Editor’s note: The last Cycle Oregon Classic Ride in its current form wrapped in September 2023, but executive director Steve Schulz promised the organization will be back with more rides in 2024 and beyond. Stay tuned for announcements by following their social media pages.
Since 1988 Cycle Oregon has led thousands of cyclists through verdant valleys, remote countryside and Scenic Bikeways of the Beaver State, often showcasing the landscapes to riders for the first time so they might return with friends and family. Cycle Oregon’s rides are among dozens of annual bike events in Oregon ranging from short to long, quirky to hard-core and everything in between.
In 2023 cyclists have a chance to enjoy some of the most scenic and friendly foothills, farmland and coastline of the Willamette Valley and Coast on the weeklong fall Classic ride, dubbed “Wine. Waves. Wonderland.”
What sets Cycle Oregon apart from other events is the sheer breadth of ground covered — nearly every corner of the state — as well as the amount of support they give to local communities.
Riders typically have the chance to customize their routes. They may choose to join an organized excursion, tackle a more challenging route or opt for a shorter route to leave time to relax (and recover) at camp. Each event is powered by hundreds of volunteers who sign on for the route or come from the hosting community to make the event a seamless one — from food service to moving baggage, organizing recycling stations and setting up the finish line.
Whether or not you consider yourself a cyclist, here are a few reasons to support Cycle Oregon’s mission.
Giving Back to Communities
Since 1996 the nonprofit has earmarked proceeds from its rides to distribute hundreds of community grants throughout Oregon. To date Cycle Oregon has awarded $2.3 million to 325 groups for projects to better their communities.
Recent grants have been awarded to the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture for Native American arts programming; to the city of Seneca for a new fire station; and to the Creswell Heritage Foundation to repair a historic schoolhouse and to build a bike-repair station in the town of McKenzie Bridge at the entry to the Aufderheide Scenic Drive, among many other projects. Cycle Oregon also gives direct grants to the hosting communities’ school districts and chambers of commerce to use as they see fit.
“At a time when we need to come together as a community, in my opinion, it’s the perfect opportunity to do something that’s good for someone else,” says Schulz.
In addition to supporting local communities, Cycle Oregon invests in major statewide projects as well. One project that recently came to fruition is the public purchase of a nearly 1,800-acre parcel of land at Wallowa Lake’s east moraine — the glacial crest of land framing the iconic lake on its eastern edge. Cycle Oregon has contributed $98,000 over the past decade toward the $6.5 million purchase of this property, which will now be owned and managed by Wallowa County and barred from development. It will be preserved as a working community forest, protecting native plants, wildlife habitat and cultural resources. For thousands of years, the moraine has been a refuge for wildlife and is sacred to the Nez Perce Tribe. Find more information on the project at the Wallowa Land Trust.
“It’s such an iconic landmark,” Schulz says about the Wallowa Lake site, which Cycle Oregon has traveled to a handful of times over the years. “The growth of the state is exponential. Our lands are being gobbled up. To be able to preserve that and work with the Nez Perce in management principles is just amazing.”
Looking to the Future
Over the decades, Cycle Oregon has had the opportunity to constantly evolve, adapt and innovate. When wildfires caused smoke in Oregon in fall 2017, Cycle Oregon was forced to cancel their weeklong ride for the first time in the event’s history. The pandemic forced a cancellation of the 2020 rides. Most years, however, Cycle Oregon’s contingency plans have allowed them to move forward without cancellation.
In 2023, the Cycle Oregon team announced that it would end its 33-year run of its flagship 7-day Classic ride, as it looks to evolve into a series of smaller and shorter events. Costs for supplies and services as well as demand for volunteers have been escalating and putting a strain especially on rural communities. Stay tuned for updates on future events.