If you like to ride in the mountains, you like to ride in the mountains on relatively deserted roads, you like to just hop on your bike and in short order be in the mountains, you like to be able to ride year round without worrying about snow, ice, or sub-freezing weather, you like to have a large variety of road races (not just crits) nearby, then NorCal is great and D.C. blows. You have to love the girl more than cycling. It's as simple as that.
You better really love that girl, because you may resent her for making you give up the NorCal riding. By the way, once you move to D.C., you might not ever wind up leaving, whether you want to or not. Yeah, it's only for 3 years ... and it's possible it might be ... and it's possible you'll be stuck there the rest of your life.l.
Did I forget to mention the difference in density of high end bike shops and mechanics?
BTW, as your 3 years is nearly up, I hope you have paid attention to my warning above.
PM sent with specific suggestions I don't feel comfortable airing on the board.
Weird, because MABRA turned out Ben King, Joe Dombrowski, Brent Bookwalter, and a shitload of other pros so the region can't be that bad.
As for competent wheelbuilders there aren't many, but for basic truing talk to Matt at CycleLife in Georgetown and tell him Karsten sent you. If that's too much of a stretch for you try Jared at Haymarket Bikes in Haymarket. I don't know him too well, but their shop does solid work. No matter what DO NOT go to City Bikes or Revolution Cycles. Freshbikes is a nice shop, but I don't know anything about their wheelbuilders, however, they have locations in Arlington and Bethesda if either are closer.
Don't take me too seriously. GramzStrava