Gear Prudence: I ride my bike on the Mount Vernon Trail at night. Occasionally I’ll see other cyclists who have high-powered lights set to blink. I find this extremely annoying. Can you please tell them to not do this? —Blinking Lights Indiscriminately, Needlessly Distress
Dear BLIND: Sure. Don’t do this.
Other trail users don’t enjoy being subjected to the flashing strobe effect more at home in a discotheque or on a Christmas tree than along a mixed-use trail. I’ve never really understood why a bicyclist would want to use a blinking light to illuminate her path anyway. “I can see! Now I can’t! I can see again!” she might exclaim as the light shines and disappears. Who knows what hazards might rapidly approach in the intermittent darkness.
A steady stream is more situationally suitable. But be mindful of your beam’s brightness. You shouldn’t forswear a flashing light just to substitute it with a more permanent blinding of those around you. If your light is excessively bright, don’t hesitate to briefly shield it for the benefit of those coming in the other direction. And angle it down a bit so it doesn’t shoot directly into anyone’s eyes. Lumination is laudatory, but be considerate. —GP
Gear Prudence: I have a really nice touring bike, and I’d like to use it for actual touring. I’ve ridden up to Harpers Ferry a couple times and spent the night in the youth hostel there, but I’m kinda sick of this ride. Do you have any suggestions for overnight rides I can do from D.C.? —Touring Routes In Proximity
Dear TRIP: Head out the Washington and Old Dominion Trail toward Leesburg, Va. Around mile marker 20, leave the trail and proceed for the next few miles on surface streets directly to the ticket counter at Dulles International Airport. Get some rest as you jet off to an exciting international cycling locale. Southern France is no West Virginia, but it’d likely suffice.
If you’d rather not eat airplane food, closer options abound. Scenic byways can take you to Frederick, Md., where you can visit the final resting places of Francis Scott Key, antebellum Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, and the first American saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton. Or you could do less weird and morbid touristy things. If you enjoy anachronism, time your visit for August, when Frederick hosts the “Clustered Spires,” a high-wheeler bike race through its historic downtown.
The trip is about 60 miles each way, so bring snacks. Always bring snacks. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who blogs at talesfromthesharrows.blogspot.com and tweets at @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.