On a recent April morning at Hillsboro’s Shute Park, a small cadre of cyclists gathered to pump up their tires, stretch out the kinks in their leg muscles and then bundle up against the chill.
It was the start of a Saturday two-wheeled adventure with a group called “Team in Training.”
Sally Miller, the team leader and a longtime cyclist, passed out maps and mileage logs to the 14 members of her team that were preparing for this day’s 40-mile long ride.
Many were newcomers to the cycling game and were recruited by Miller or had signed up on their own to train for a fund-raising ride that will occur at Lake Tahoe this June; all part of a effort to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Like thousand of Oregonians, each of the riders had discovered that cycling is fun and a great way to stay in shape.
Miller explained, “Part of the draw is to help fight cancer for sure, but for many it’s also the opportunity to see Oregon on two wheels. We have some experienced riders and many who at the beginning - had never ridden past ten miles – and now they’re up to 45 or 50 miles. Cycling isn’t as hard on your body as running and you can also get outside and enjoy all the great scenery that we have in the state.”
Mike Olson, an avid cyclist and owner of a successful Washington County bike business called, Olson’s Bicycles, (located in Forest Grove, Oregon,) agreed with Miller’s assessment of many newcomers to cycling.
He also noted that in order to begin cycling, it’s best to do some simple homework because there are a dizzying array of bike styles to choose from and each specialize in different types of riding.
“You may see five or six styles of bikes and it’s easy to get confused,” noted Olson. “We like to keep the choices simple - between 3 and 4 – and we talk with the customer to find out exactly what they want out of the bike. Then we’ll try to narrow it down.”
So, Olson suggested that newcomers decide how each will use the bike – off road or on the road – touring long distances or riding locally – in your neighborhood or community.
Then – find a bike that fits! The best way to do that is try them on – or rather, put yourself on the bike and ride it for awhile. A good bike shop should not only allow that, it should encourage you to take the bike for a spin.
Olson pointed to a popular style of bike that has caught on with many beginners called a “Hybrid.”
It’s a bit of a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike with an all aluminum frame and upright handlebars. It is designed for paved terrain but it can roll on gravel too.
“The size of the wheels are the same as a road or race bike,” added Olson.
“But road bike gearing has a tendency to be a bit too low for a lot of riders, so the Hybrid will have a bit higher gearing.”
Be sure to check out helmets too – there are lots to choose from, so make sure it offers a universal fit for more comfort.
Water bottle’s a must, a repair kit too and when it comes to proper clothing, Olson insisted that you stay away from cotton and stick with layered synthetics.
“That’s so you can take clothing ff or put it on depending on the changing weather because Oregon weather does change quickly. If you don’t enjoy bicycling it’s one of three things: it’s the wrong bike for your type of riding, the bike doesn’t work right or the bike doesn’t fit you – so, if you can solve those three things, cycling will be enjoyable for anyone.”
The members of the Salem Bike Club have discovered an enjoyable way to see a different part of Oregon each week when they ride a portion of the newly designated Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.
The Scenic Bikeway takes bicycle tourism from the cities to the country according to Alex Phillips, the Bicycle Recreation Coordinator for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
She said that so far, 135 miles of paved roadways have been identified and mapped and are now available to anyone on-line."
“Cycle Oregon, (the annual cross country cycling event) had the vision to promote the beauty of Oregon from the viewpoint of a bicycle seat. They made the initial suggestions for the Willamette Valley route and then we formed a partnership that now includes Cycle Oregon, Travel Oregon, State Parks and ODOT.”
George Schopfer of the Salem Bike Club added, “When I have visitors from out of town say, ‘where’s a nice place to ride?’ Now, I can direct them to the website, easily download a map and they can go out to a place like Mission State Park. It’s not only get a scenic ride, it’s not heavily trafficked by vehicles.”
Another Salem Bike Club member, Doug Parrow, added “It’s really exposing to the world what Salem cyclists already know: there are great cycling opportunities in the Willamette Valley.”
The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway is just the start. Eventually, as more communities become aware of the program and nominate routes in other parts of Oregon, cyclists will enjoy new coastal routes, or rides through the Cascade Mountains and across the Oregon high desert areas.
Travel Oregon’s Cycling expert, Kristin Dahl, noted that the Oregon Scenic Bikeway program embraces our gorgeous scenic qualities:
“We’re looking for those routes that really highlight Oregon’s beauty, that have adequate space and create an environment that the rider feels somewhat safe. I envision that someday soon, we will have the most enjoyable bike routes identified across the state and we’ll see a rich network that you can either combine or do a day on your weekends.”
In addition to the OPRD Scenic Bikeway program, be sure to check out Travel Oregon’s Ride Oregon Ride resource site for more statewide trails and cycling information.
Back on the training route with Team in Training leader, Sally Miller, agreed that a scenic bikeway system across the entire state sounded like a fine idea.
She said that variety builds motivation to spend even more time exploring the Oregon outdoors: “This is such a great place to ride - anytime you get out of the city, away from the main centers of population, there are some terrifically pretty places.”