I’m not a serious cyclist. I do own a bike. It’s a tandem, which should tell you I ride less for the exercise and more for the scenery (I’m talking trees and rivers, not the posterior of the person in front of me, though I enjoy that scenery as well).
Bend is often lauded as BikeTown USA. Velo magazine ranked Bend among the world’s best cycling destinations in their 2012 “ultimate ride guide,” and Mountain Bike Action magazine named us the #1 mountain biking town in America. The Three Sisters Scenic Bikeway offers a collection of scenic road cycling routes connecting communities of Central Oregon.
But if you’re a newbie rider or a casual cyclist like me, that can all sound a little daunting.
With that in mind, I sat down with Doug La Placa for a bit of Q&A about biking in Bend. Besides being Visit Bend’s President and CEO, he’s also an avid cyclist who enjoys everything from competitive road cycling to mountain biking to cruising the Bend Ale Trail on a townie bike. Here’s what he had to say about Bend’s booming bike scene (and the fact that it’s not just for serious riders).
Tawna: You’ve biked all over the country. What is it that makes biking in Bend special?
Doug: Two things combine to make Bend the top cycling destination in the country. The first is terrain. We have a seemingly endless supply of mountain biking for all abilities, ranging from trails for complete novices with little fitness, to trails that would challenge the best athletes. We also have an abundance of road cycling routes with smooth pavement and minimal traffic, and we have amazing neighborhoods that are perfect for just cruising around on a townie bike to go shopping or out for dinner. Cycling is accessible for almost anyone in Bend, and that’s a rare thing to find.
The second thing is our cycling culture. Bend has evolved to have a rich cycling culture in which bikes are part of our everyday life. You’ll see five-year-olds out on mountain bike trails, and whole families attending Cyclocross clinics. We have bike racks everywhere in Downtown Bend and the Old Mill District, and organized rides where cyclists will take over the road for no reason at all. You can stop in at Crow’s Feet Commons, which is a full-service custom bike/ski community, café, and tap room. Bend is Bend is a place where a guy with shaved legs (a custom among bike racers) won’t get funny looks.
Tawna: For newbies out there, how would you suggest getting started?
Doug: First, figure out which looks most fun to you—mountain biking, road cycling, or a cruiser bike in town. You can walk into any bike rental shop in town to get all the gear you need as well as maps and directions for where to go. If you’d rather not set out on your own, you can book a guided tour with an outfitter like Cog Wild. You can even opt for a guided electric bike tour around town with Let it Ride. No matter what, there are plenty of people in town who will be happy to teach you the ropes and get you started.
Tawna: Name your three favorite bike rides in Bend.
Doug: For road cycling, the Twin Bridges Loop is outstanding. It starts and ends in Drake Park in the heart of Downtown Bend, and covers 36 miles of rolling terrain with views of the mountains, forests, and high desert landscape. For mountain biking, The North Fork and Metolius Windego trails are my favorite because they’re only open between August and when the snow flies, and you can ride right to the wilderness boundary at the edge of Broken Top. When I’m on a cruiser bike in town, I like hitting a few stops along the Bend Ale Trail (though keep in mind that Oregon’s traffic laws apply to bikes, too, so you need to stay under the legal limit).
Tawna: Any advice for new cyclists looking to start out in Bend?
Doug: Relax and have fun with it. Don’t feel insecure. We all started out at some point, and that first time you strap on a dorky helmet and leave your house wearing lycra, you feel awkward. But here in Bend, it’s part of the culture. Embrace it. Walk into a coffee shop and you’re sure to see someone dressed just like you. Maybe not the grocery store, though. That’s crossing the line.
From a safety standpoint, remember to bring a cell phone and more food and water than you think you need.
For more experienced cyclists, Bend has an abundance of cycling events throughout the year. They range from the family-friendly Tour des Chutes (with course options ranging from 7 miles to 100) to the Central Oregon 500 (five days of 100-mile rides for serious athletes).
Here’s a glimpse at what’s happening this year:
Road Cycling Races & Tours in Bend
|Central Oregon 500+||June||Chris Horner’s Cascade Gran Fondo||August|
|Cascade Cycling Classic||July||USA Cycling Masters Road Nat’s||Sept|
|Tour des Chutes||July|
Mountain Bike Races in Bend
|Chainbreaker||May||High Cascade 100||July|
|Sisters Stampede||May||High Cascade 24hr||Sept|
|Pickett’s Charge||June||Sisters MTB Festival||Sept|
|Oregon Enduro Series||June||Bend’s Big Fat Tour||Oct|
Cyclo-cross Races & Series in Bend
|Thrilla Cross||Sept||Halloween Cyclocross Crusade||Oct|
|USGP of Cyclocross||Dec|