Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tour de Clifton

Now that I am restricted to riding my bike, I figured it was time to head out to an old standby route that still remains one of my most absolute favorites.  It also happens to be within 4 miles of my house and includes pretty much relentless work throughout the ride.  If I can get out there early, I tend to see more animals than cars, which certainly makes for a relaxing ride.

The general route is made up of 2 loops that can be repeated as many times as necessary to make up the total distance wanted for any particular ride, but there are also so many other roads that one could use to add distance without looping back too many times if that ain't your sort of thing.  But the best part about the ride, is that it is pretty much all hills all the time.  Nothing super long (the longest is probably a 3.5 mile climb up Clifton Rd), but lots of changes in pitch (of up to 20%+ grade) that keep you on your shifters and always working.  Which means, you can't get lazy by dozing off spinning in the same gear for hours on end.

Since I haven't been riding my bike much, I knew 1 lap of the whole route would be more than enough.  In total, it made up about 30 miles door to door, but the route itself within the immediate Clifton area is probably closer to 20 miles.  Again, there are endless ways to extend this, but I enjoy the sights so much of my go-to route that looping the course never really got me bored during a ride...just tired!

The route starts with a series of rollers, but mostly downhill throughout the area as you head south on Colchester Rd.  After turning on Fairfax Station Rd to head toward Clifton, you nearly pass by the "historic" (and urban legend) Bunnyman Bridge (At one time, I continued down to it, but after reading the story, I try not to go over there....it gives me the creeps!).   After a quick climb and then a nice winding downhill, before you know it, you find yourself passing through the historic Main St of Clifton, home to the delicious Trummer's on Main (in white on left) and the Clifton General Store (in green with Texaco sign out front), which is a nice reminder of the quaintness of the Main St of Clifton, which dates back to as long ago as the 1700s, but primarily known as a stopping point via the railroad for dignitaries (including US Presidents) on their way to Washington DC throughout the 1800 and 1900s.  But enough about the history, let's get back to the cycling!

Clifton sits in the valley of pretty much every road around it, so the only way out is to go up!  Here is where you can pick your poison - you can take the long, but not too steep climb up Clifton Rd to the north loop, or you can put yourself to the test with the challenging hills of the surrounding roads.  At this point, I typically head out via Chapel Rd.  Not too long after riding on some more rolling hills, you are faced with one of the short, but toughest sections.

Don't let this innocent view fool you, once you start around that turn, it gets STEEP...20+% grade steep!
But the good news is that the climb is only about 1 mile long in total.  Once at the top, you get more rollers and ride along some very large estates, before making a turn down Yates Ford Rd.  This section begins with a long decent, though it requires some breaking to pass a few large speed bumps, placed obviously to slow down passing cars, but which you'll hate later too when you have to go uphill on an already steep and grinding climb that takes you up and over some similarly large speedbumps...it just adds to the fun and challenge of the climb though.
Once you crest the hill, you have a few more smaller climbs until you turn right onto Clifton Rd, which eventually leads you back to....Clifton!  Now typically, I'd continue on Clifton Rd, but I decided to take a little short (but hilly) detour to visit one of my (and Rebecca's) favorite places - Paradise Springs Winery.  For those that aren't hip to the VA wine scene yet, there are now nearly 200 VA wineries, but Paradise Springs is not only the closest, but the only one located in Fairfax County (and conveniently a short bike or car ride away from us!)....and if I do say so myself, it also produces some of the best wines!  So to add an extra 5 miles roundtrip to my route, I headed over just to stop by and turnaround (it was still too early to taste any, but I will certainly stop by one of these days during a ride).

The old cabin in the background is an original house from the property, dating back to the early 1800s and used to host their tastings, which are new held in their new tasting room that just opened this last month
After leaving Paradise, I found my way back to Main St in Clifton, where I began the long climb up Clifton Rd.  This climb isn't challenging by itself, since it isn't nearly as steep as any of the other major climbs.  However, it is by far the longest, lasting about 3.5 miles with a few short breaks thrown in there.  Sometimes, I use this hill as an opportunity for an uphill time trial, where I just push as hard as I can while attempting to put out equal effort for the entire duration of the climb.

Once at the top, you get to make a decision - do you loop back to enjoy more of the course or head back home and call it a day?  The best part is that I still haven't scratched the surface on all of the route options.  I'm always on the lookout for a biggest and baddest climbs and with my trusty friend Googlemaps, I'm sure to identify some new ones to try out next time to add to my repertoire.

After 1 loop on this weekend's ride though, I called it a day - I was spent!

1 comment:

Ian Carroll said...

Thanks! Had a great time following this route today!


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