While the weather outside often turns frightful in November, many folks have remarkable dedication to recreational cycling in Oregon.
Sally Miller and Hanna Vaandering never let the wintertime weather get in the way of their training rides. For them, rain or shine, it’s all about mileage. In fact, the cold and the wet rarely slow them down at places like the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Washington County.
Miller, a longtime cyclist, is in training for her annual ride on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Her event, called Team in Training, raises money to support cancer research. She said that she will put in 150 to 200 miles of cycling each week: “On days when the sun’s out, that’s easy to do – but it does get chilly this time of year so you just have to dress a little bit warmer.”
Each rider wears lightweight, waterproof-windproof clothing in layers on the days when temperatures dip below freezing. “Gloves are a must so you stay somewhat dry and keep your hands a bit warmer,” said Miller. “Plus, a rain jacket is a must too and long pants that have water resistant characteristics because the longer you stay dry, the better the ride.”
Better riding experiences come from better preparation, according to bicycle shop owner Mike Olson, of Olson’s Bicycles in Forest Grove. He said ‘being seen’ is critical on winter’s darker days — in fact, in Oregon it’s mandatory: “A bike is considered a vehicle in Oregon. That is, you have to go with traffic so we highly recommend you have a flashing red light as well as a reflector on the rear of your bike.”
You can also wear the lighting – portable flashing lights that strap on your arms or legs. Olson also advised, “the brighter the clothing the better your safety. Make yourself more visible with lighting or clothing – most cycling clothiers have models with reflective surfaces built into the fabric. There is also reflective tape that you can apply to pants or jackets. You should ride more defensively in the winter, and if it gets too bad with snow or ice, there are places that do offer indoor cycling.”
He’s right! Mountain bike enthusiasts have discovered NE Portland’s newest indoor bike site and it is unlike any you’ve ever visited before. It’s called The Lumberyard Bike Park, and it offers endless challenges that are lots of fun.
Will Heiberg opened the indoor riding arena in May, following more than a year of work to convert what had been a bowling alley into the most unique indoor mountain bike destination west of the Rockies. The Lumberyard is 42,000 square feet of riding opportunities that provide the cyclist with everything he or she might find on outdoor trails.
“You’ve got rocks and logs to go over, plus skinny bridges and changes in elevation with lots of quick ups and downs,” said Heiberg. “We wanted to bring those elements normally found outdoors to the indoors. We give people an opportunity to experience technical features. Once you’ve mastered them, you can take those skills outside and really rock the trail.”
The Lumberyard scene is perfectly suited to newcomers. You can rent a bike or bring your own and gradually take on progressively harder trail runs. During our visit, the place was packed with mountain bikers and BMX riders who flocked indoors on a day when outdoor trail conditions would have been a muddy mess. The riders’ varied styles gave the place a sense of constant motion.
Back out in Washington County, along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, the style is slow and easy and made for cruising through a forested setting. The B-V Trail is Oregon’s first ‘rails to trails’ conversion that came after decades of use as a rail line for logs and timber hauling between Vernonia and Portland.
There are 6 trailheads along the B-V Trail and there’s a bonus for cyclists or pedestrians: you do not have to buy a day pass to park at the trailheads. Visitors to the B-V Trail also enjoy easy access to Stub Stewart State Park. In fact, you can’t miss it because the trail runs right through the park.
In addition to camgrounds, there are rental cabins available (yes, they are heated) that make a wintertime campout and a trail ride a super combo idea for a weekend getaway.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.