Meet the familiar bike rider who glides through campus to feel-good jams

Media Credit: Lily Speredelozzi I Staff Photographer

Mitchell, who averages about 20 miles biked per day, particularly enjoys riding on sunny days when he can feel the heat on his face and appreciate an unexpected breeze.

While walking around campus, a familiar face singing along to the likes of Stevie Wonder and Anderson .Paak while whizzing by on a bike may have caught your attention more than once.

Alumnus Dylan Mitchell, who graduated from GW last spring, has emerged as a recognizable bike rider in the neighborhood over the past year for his fast speeds, ample tricks and groovy music exuding from a speaker on his bike. Rain or shine, Mitchell hits the streets with his bike on the daily, riding anywhere from his home near Columbia Heights to his old place in NoMa, the National Mall or down the canal path in Georgetown.

As he dove into biking as a sophomore, he glided through campus to catch up with his friends wherever they might pop on his routes, like a roommate who frequented Duques Hall or buddies who would honk their horns at him from their cars. But Mitchell said he also enjoys the influx of new interactions he’s shared since he began biking around campus as people approach him to chat about his music selection, tricks or whatever’s on their mind.

“There’s people that have come up to me and have talked to me, and I recognize them, and stop me every time,” he said. “I always stop, have a conversation. It’s always fun catching up with people. I’ve met at least a good five people that I call friends now.”

Lily Speredelozzi I Staff Photographer

Mitchell’s strong love of riding materialized after his family gifted him a bike to ride to school when he lived in NoMa in early 2020. He first used the bike to commute, but he started riding for recreational purposes once he added his speaker to his bike to play music aloud on his rides.

He quickly began attempting tricks like standing up and jumping on his bike, particularly while cycling up and down the Reflecting Pool. His assortment of tricks developed as he learned how to jump and swerve around on his bike.

After getting two bikes stolen and one totaled in the last two years, Mitchell is now on his fourth. A black basket left over from his first bike, his third speaker – which lights up to the rhythm of his music – and a water bottle holder on the down tube of the frame comprise his setup on this newest pair of wheels.

Mitchell – who rides between three and six hours each day, averaging about 20 miles – enjoys biking on sunny days when he can feel the heat on his face and appreciate an unexpected breeze. The open-endedness and independence of his rides, especially on the canal path in Georgetown, keep him coming back day after day.

“No one’s going to tell me where to go, and no one’s going to tell me when to stop, which is why I bike for so long, like a job,” he said. “But yeah, I just like the freedom of it.”

On his rides, Mitchell appreciates connecting with members of the local community. He said when he plays old R&B like Luther Vandross, older generations of Black passersby recognize the music and start singing along and dancing to it. Mitchell said he’s found that playing music while bike riding is “prevalent” in D.C. among local cyclists, whether that be a few bikers he sees in Columbia Heights or DC Bike Party, an organization which hosts monthly group bike rides around the District.

From his run-in with the Secret Service to accounts of D.C. political drama from strangers who come up to chat, Mitchell said he has encountered several “crazy,” “one-chance encounters” on his rides. Once when he was down by the National Mall, an old man flagged him down, extended a $5 bill and asked Mitchell to perform some tricks. Last week during a ride on campus, an onlooker affectionately told him “you’re my drug!”

In addition to the out-of-pocket experiences he comes across, Mitchell said one of his favorite things to do while biking is eating – whether that be doughnuts, homemade fried chicken or boba. He said he’ll take his bike out when he wants to find a place to eat lunch and finds enjoyment in a quieter ride around the District.

“For the majority of the time, people just are going on with their day, they have their earbuds in, and that’s how I kind of like it honestly,” he said. “I guess that’s why I kind of stay around here, because people are kind of used to it so they don’t mind it as much.”

Lily Speredelozzi I Staff Photographer

Mitchell said he enjoys riding his bike around campus because the streets have recently been repaved, allowing for a smooth cruise. Even then, Mitchell said he’s faced a range of blows in the area, from “at least” three popped tires to vehicular accidents.

He said he got into two accidents at the intersection of 21st and H streets two days in a row last week, consisting of a slam into the front of an oncoming car on the first day and a flip caused by a loose chain after that. He came away from the latter with a busted lip and a scraped-up knee and right forearm.

And not many students can say one of their #OnlyAtGW moments involves the Secret Service checking to see if they are alright after wiping out in front of them on 17th Street, but Mitchell can.

In January, a car struck Mitchell on his right side as he made a turn along the McMillan Reservoir by Howard University, which sent him to the hospital for about eight hours with cuts and scrapes on his arms, legs, shoulders and a gash above his right eye. Due to falls off his bike from accidents, he regularly collects scars and nicks – racking up more than 100 over the course of his ventures – but he has no intention to let the abrasions slow him down.

When he isn’t swerving through the streets of D.C., Mitchell job hunts and dabbles in creative endeavors like sketching, gardening and cooking. He’s on his second sketchbook, filling the pages with drawings of architecture and moments he’s shared with friends.

At his home near Columbia Heights, he tackles various projects like creating an irrigation system for his growing collection of plants that envelop his space, but he sometimes finds himself disinterested in the day-to-day activities. The only exception? Biking.

“I do get bored easily, so that’s why I like biking,” he said. “I’ll never get bored of biking. There’s always something different to see.”

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