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Relocating to the Northern VA and DC area(18 posts)

Relocating to the Northern VA and DC areaj-son
Sep 3, 2003 8:08 AM
My wife (the veterinarian) and I, along with our three Pugs, are relocating to the DC area next Spring. She has accepted a position with a vet clinic with offices in Alexandria and Fairfax. Coming from the Midwest, we are excited but somewhat ignorant of the ways of the east coast.

DC and Northern Virginia residents, what is the cycling scene like? ... MB1's ride reports (MB1: Welcome back, great to have you back on the bike and behind the camera lens) portray the area as bike friendly and positively beautiful!

Also, any suggestions about where to live? (And specifically, places that allow three small dogs.)

We have and are educating ourselves about the area but I wanted a cyclist's perspective on living in this part of the country.

Thanks and best regards,
Can't answer any of your Q's but welcome to DC. Let's ride!MB1
Sep 3, 2003 8:49 AM
For riding info check out

I like DC but it isn't cheap to become a home owner here. Seems like the Vets office might have some ideas about pet friendly housing.
Fairfax County can be a cyclist's nightmare ...Humma Hah
Sep 3, 2003 8:55 AM
20-something years ago, when I moved to the Telegraph Hill area, I went from being an avid cyclist to a non-cyclist in about one week. In much of the area, the solution to too much traffic has been to turn perfectly nice 35 mph 2-lane roads with a paved shoulder into 55 mph 4-lane roads with no shoulder. Or, 2-lane 30 mph country roads with no shoulder, that were OK light-traffic country roads 40 years ago, are now 45 mph major commuter roads with no significant improvements.

Manassas ain't too shabby, and your wife could commute into Alexandria on the VRE commuter train. It has some places I prefer not to take a bike, but I've learned some good routes. From Nokesville to the south and west are some of the nicest little country roads you could ever put a bike wheel on.

There are a few excellent bike trails radiating out from DC that some folks commute on. I was on the W&OD this Monday, goes from Purcellville all the way in to Arlington, where it hooks up with the Custis trail to go into DC. On the Maryland side of the Potomac, the C&O Canal Towpath (unpaved) runs 184 miles from Cumberland, MD, into Georgetown in DC. Theres a bike trail up the Potomac from Mt. Vernon, too.
This link is a good starting point for cycling info.Humma Hah
Sep 3, 2003 9:06 AM
re: Relocating to the Northern VA and DC areaMShaw
Sep 3, 2003 9:04 AM
Moved from there a few years ago, but the family still lives there.

All I can say to you is BUY something, that way you don't have to worry about whether someone allows pets. With the real estate market in the area booming (still) I wouldn't hesitate a minute longer than necessary.

The closer in you get to the city, the more you'll end up urban riding on the WOD and the streets, but the more time you'll have in the day to do it. There are a bunch of suburbs (Reston, Herndon, etc.) that are further out in (what used to be) the boonies that have better riding, but the commute's gonna kill your SO.

There aren't anything resembling bike lanes on the streets in the DC area. You'll be riding with the cars or on MUTs. The drivers are aggressive, but if you stand your ground, you shouldn't have too many problems. I used to ride right where the right tires of the cars went and MADE them ride around me.

The riding scene is/was fantastic. There are LOTS of cyclists and places to ride just west of the 'burbs. If you mtn bike check out too. The District 42 website is: D20

There are so many group rides that you'll have to check the LBS near you to see what's up.

That help?

Not entirely true.djg
Sep 3, 2003 10:54 AM
There are some bike lanes in the DC area--certainly Arlington County has some on regular roads, in addition to the MUTs.

I'd also mention that there are some road closings in Rock Creek park on the weekends--closings as far as motorized traffic is concerned, that is.

I agree with the rest. Also recommend Potomac Pedalers as a good, and big, all purpose riding club. There are quite a few teams around if you want to race.
re: Relocating to the Northern VA and DC areaMazinger
Sep 3, 2003 9:50 AM
The suburbs here in NOVA (Northern VA) aren't too great for cyclist, but it's not too far from some great riding out on country

I hope you and the wife are prepared for the cost of living shock in this area.

Apartments around here are pretty much pet friendly. Not sure if there is a limit on how many you can have though.
For a decent 1 bedroom apartment look to spend a little over $1,000 a month for rent.
Like everyone else says ...pmf1
Sep 3, 2003 11:04 AM
Traffic sucks and the cost of living is ridiculous out here. The best way to stay sane is to try to drive as little as possible. As far as Northern VA goes, its worth looking at something on/near the metro lines (you may end up working in the district?) and near a bike path.

I live in Vienna -- a bit closer in than Fairfax, but pretty close. I live one mile from the W&OD trail and am able to commute into work 3-4 times a week (its 19 miles each way). On days when I don't ride, I drive to the metro (about 10-15 minutes) and ride that in.

I used to live in the Midwest and don't really miss it. I like DC a lot more than I ever thought I would, but its something to get used to. There's too many people here. Its not uncommon to spend over an hour each way getting to work, or paying $400,000 for a house that would go for less than half that where you live. Housing prices have boomed and you're gonna be bummed when you see what you get. Still, buying a house is a worthwhile thing to do.

The climate here (except this year) is pretty nice. Most winters (except the last one), you can ride year round. The countryside around here is beautiful. The Shenandoah valley is a great place to ride. Its not Colorado, but there's challenging hills. The ocean is not far away either. There are tons of biking things to do (clubs, centuries, racing, etc).
re: Relocating to the Northern VA and DC areakatooom
Sep 3, 2003 11:30 AM
come on out to Warrenton. The commute would be a drag, but many do it. The cycling is great. On the other hand, maybe you should stay closer in - too many people moving out here already!
Yeah ... too many of you barreling down Vint Hill Road ...Humma Hah
Sep 3, 2003 11:44 AM
... trying to get to VRE, making it impossible for me to cyclecommute!

I need to explore around here. It took about an hour to explore every rideable inch of Vint Hill ... I need some MILES!
Warrenton is nicepmf1
Sep 3, 2003 12:14 PM
I got a book on bike rides around the area and have done several starting in the Warrenton park and ride. It is beautiful out there. I'd love to get a lot and build a retirement house someplace out there -- except that it'll be a suburb by the time I retire.
yes it is /and so is Fred county/cyclopathic
Sep 3, 2003 1:01 PM
Warrenton is nice there alot of riding still. So is Front Royal, Hay Market, etc pretty much any location pass Manassas alone I-66.

In Maryland Frederic Co has great riding and North and West Montgomery Co have some left still.

Personally with wife working in Fairfax and Alexandria, I'd pick place in Manassas and/or Dale City by the commuter train. Alternative is to get place in Alexandria, not much riding just Mount Vernon trail and then drive out on weekend for rides good luck.
re: Relocating to the Northern VA and DC areabburgbiker
Sep 3, 2003 2:43 PM
When considering where to live i'd check out the Alexandria area. Anywhere off of the George Washington Parkway is nice and Old Town and DC are just a short bike ride away. It is true that parts of Fairfax County and Fairfax City can be difficult to get around by bike but a vast trail network does make it easier. The most useful resource for you will be the Metro DC area bike map that is available at local Performance and Spokes bike shops.

I just got back from a 1.5 hr. ride around the Mt. Vernon/Belle View/Belle Haven area of Alexandria(south of Old Town, actually part of FFX county, not Alex. City) and all of the roads i rode are biker friendly. and i even got some good climbing in down near the Potomac.

It is true that the W&OD Trail (from Arlington to Purcersville) is flat and striaght but once you get out to Leesburg and Purcersville there are some great county roads and a few decent climbs.

The local cycling community is strong with many clubs and group rides. The most popular group ride is every Tues. and Thur. with the Reston Bike Club. The Potomac Pedalers bike club is great, especially if you're into touring.

If you have any questions about the area or the riding don't hesitate to email me at

hope this info helps.
From the other side of the Potomac...OverStuffed
Sep 3, 2003 4:53 PM
I'm a lifelong resident of northeast DC, and I think it's time for an urbanite's point of view. Living in the city, I can't get any significant miles without also putting in significant miles on major commuter routes. That said, I've never had too many problems with cars in the city, or in Montgomery County (MD) or Prince George's County (MD). I have one 20 mile loop connecting two well trafficked parkways (Beach Drive and Sligo Creek Parkway). Drivers on these roads are generally courteous, and will give you plenty of room. There is a decent network of MUT's in those two counties, but most of the trails end up on non-bike-friendly roads, so I don't use them. Also in Maryland is the Beltsville Agricultural REsearch Center (USDA), which has a fairly large network of two lane roads that I find pleasant to ride on. They have the bonus of being convenient to me. Riding in downtown DC is like riding downtown anywhere else, I guess. Usually plenty of signs and meters to use as anchors, too. Many areas of downtown have actual bike racks, now, too. That's the view from this side of the river.
There is some AWESOME riding over in Indianhead...Gregory Taylor
Sep 4, 2003 6:29 AM
There is a 60-mile loop that takes in Port Tobacco, etc. that we do at least once a year. On a Sunday morning, there is little to no traffic. Rural and beautiful, all about 15 miles from D.C.
Oxon Hill bike clubpmf1
Sep 4, 2003 7:32 AM
These guys put on a couple of good rides every year. They have a metric in the spring that's really nice -- lots of fresh strawberries at the rest stops.
Yes -- that loop is basically their century/metric route (nm)Gregory Taylor
Sep 4, 2003 9:16 AM
Welcome!Gregory Taylor
Sep 4, 2003 5:36 AM
Warning: The following is written by a "local" who grew up in the DC area, lived has there all his life, and has roots in the area that date pre-Civil War.

Welcome to the DC area! Yes, it's expensive and getting more crowded by the day. Yes, it can be either very bike friendly or an utter nightmare for a cyclist. Yes, it can be beautiful.

I live south of Old Town Alexandria, near Mount Vernon. I recommend it highly, with the caveat that it's a seller's market and buyers are having to do silly things to buy a house. That said, there is a very nice set of garden-style apartments/condos (Belle View Apartments) that are right off of the George Washington Parkway and the Mount Vernon Bike Trail.

In terms of cycling, the Mount Vernon area ain't too shabby. The commuter thing works great with the Mt. Vernon Bike Trail. It runs through Alexandria and into Washington, D.C., and connects with most of the other trails in the area and the C&O canal. There is an active racing scene and, of course, the nearly-infamous Team Lardbutt old-guy rides on Sunday.

If you want more info, feel free to e-mail --