Riding Oregon 101
Everything you need to know about biking in the Beaver State.
(Gravel riding the Deschutes River Trail near Maupin by Russ Roca / pathlesspedaled.com)
Just as Oregon’s early settlers relied on their horses, so we now have our bikes — sturdy, faithful companions that are ready and willing to accompany us on every one of our adventures around the state. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lean, mean road warrior; a low-key city cruiser; a laid-back stump jumper; or an elbow-to-elbow cyclocrosser; Oregon has something awesome for you to do while perched on top of two wheels. Here’s a crash course (well, not a literal crash) in everything you need to know to get pedaling.
With 1,000 eye-catching orange bikes spread out over 100 bike stations, the Nike-sponsored BIKETOWN bike-share program is one of the newest and most accessible ways to explore Portland’s scenic biking routes, such as the Eastbank Esplanade. Sign up and pay per ride, day or month on BIKETOWN’s website, app or kiosk; hop on a bike; then hop off and leave the bike at a kiosk when you’re done.
If you’re new to cycling or new to Portland (or both!), Portland’s Bureau of Transportation offers free guided tours of Portland neighborhoods on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Check Portland by Cycle for exact dates and times. Or if you’d like to explore specific neighborhoods with everyone who lives there, look up the schedule for the popular Sunday Parkways neighborhood rides.
Bike shops like River City Bicycles rent bikes and hold weekly rides, as do many of Portland’s diverse cycling clubs — whether you’re 55 and older and riding with Senior Rollers, or a woman of color riding with Friends on Bikes, or a Latinx woman with Mujeres en Movimiento. If you prefer the thrill of competition to camaraderie, Portland International Raceway holds a series of weeknight bike races starting in May. Road and mountain bike races take place on a closed, car-free course and are divided by age, experience level and gender.(Portland riding by Woods Wheatcroft)
Of course, Portland isn’t the only city with an abundance of city trails. Eugene’s extensive urban trail network consists of 187 miles of on-street bicycle lanes, 71 miles of signed bikeways, and five shared bicycle-and-pedestrian bridges that span the Willamette River. Salem’s Riverfront Park offers a few beautiful, activity-filled miles of riding. And Bend and Sisters have urban bike trails that pop in and out of the light-filled woods.
If you have a specific city-centered hobby or interest — like, oh, say, beer — odds are that someone in every city has started a bike tour based on it, like Cycle Pub in Bend and BrewCycle in Portland. And if your hobby is something as simple as being naked (no judgment here!), Portland’s famous World Naked Bike Ride is one of the best places to practice it.
(Phil’s Trails by Tyler Roemer)
Anywhere there are trails, you can find mountain bikers — but their main hub is Oakridge, nestled in the lush, green Willamette National Forest. Check in at Oregon Adventures or Oakridge Bike Shop to take your pick of single-track alpine downhill or breathtakingly beautiful, mellow, creekside cruises. Afterward, stop for a cask-conditioned ale at Brewers Union Local 180 to boast of your exploits. Or come to Oakridge’s Mountain Bike Oregon each July, which Outside Magazine included in its list of best mountain biking festivals of 2013.
Bend is also known as a mountain biker’s paradise in the high desert, and in particular, the Phil’s Trails complex. Phil’s is located just a few minutes’ drive outside of the city limits and offers a diverse array of extremely entertaining, easy to intermediate loop options. Check out Pine Mountain Sports or Hutch’s Bicycles for gear and tips, or sign up for a tour with Cog Wild. If you’d rather forgo all that tedious and tiring pedaling, Mt. Bachelor’s Bike Park offers lifts for beginners through hardcore riders looking to bomb through technical, lava-sculpted terrain.
Ashland and Mt. Hood also have more than their fair share of single-track trails, whether they run cross-country or downhill at ski resorts like Mt. Hood Skibowl’s Freeride Bike Park. The Columbia River Gorge is also a top spot for bikers, especially the dense network of trails at Post Canyon near Hood River. But what if you’re visiting for a short trip and don’t have time to make it out of the city? Rent a bike at Portland’s Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park, with courses and obstacles ranging from beginner pump courses to technical tracks and even an outdoor vertical ramp.(Mt. Bachelor downhill riding by Tyler Roemer)
(Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway by Russ Roca / pathlesspedaled.com)
Oregon’s Scenic Bikeways program is unique. Long or short, advanced or beginner level, one-day or multiday, locals have selected, ridden and reviewed each trail for inclusion. The routes showcase some of the most beautiful and distinctive views in the state — from Oregon’s wild and scenic South Coast to the historic covered bridges around Cottage Grove. But there are plenty of other ways to have an unforgettable biking adventure.
Consider, for example, the newly minted Oregon Timber Trail, a 650-mile single-track trail that runs across the entire state through four distinct sections, from the rugged wilderness of the Oregon outback to the stunning vistas of Mt. Hood. If riding the whole trail seems daunting, set your sights on one segment at a time — the Deschutes tier is the easiest.
In fact, every notable natural feature has a way to be explored by bike. See the striking blue water of America’s deepest lake from the 32-mile Crater Lake Rim Route, or explore the national scenic area of the Columbia River Gorge from the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, originally built to be one of the most beautiful highways in the world. (Pro tip: Take a side excursion to the Mosier Twin Tunnels Trail to sip craft cider and eat locally sourced snacks at Rack & Cloth.) Got the kids in a bike trailer? Tow them along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, Oregon’s first rail-to-trail route, which is an easy ride over wooden trestles and through sunny woods.(Painted Hills Scenic Bikeway by Russ Roca / pathlesspedaled.com)
Want to get away from the summer crowds on the paved trails? Whether you call it “bikepacking” or gravel riding, exploring Oregon’s abundance of unpaved trails is a great way to see the Beaver State’s wild beauty. Work up your fitness on trails, like those at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, before signing up for hardcore rides like the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic or the Oregon Stampede.
Not up to planning and executing the ride of a lifetime on your own? That’s not a problem either — not in Oregon, at least! Guided tour events and biking tour companies around the state, such as TREO Bike Tours in Eastern Oregon and Good Bike Co. in Central Oregon, will set your itinerary and arrange all of the logistics, including maps, meals, water, shuttle service and support wagons. All you have to do is bring your bike and enjoy the views. And don’t forget that wherever you choose to go, in-the-know bike shops will have rentals and information on local events, tours and group rides. Now, get out there and catch some wind!
Ready to ride? Find detailed information about bike routes around the state, including maps and everything you need to plan a trip, at RideOregonRide.com.