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Cycling Around Prince William

By Audrey Harman, Contributing Writer

family cyclingWhether you are an experienced bicyclist, or just starting out, there are plenty of helpful resources in Prince William to get your wheels moving. The opportunities to ride in the area stretch from on-road cycling, to mountain biking, to a combination of the two called “hybrid” cycling. These can be enjoyed individually or with a group. Several bike shops in Prince William host group rides, and many cycling groups offer family-friendly rides as well.

Getting Started

Bicycle shops are great places to get advice before getting started.  They are typically owned and operated by knowledgeable cyclists who are familiar with the area and can connect you with groups  and trails that suit your skill level. Olde Towne Bicycles in Woodbridge, Village Skis & Bikes in Lake Ridge, Bull Run Bicycles in Manassas and Haymarket Bicycles are a few of the local shops with friendly staff and helpful websites. Each posts group rides and biking events on their websites, and Olde Towne Bicycles also has helpful online references covering road rules, cycling safety and FAQ’s. Each also offers a full range of necessary gear as well as on-site bicycle repair and maintenance.

Places to Ride

Prince William Forest Park

Prince William Forest Park is a great place for beginners because it is “enclosed and has a designated area that is bicycle-friendly,” said Tyler Smith, manager of Olde Towne Bicycles. The park offers both paved and gravel on-road biking and off-road mountain biking trails at easy, moderate and difficult cycling levels. Each  path is rated, so you can gauge your skill level against the ratings to find a perfect fit.

The park offers 12 miles of paved riding trails and 9.2 miles of gravel trails. More experienced off-road bicyclists may also ride on the park’s 10 fire roads. In “Things to Do” under the “Plan Your Visit” section of Prince William Forest Park’s website (www.nps.gov/prwi/index.htm) there is a bicycling section which describes all 10 of the roads offered for cyclists and the level of difficulty for each.

“In areas D and G there is a designated two-way bike lane,” said Robin Antonucci, founder of Prince William Cycling Group and a 32-year county resident. “The grade is modest, about two percent and less than most neighborhood streets. The park is shaded in the  summer, which provides for relief from the sun and high temperatures. Additionally, you can see squirrels, bunny rabbits and the occasional deer,” Antonucci said. “For more advanced riders, the park loop provides some challenging climbs and downhills. The fee for the park is nominal and well worth the season pass.”

Biking is prohibited on the hiking trails, to prevent “trail degradation” and for the safety of hikers. Cyclists must also wear a helmet at all times and follow road rules as if they were driving a car.

Prince William Parkway and Route 234 Paved Trails

The Prince William Parkway trail is paved and runs from Old Bridge Road in Lake Ridge all the way to Liberia Avenue in Manassas. The Route 234 paved trail runs along the road from Montclair to the intersection of Hoadly Road and Prince William Parkway. Tom Steele, a Woodbridge resident since 2002 and co-organizer of the Prince William  Cycling Group, said there are rolling hills along both cross-county paths. Danny Quirk, owner and operator of Bull Run Bicycles, said he frequently sees parents carting their children along the Route 234 trail in bike trailers and that both trails are family  friendly.

ConwayRobinson State Forest Park 

Steele recommends that beginner mountain bikers start at Conway-Robinson State Forest Trail in Gainesville because there are “lots of non-technical single-track” cycling areas. Single-track means the trail is just wide enough for your bike; double-track would be wide enough for four-wheeled off-road vehicles. Located between Gainesville and the Manassas National Battlefield, the park has 6.5 miles of expanding single-and double-track trails.

Bicycling Safety

Having your child wear a helmet, isn't just smart, it's the law.
Having your child wear a helmet, isn’t just smart, it’s the law.

“The most important safety tip is to wear a helmet. … Make sure that your bicycle and gear are all maintained and in good condition. Have your bike checked by a bicycle mechanic at least once a year,” said Dennis Short, vice president of Prince William Elite Racing. Also eat smart. “Cycling is an endurance sport, so eating healthy foods is important and eating enough carbohydrates is another important factor.” The law requires children to wear helmets. Parents should wear them as well, for safety and to set a good example, he added.

“Family rides with children should be adapted to their ages and level of biking,” said Antonucci. He added that parents should always teach children how to brake suddenly, change gears and respect trail etiquette or road rules before taking them out for a ride. Additionally, all cyclists should always wear a helmet and keep water handy. Know your endurance and skill level and don’t push yourself beyond what you know you can handle.

When riding on the road, cyclists must obey all signs and traffic signals. Keep out of blind spots of other vehicles, wear bright reflective clothing and equip your bike with a headlight and tail light—you want drivers to see you riding alongside them. Ride with traffic, share the road with them, and ride defensively in case they are not expecting you to be there when they switch lanes.

FamilyFriendly Biking Groups

Another option is(www.potomacpedalers.org),     which provides social and recreational bicycling in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. It is the largest bike club on the East Coast, with hundreds of year-round bike rides for everyone.

Benefits of Cycling

Cycling is a great family sport, as it can be adapted to any skill level, just by choosing how and where you ride. It allows you and yours to enjoy the fresh air, be together and improve your overall health. It is also a “green” mode of transportation. “Riding with your kids, even just around your own block, provides a great opportunity to talk and share with them. It combines family time with physical activity,” said Antonucci.

So next time you’re looking for something fun and active to do as a family, go for a ride!

Audrey Harman has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish from Hollins University and is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in publications design at the University of Baltimore. She resides in Woodbridge. Harman can be reached by email at ahar[email protected]cewilliamliving.com.

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