Over the weekend, we participated in a Baltimore tradition that we have never been in town, not in finals, and not in a wedding for: Tour Dem Parks!
The event had record turnout and was pretty cool. It turns out that a bike ride is different from a race, for several reasons - you can start anytime you would like, you go the distance you want, and you take 5-10 minutes at the rest stops to hang out and eat real food. This ride is more organized that the usual bike party meetups we do, and featured awesome rest stops, cue sheets, arrows painted on the ground, and a post-race barbecue.
We rode our tandem bike for the race, and were dismayed to not find any other tandemers under 40. There aren't a lot of us (we don't know why - tandem riding rocks) but we saw a number of tandems pull in as we left, so we don't know if we missed the memo that tandem riders should start at 9:00 or what.
I highly recommend the 36 mile course - we started on the Gwynns Falls Trail and headed over to the Jones Falls Trail, then looped over through Lake Montebello to Patterson Park and then through downtown to Federal Hill (where we got engaged) and then back to Carroll Park, where the ride had started.
I was concerned from the description that the ride was isolated and that we would be riding alone for a lot of it - this was somewhat true because we started at the same time as a lot of riders with a more casual pace, but we were never out of sight of other bikes, and we had company at most intersections. I was also concerned because you are riding in traffic, and that concerns me. I felt pretty safe though, because it was Sunday morning, I was generally surrounded and I also knew that M. wasn't going to get away from me very easily. We opted to ride the tandem so we didn't lose each other in the crowd, which was a good decision - I can't keep pace with him and would have been pretty far behind him, getting to every rest stop to catch up tired and crabby.
Like the Baltimore Marathon, Tour Dem Parks attracts a large number of spectators, although many were just hanging out on their front stoops and thought the large number of brightly clad spandex wearers were an interesting phenomenon, but they waved and said hello, which is always nice.
The ride was also a very nice mix of serious cyclists and casual riders, and people like us who fall somewhere in between. It was a pretty unintimidating group, so I would definitely recommend it to people who think that they are not serious riders but are interested in riding more, or maybe checking out some of the trails around Baltimore.
Yes, the course was pretty hilly - but it's Baltimore, so that should be expected. There were only a few really really terrible hills, and the rest were manageable. So if you are on the fence about Tour Dem Parks in the future, definitely sign up. The more Baltimore gets known as a bike friendly city, the more bike friendly it will become.