Gregg Deal has been riding bikes since childhood, and he raced mountain bikes in the ’90s. Then he took some time off—and he put on a few pounds. And then a few more. So what did it take to get him back in the saddle? “My wife would regularly poke my stomach,” he says. “I think she was expecting a Pillsbury laugh or something.”
Deal started riding competitively three years ago. He joined a racing team, Dominion Cycling, and last year rode in the Tour of Washington County. He started his blog, District Cycling, in 2008, posting on everything from local races to rants on Craiglist bicycle scams. He also does a regular podcast with contributor Adam Austin; the pair have aired 14 episodes.
We caught up with 35-year-old Deal to find out more about the Washington cycling community. We also got his best tips for city-cycling novices and his favorite bike path and found out which he fears more: Maryland or Virginia drivers.
Five words to describe your feelings about cycling:
“This is the type of question I dread. You’re asking me to take something that has been a big part of my life and break it down into five words, and I’ve already used something like 36 words just to say that. So, lets see: epic, beautiful, suffering, pain, freedom.”
Five words to describe what it’s like to ride in Washington:
“Again with the five words? You’re killing me. How about: epic, adrenaline, fast, public, Spandex. Those last two can go together. Yeah, public Spandex.”
Favorite bike shop and mechanic:
“My favorite shop is definitely Revolution Cycles, and I generally don’t let anyone touch my bike but Pinky, the owner and head mechanic; he floats between a bunch of Revolution locations. And he’s got the magic touch. However, in these economically hard times, I have a good friend who helps me out and allows me to figure out a lot of this myself. His name is Reb.”
Favorite bike path or trail:
“I’m a big fan of Prince William Forest Park. In Northern Virginia, this has some fantastically steep short, biting climbs and nice flats. It’s great training. Getting closer into DC, the Mount Vernon Trail is a blast to buzz through, and training in Hains Point is, well, legendary.”
Three tips for a city-cycling novice:
“Helmet, blinkers, and bike-handling skills. It’s actually pretty easy for folks to ride in the city, but you have to be willing to do it and you have to overcome the initial fear of riding in those conditions. While having proper equipment is important, having a bit of Spidey sense is super helpful, too.”
Biggest cycling pet peeve:
“Getting run over. Perhaps I can be more specific. How about: Tony Kornheiser trying to run me over because he finds me to be a chesty, homo-erotic, shiney-Spandex-wearing, crunchy loser who thinks I own the road then goes on his radio show and brags about it. If you can’t read my sarcasm, I’m laying it on pretty thick. I’m not a fan of being honked at, yelled at, or put in any number of frightening situations in what has become a war between cyclists and motorists. How about we don’t war at all?”
Street most in need of a bike lane:
“You know, I had this conversation last week with Revolution Cycles, and I think DC is progressing nicely, thanks to Mayor Fenty. But I’d like to see more bike lanes and bike-friendly areas outside the District. Arlington—Crystal City, in particular—has a nice set up going on, but if you venture outside that area, bicycle-friendly areas are difficult to find. There are some decent spots in Maryland that are definitely more progressive, but there’s a real need for bike education and more accommodating conditions in areas that have heavy cycling traffic.”
Pick one: Maryland or Virginia drivers.
“Man. Sorry in advance, but Virginia drivers. Maryland drivers scare the hell out of me. Scarier than that though? Those cars with the ‘Diplomat’ plates. Those scare me much more than Maryland drivers.”
Fixed or geared bicycle?
“I’m fully geared. I have a healthy obsession with fixed gear, however, and want to get one. Economics keeps me from it, but there’s a certain beauty to fixies, particularly if you’re trying to be a hipster. I’m trying to be a hipster.”
Mountain or road bike?
“Depends on where I am. Here? Road. I’m not adverse to mountain bikes having grown up in Park City, Utah, where I used to race them in the ’90s. I’d love to hit the Leadville 100—100 miles and thousands of feet of climbing on a mountain bike in Colorado—and I’d like to try it out in our area. Now I just need a mountain bike. . . . ”
Places to avoid on a bike:
“95. I’ll literally ride my bike nearly anywhere. It doesn’t matter to me. I roll like Fenty in that respect, minus the police entourage.”
Number of bikes you own:
“I have three bikes, but only one is functional. I have different bikes for different things: a general road bike (Cannondale CAAD9); a high-end road bike (Ridley Helium, all carbon, stupid light); and a time-trial bike (similar to a triathlon bike). The last two are stripped down. My time-trial bike is almost put together, but I’m missing a few components. They’re all in my garage, hanging from the ceiling. I’d really have more if I could. No lie.”
Most miles you’ve ever ridden at one time:
“120. I figured that the pros do it, so I’d try it at least once. That was all it took. I don’t get paid to do this, so that was about it for me.”
Age at which you learned how to ride a bike:
“I think I was six or seven. This was a sore point for my father. I got a new BMX with yellow-checkered pads on it. My father tried so hard to teach me, and I was ridiculously resistant, as was the case with virtually anything I’ve ever done with him. A neighbor boy taught me one afternoon and suddenly I was pro. I think it hurt my dad’s feelings. That bike brought me a lot of freedom, though. I still think fondly of it.”
Number of years you’ve been racing:
“This is my third year on the road racing, but things have been touch and go. One of the things I write about more than anything is the fact that most of us amateurs have families and jobs. Last year, I lost my job, had a second child, and had no money to race, so I did only one race, the Tour of Washington County. Without decent race legs, I was asking for the abuse that I ultimately got because it is a stage race: You do a road race on Saturday, a time trial on Sunday morning, and a crit—a road race on a short track—on Sunday afternoon. I did poorly. In 2008, I had just started and did very well, lost a lot of my weight, and met some goals. I went into 2009 all delusional. This season I’ve got a friend helping me with everything from diet to training to get my butt in gear. We’ll see!”
Favorite mode of transportation other than cycling:
“Flying. I like flying a lot. Traveling in general is fun for me. Couldn’t tell you why.”
Favorite local cycling blog, oth
er than your own:
“GamJams.net is a big one because they pull together all the various resources, media, and commentary for races in our area into one place. Doesn’t hurt that GamJams is a sponsor for my little team. The other one is YouGotDropped.com. The term ‘you got dropped’ refers to being unable to hang with whoever is driving the pace while cycling in a group (small or large). In races, guys get dropped all the time because it’s too fast or too hard (been there this year already!). This site is dedicated to the guys who can’t hold on. It seems mean at face value, but in the end, it’s fantastic, funny, and lighthearted. Truth is, everyone suffers, everyone gets dropped sometimes—even Lance Armstrong.”
Next week, we do a little (harmless!) eavesdropping with the bloggers behind Eavesdrop DC. Check back for their favorite overheard one-liners and their picks for the best places to hear some gems.