Lefty shock, especially for a Cannondale dealer. He quoted me a price of $40 for the boot and said he’d call if anything changed or if it took longer than a week.

Two weeks later he still hadn’t called so I gave the bike shop a call; they were still waiting on the part. No big deal, just a minor annoyance. After a month at the shop I gave him another call; the bike was almost done. Eventually I picked up the bike—actually, my dad did since I had already moved to DC. The bill was $300 instead of the $40 we agreed on. No apologies, no calls—he just decided the bike needed more parts. The mechanic had gone ahead, without my permission, and rebuilt the brakes (spending more than new brakes cost), replaced the chain, and a bunch of other small things. I know the chain did not need replacing because I measure it regularly and keep it well lubed and cleaned. Last weekend I moved the bike to DC and took it on my first ride today.

Problem 1: Right away I noticed the pedals were slipping, or rather the chain was slipping over the cogs. It slipped in all gears. It was ride-able if I kept it in the largest chain rings to give the chain maximum tension, and if I didn’t stand up on the pedals or push it too hard, so I kept going. I didn’t expect any really steep climbs since I’d be riding rail-trails most of the day.

Problem 2: The next thing I noticed were the brakes (hydraulic). They were squishy, and the levers pulled all the way into the handlebar grips without skidding. I kept going—after all, I probably wouldn’t have any steep hills or need abrupt stops. I also noticed that hydraulic oil seeped out of the handlebars whenever I pulled the brake levers. That’s not a good thing because the brakes have a very small oil reservoir, and the system must remain airtight to be effective. Now I was limited to slow acceleration and slow stops. Aside from being upset that I just paid someone $300 to ruin my bike.

I called the bike shop. He was sorry. No, he wouldn’t fix it free but he could get to it within a week if I dropped it off (he said it would need new gears, at a minimum). Was there anything wrong with the old chain. No. Why the new chain? It was something they always replaced. Why hadn’t he called or mentioned this sooner? Oh, sorry again. Why spend more rebuilding brakes than new ones cost? It was an involved job. Had I asked him to fix the brakes? No. Why a month instead of a week? The $40 estimate? The bill just kept adding up (really?). I was thoroughly frustrated at the end of the call. I had a beautifully working bike that I faithfully maintained and loved, and I leave it with him and it’s ruined, at great expense to me.

Moving on..

In Bethesda, I saw a bike shop next to the trail. I decided to step inside and see if they could help, at least get my brakes working. The mechanic immediately found the problem with my brakes, refilled them, fixed the leaks and adjusted them properly. All within half an hour and at no charge. They work perfectly now. Needless to say, I won’t be returning to my old bike shop again, not even to buy a new Cannondale.

The rest of the ride when well. I coasted down the trail beside Rock Creek and was soon back in Georgetown. For pictures, I refer you to the inter-nets: this post has some good pictures and a brief description of the same ride I did.