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Thread: Commute route to DC from Great Falls?

  1. #1
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    Default Commute route to DC from Great Falls?

    I will be moving to a place in VA that is near Great Falls (the park itself, where Old Dominion Drive terminates), but would still like to commute to DC (Capitol) on occasion. Can I get there without using Old Dominion Drive, which is narrow and dangerous for a cyclist to use? Anyone who has good routes to get to the American Legion Bridge, and from there to the Capitol.... the hints would be appreciated!
    Most days I'll be taking a motorcycle I also ferry bicycles on my MC and need to do the odd one-way bicycle commute. But the area doesn't look very friendly for bicyclists.

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    I commuted from Reston to Great Falls for years, and rode around Great Falls after work when the weather was nice. The bad news is that its a pretty cycle-unfriendly area. Neighborhood roads don't usually connect together, which forces you onto main roads, which are narrow, hilly and full of rich assholes driving like rich assholes.

    From the Georgetown Pike/Old Dominion intersection, you have a few options. If you are unconcerned about time and willing to ride off road, the best option is to do a short run on Georgetown Pike to the top of the cross county trail, and ride that to the W&OD. Its definitely not gonna be quick and somewhat weather dependent (can get muddy and has some stream crossings), but its zero road riding. Not sure what kind of shape the CCT is these days, its been a few years since I rode it (I started working from home and moved out of Reston in 2017). The northern section could get gnarly, but I have ridden it on a cyclocross bike with road tires before.

    Option 2 is Old Dominion just over the bridge, right on Peacock Station to cut the corner to Towlston, then follow Towlston across 7 (where it becomes Trap Rd), keep following to where it becomes Beulah near Vienna, then make a right on Clarkes Crossing and drop down to the W&OD. I don't have much experience with Towlston at rush hour, but its been tolerable on weekends for me.

    Option 3 is above, but after hitting Towlston, make a right on Leigh Mill, drop down the hill and then do Kelso-Brian Jac-Trotting Horse-Fairpine-Forestville and cross 7; Forestville becomes Beulah after you cross. Then left on Atwood, go Carrington-Bixler-Tuba-Shouse and pop out on Trap, then follow above. Basically a more roundabout version of the above route. I used this a lot on weekend rides (coming to Georgetown Pike from Riverbend) and it was enjoyable.

    I'm not really aware of any other routes, aside from getting really roundabout and, say, heading north on Riverbend Rd and looping around to the village and into Reston that way (my old commute did a lot of those roads). Thats gonna add a lot of miles to an already long route, and I can't really say that the roads are any better.

    Best of luck!

  3. #3
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    I haven't biked in the Great Falls area, but the American Legion Bridge is part of I-495, which is prohibited to cyclists. I wish that they add a multi-use bridge next to it, for those in MD who want to commute to Tysons Corner. The closest bike accessible bridge is Chain Bridge. North/West of that the only thing that resembles a bridge that is bike accessible is White's Ferry(Next to Leesburg).

    One suggestion that I have is similar to jabberwocky Option 2(using Towlston to get to Route 7, see this Google Map link), but use the wide shoulder on route 7 as a bike lane; which becomes occasionally a right turn lane. Use it to go to Gallows RD bike lanes, then to the W&OD. They have added grade separated multi-use paths to the intersection with Dulles Toll RD more than a year ago, so you can cross that intersection easily, which connects you to wide sidewalks that takes you directly to Gallows RD.

    VDOT is going to add multi-use paths along Route 7 from Reston to Dulles Toll RD intersection, but you have to wait till 2024. See here for more details: http://connectroute7.org/

    I wouldn't use a road like Towlston myself; too narrow for my comfort.

  4. #4
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    Or you could cross the river with this $1400 kit:

    https://www.shuttlebike.com/en/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M37PPSYlZNA

  5. #5
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    Thanks, I don't know how I thought there was a side path on the 495 bridge that allowed access to the tow path on the MD side. Sounds like option 2 with with some variations is the best way to go. Disappointing that the roads are so bike-unfriendly, but yes I noticed that everyone is driving lie a maniac on those narrow roads. I'm going to have to learn the Great Falls area a bit better, as I rarely headed that way previously.

  6. #6
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    It's not that direct, and you'll be getting to ride some rollers, but a route I sometimes take from North Arlington to that area is this. I've only done this in the mornings around 7am or so, and usually with a small group, and it's not bad at all. I don't know about later in the morning, or evenings, or anything. I know someone who commutes up and down 123 from McLean to DC via Chain Bridge sometimes, but I'm not a huge fan of riding up 123.

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  8. #7
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    WOW thanks Josh! I wish I could figure out how to "like" posts on this forum so I could like all these options. Well, maybe not the shuttlebike... I'd love to see it cross Mather Gorge!
    I like how the stretches on Towlston and Old Dominion are minimized. Lewinsville gets a little tight with recklessly-driven cars from Holly Leaf to the Spring Hill Rec Center, but I'll check this whole route out with a motorcycle. So, to recap, in text, the route from Great Falls National Park to McLean, VA is thus:

    Old Dominion Drive south, past Falls Run Rd, CCT, and Difficult Run.
    R Peacock Station Rd, then Stay left.
    R Towlston Road (Long stretch).
    L Bellview Road.
    R Old Tolson Mill Road.
    R Windrock Road.
    R Daleview Drive (short stretch).
    L Brook Road, pass Sparger Street.
    R Portland Place.
    L Orlo Drive, pass Brookewood Ct.
    R Daviswood Drive (very short stretch).
    R Holly Leaf Drive (long stretch).
    L Lewinsville Road (take it all the way past the beltway until it becomes Great Falls St.
    L Chain bridge Road.
    R Westmoreland (in Mclean).

    Return trip to Great Falls Park from McLean:
    From Lewinsville Rd., keep going past Spring Hill Rec Center.
    R Holly Leaf.
    L Daviswood (short stretch).
    L Orlo.
    R Portland Place.
    L Brook Road.
    R Daleview (short stretch).
    L Windrock.
    L Old Tolson Mill Rd.
    L Bellview.
    R Towlston Rd..
    L Peackock Station.
    L Old Dominion Drive to Great Falls Park

    I know the the McLean, Falls Church, and Arlington areas, so I can take it from there.

    Looks like a long haul, but good!
    Last edited by phog; 12-30-2019 at 02:04 PM.

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  10. #8
    TwoWheelsDC's Avatar
    TwoWheelsDC is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    Quote Originally Posted by phog View Post
    I'll be taking a motorcycle I also ferry bicycles on my MC and need to do the odd one-way bicycle commute.
    Slightly off topic, but gonna need some pics and additional info on this please

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  12. #9
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    Hey so if you want to cut off the Holly Leaf tightness, you can actually just cut through the spring hill rec center parking lot between Spring Hill Rd and Lewinsville.

    Say you are going to McLean, you would just make this adjustment:

    R Daviswood Drive (very short stretch).
    L Summerwood Drive
    L Spring Hill Road
    Quick Right into Spring Hill Rec center parking lot
    L Lewinsville Road

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  14. #10
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    Thanks- I'll do the Rec Center cut-through.

    The most popular off-the -shelf bike mount is made by 2x2cycles. It is similar to the type that mounts on a car roof top. To me it's a bit expensive and the bike hangs a bit far off the rear of the motorcycle (a "tail of the dog" look), and the bicycle will be slightly off-center, but it is probably the best option. There are many custom homebrew setups out there, fitted to the specific mounts upon a particular type of motorcycle
    I'm still doggedly commuting with a weathered '05 Suzuki V-Strom DL650 that I bought used and have put 50,000 of my own miles on. I'm cheap (thrifty?) I guess. On it I have mounted a Park Tools PRS-7 bicycle shop repair clamp (the bike repair clamp with the vice grip clamp, not the little adjusting knob). I lock the bicycle with a wicked death grip, so obviously no carbon bikes or nice ones. My old '93 Specialized Crossroads has had a few hundred commuting trips on the MC and hasn't suffered and damage. The Chome-Moly frame can take the pressure of a secure clamp without being damaged.
    In 2014 when I installed it, I tested it- swerved, banged the bike around, nailed the brakes, took it over speed bumps, highway use, with no problems.
    I tightened a safety clamp onto the bicycle's top tube that is an inch paste where I mount it to the vise clamp... to catch the bike should it work its way down during the trip. But that has not happened, I'm just worried that it could. The front wheel can be left on, or removed and secured with parachute cord to reduce height, and a single bungee is wrapped around the vice-grip lock lever arm to make sure no jarring might cause the lever to unlock/lift. I haven't lost a bike off the motorcycle yet! It would fall clear of the back of the MC and into the street if it did. In terms of compromised handling the MC is still compliant and well-behaved. You can feel it a bit in corners, but not as profoundly as having a passenger.
    I should point out that the rear deck that is on my DL650 is not stock. When I bought the bike, the only accessory on it was a passenger back rest (that I never use) made by Jerry Finley (The Suzuki VStrom Stealth® Backrest from Pirates' Lair at 828.628.7093 EST). The stock rubber deck cover had been replaced with his stout steel one (the thick black piece you see in the photo). I would'nt mount this bike clamp directly to the rear rack without fashioning a stout steel decking plate of some kind to attached to the deck/frame. I used SAE grade 5 bolts to mount the PRS-7 instead of cheesy mild steel ones.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by phog; 12-30-2019 at 11:07 PM.

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