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Nothing “Ordinary” About this Race


By Neil Sandler

Eric Rhodes, above and right

Eric Rhodes, crisply dapper in white pressed shirt and neatly tied bow tie, is beside himself with enthusiasm.

The popularity of high wheel bike racing, his passion in life (besides his wife Jeanne and their two young children) is exploding worldwide.  The number of races around the planet has almost doubled since he created America’s only event of its kind three years ago in Frederick, Md.

Yes, this year there’s a new race in Europe (Belgium to be exact) and another in Australia.  So, there is now a whopping total of seven penny farthing (the English slang for high wheel bicycles, named for the size of the English coin the large penny and the tiny farthing) races globally, but still only one in the U.S.  His!  

In the 1880s, high wheelers were also called “ordinaries” to distinguish them from the newly invented chain driven bikes which were first called “safeties,” since they were safer to ride than ordinaries. Back in the beginning high wheel bikes cost about $130, which was comparable to about three months of a typical American’s salary… a true luxury.  Participants in the race in Frederick ride both authentic bikes and replicas.  One of the events sponsors Rideable Bicycle Replicas is one of three reproduction manufacturers in the U.S.

The Frederick Clustered Spires High Wheel Race (www.highwheelrace.com) has captured the imagination of this upcoming arts community, which closes down the trendy downtown restaurant district to host it the third Saturday in August (August 16th this year) coinciding with the fifth annual Tour de Frederick bicycling weekend, www.tourdefrederick.com, which was created and is sponsored by Spokes Magazine, on behalf of the local Boys and Girls Club. For more, click on picture of "Current Issue," top left....................................................

Pedaling Paradise in Poolesville

by Brenda Ruby

So often when we talk about favorite places to bike, or fantastic multi-day trips, we overlook the tried-and-true routes that have gotten us ready for those "big" rides--the routes and places we return to time and again to enjoy a Saturday morning with nothing on the agenda but cycling for the joy of it.

One area favorite for local cyclists is Poolesville, Maryland. Just west of Germantown, Poolesville and the surrounding hamlets of Seneca, Dickerson, Beallsville, and Boyds in upper Montgomery County comprise some of the sweetest riding around. Here suburban sprawl finds an end in the rolling farmlands and fragrant orchards that seem to pop up around every turn.

The swath of land between I-270 and the Potomac River remains protected and largely undeveloped as part of the Agricultural Reserve, a nationally acclaimed land-use plan established in 1980 by Montgomery County in response to the rapid disappearance of farmland. The result is an abundance of low-traffic, small country roads that wind through centuries-old pastures. In this biker's paradise often the number of cyclists you see will outnumber the cars. It's not uncommon to realize the impeccable stone wall you've decided to take a break next to was built in the mid-19th century.

Because of its location and varied terrain, the Poolesville area, just 30 miles northwest of D.C., is an ideal starting point for many different rides and types of riders; you can plan an orchard-to-orchard tour, ride to (and up!) Sugarloaf Mountain, visit a winery, access the C&O Towpath, or even decide to take a ferry ride to Virginia. Poolesville itself was established in 1867 and sits right in the middle of the 90,000 plus acre Reserve. 

For more, click on picture of "Current Issue," top left....................................................