BikeArlington Visits Mount Vernon District Park

headshot of bikearlington program manager david balick
David Balick Tweet Us November 19, 2021

David Balick is the Program Manager for BikeArlington. Originally from Arlington, he bikes as much as he can and is always on the lookout for new, interesting trails in the area.

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BikeArlington visited Mount Vernon District Park with local group Arlington Trails for a thrilling first-time mountain bike experience.

After speaking with Matt Levine of Arlington Trails about how to get started with Mountain Biking, I decided to join Matt and try it out at Mount Vernon District Park in Alexandria, VA.

First, I Needed A Bike

Mountain bikes usually have wider, knobby tires (more grip), and provide more suspension than a typical road bike. This makes it easier to ride on dirt trails and go over roots and rocks. I borrowed a mountain bike from Rick with a dropper seat post, meaning that there was a lever I could push to quickly raise and drop the height of the seat post. This made biking uphill easier with the seat post all the way up. When we were going downhill, I was instructed to drop the seat post to provide plenty of clearance, balance, and maneuverability as we descended the trails.

I learned to keep the mid-sole of my foot in the middle of the bike pedal to maintain good grip and balance throughout the ride. I wore flat, grippy shoes that would best stick to the grip on the pedals. After a couple of laps around the parking lot to get the feel of the bike, I was ready to go.

Advancing to The Trails

Soon we were riding up the trail, going over roots, rocks, and logs. It certainly took me some time to adjust. I love riding up a good hill, but it’s a little different when you are going over obstacles at the same time. The trail we were on felt like one you might go hiking on, but instead of walking, we were riding bikes. I was a bit skeptical at first, but the mountain bike I was riding was more than up for the challenge.

Sharpening My Skills

After getting the hang of riding around on trails, Rick took me to the MVDP Mountain Bike Skill Zone. The Skill Zone is a couple of very cool trail runs, maintained by volunteers, that include various jumps, bumps, and other mountain bike features like berms (a sharp curve) and skinnies (a balance beam for bikes).

The first time down the Skill Zone was thrilling! It felt like I was flying down the trail and yet still in control. It was freeing to roll, bend, and glide down the trail. I felt one with the trail through the tires and pedals as we zipped around. After watching Rick’s video footage, I realized I wasn’t going as fast as it felt. It was thriling regardless of the actual speed I was travelling.

We did the Skill Zone loop ten times, each time more fun than the last. I learned to lean into turns, and how to carefully ride down the skinnies. Every run, I felt a little more comfortable going faster which soon led to getting some air on the jumps. Before long, my fear of going too fast turned into questions for Rick of how to go faster so I could get a little more air beneath my wheels when I leapt off the ground.

Try It Out

I had no idea what to expect on my first mountain biking adventure, but now I can’t wait for the next one. Currently, no bike riding is allowed on natural surface trails in Arlington, so Arlington residents curious about mountain biking can go to nearby places like Mount Vernon District Park and Wakefield Park.

If you or someone you know is interested in trying out mountain bike, check out Arlington Trails, Phoenix Bikes, or Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) to learn more. As my first time experience shows, it’s very helpful to have someone to show you the way.

Get Involved

On our trip, we were sharing the course with other mountain bikers as well, many of whom had only started mountain biking in the last couple of years but were now hooked. The community environment was wonderful. We even rode by people out on hikes who were warm and happy to be enjoying the nature and trails just as we were.
If you want to support bicycling in Arlington and in the region? Consider volunteering with BikeArlington or a local cycling group such as Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE).


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