|Photos from MORE.|
An organization of local mountain bikers called Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) organizes night rides in Wakefield Park in Annandale three times a week year-round. The rides begin at 6:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 5:30 on Mondays, so in the summer it’s still daylight, but in the winter it’s cold and dark.
Night riding is fun and represents an opportunity to get out and ride during the work week, said Tom Howe, MORE’s trail liaison for Wakefield Park, who organizes social rides and workdays to maintain the trails.
New riders are always welcome. To join a weeknight ride, you don’t have to sign up in advance; just show up by the recycle bins in the parking lot at the Audrey Moore RECenter. Riders have to sign a waiver, wear a helmet, and have a light if it’s dark.
It’s also best to have a mountain-style bike, adds Ernest Rodriguez, the Virginia advocacy director for MORE. The Wakefield tail is appropriate for beginners, as it’s mostly flat without too many obstacles.
MORE has permission to ride the trails at Wakefield because the park manager approved the rides and the Audrey Moore RECenter is open and staffed in the evenings. The rides usually extend from Little River Turnpike to Braddock Road, but not all the way to Lake Accotink, as trail biking isn’t allowed in Lake Accotink Park after sundown.
Rodriguez likes mountain biking because “it’s healthy, it reinvigorates you, and it reminds you of your youth. There’s nothing like biking and feeling free, meeting people, and enjoying nature.”
MORE hosts organized trail rides for bikers of every level—from kids and beginners to intermediate, advanced, and experts—all over Northern Virginia and the entire D.C. region. The more difficult a trail, the more elevation changes and obstacles it has, like large rocks and felled trees.
Among other activities, MORE joins with the Potomac Velo Club to host races at Wakefield Park in the summer and works with the Trails for Youth program to encourage disadvantaged youths in D.C. to get interested in trail riding.
“Mountain biking promotes a healthy lifestyle and it’s a better way for kids to spend their free time than watching TV or playing videogames,” Rodriguez says.
It’s also a relatively inexpensive sport. You can get a reasonable good bike from a bike shop for about $400 or a used one for much less, says Howe, who has three bikes, including one he uses to commute to work in D.C. Rodriguez has nine bikes that have pretty much taken up an entire room in his home.
He has helped MORE obtain funding for trail work, including a recent $152,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Recreation Trails Program to redo a trail loop at Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station.
Howe and Rodriguez have seen all sorts of wildlife on their rides, including foxes, turtles, turkeys, and groundhogs—and a few biker/deer collisions. On one ride, a snake bit a biker’s tire, and another time, bikers came across a lost child in the woods and helped reunite him with his parents.
“We’re fortunate that there are so many trails in this area and people willing to maintain them,” Howe said. In fact the DC area is one of the best trail systems in the country. There are about 130 trails within 45 minutes from Annandale, he said, and each one is unique.