The Best Bike Ride in America

Cycle Oregon Blog

One More Time (With Feeling)

A nice long photo slideshow featuring the “Magnificent Seven” and many who conquered Cycle Oregon 2014. Grab some popcorn, kick back and enjoy!


Cycle Oregon #27 is a Wrap. What Did it Mean to You?


What a week! The ride is over, but the stories live on. We’ve heard several themes on what it is that makes this event special and keeps riders (and, luckily for us, volunteers) coming back year after year. Some of the most common include:

The Scenery – Whether you’re on a bike or in a support vehicle, Cycle Oregon gives you seven straight days of being immersed in scenery that you just don’t see every day. Getting up early, being kissed by the sun, working hard and simply breathing fresh, clean air and just being out there is something that’s so soothing to the soul it’s a wonder any of us go home at all.

The Connections – Many lasting friendships are forged on Cycle Oregon (there have even been more than a few weddings that have resulted from or happened on this event). Some of these friendships continue outside the event and others exist only in September but all have a special meaning.
Cycle Oregon also lends itself to building connections with the host communities. Cycle Oregon loves to shine the spotlight on out-of-the-way places that offer secret delights. And the locals enthusiastically take the stage to tell us the backstory of each town so we feel welcomed and invited to return.

The Changes – We also hear stories about ways that riding a bike can change people’s lives for good. Events like Cycle Oregon can be and frequently are used to help recover from health issues, to aid in sobriety, or to create a foundation for a healthier lifestyle.

The Challenge – That transformation from “I don’t know if I can” to “I did it!” is a mighty big one.

Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg, the rest of the story needs to be told by you. What did you learn? Who did you meet? What did it mean to you? Please let us know in the comments section below.


Ian Madin Rocks Geology — Over the Hump and Heading Home.


Overview of the Day 7 route (purple line)

Most of the day will be spent in beautiful, gentle descents, with spectacular views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams jumping out at you, so most of the time you won’t be thinking as much about rocks. We’ll climb across Tygh Ridge, which is a giant fold in the basalt layers of the Columbia River Basalt. Between The Dalles and the northern side of Tygh Ridge, the lava layers slope gently down toward the Columbia River, then at Tygh Ridge they bend in a sharp wrinkle. On the Tygh Valley side of the ridge, the lava layers are tilted steeply toward the south. In the Google Earth image below, you can see where the upturned edges of a steeply tilted lava layer make a series of upside-down “V” shapes where they intersect ridges.


Inverted “V’s” on the southern slopes of Tygh Ridge are the edges of a steeply tilted lava bed

The climb through Butler Canyon to the top of Tygh Ridge is relentless, so for the first hour of the day you may need something to occupy your mind. Here are a few things to watch for as you slog your way up Highway 197:

As we enter Butler Canyon, we will see pronounced stone stripes on the right-hand side. The stripes extend from the top of the hill to nearly the bottom, and the dark stones stand in stark contrast to the dried grass that makes up most of the slope. Although geologists are still not sure how these features form, they are very common in areas of eastern Washington and Oregon where Columbia River Basalt makes up the local terrain. Like the Mima Mounds we saw on previous days, the stone stripes may be the result of the burrowing activity of pocket gophers.


These stone stripes that run down the steep grassy slopes may be the result of gophers

About a third of the way up the canyon, look for some beautiful basalt columns on the left-hand side of the road. Basalt often forms crude hexagonal columns, which form as the lava cools from nearly 2000 degrees F to room temperature. The liquid lava solidifies at temperatures a bit below 2000 F, and then the hot, solid lava shrinks as it cools to room temperature and cracks into these hexagonal columns to accommodate the shrinkage. In some places like the Giant’s Causeway in Britain, or the Devil’s Postpile in California, the columns are so regular and perfect that it’s hard to believe they’re natural.


These are nice examples of the basalt columns that form as thick lava cools

A bit beyond the columns, watch for a distinctive light-gray rock layer in the road cut on the left-hand side. This is a layer of sandstone caught in between two lava flows of the Columbia River Basalt. Although most of the Columbia River Basalt flows were erupted in a geologic blink of an eye, there are some places where enough time passed between eruptions that rivers and streams were able to establish courses across the barren lava surface. In this instance, the stream left a layer of white-to-gray sand, probably brought from the granitic mountains of Idaho to the east.


This gray sandstone layer between two basalt flows marks a river that flowed between eruptions

As we near to the top of the climb, watch for basalt pillows in the road cut on the left-hand side. Basalt pillows form when basalt lava flows enter deep water. The lava freezes solid when it hits the water, until the pressure of the liquid flow cracks the frozen surface and a glob of liquid lava squirts out like toothpaste from a tube, then instantly freezes in the water. The lava flow advances by building a pile of these long tubular lava pillows. In the road cut you will see rounded bodies of dark lava in a yellow-gray mass of clay-like material.

You will start your final long downhill with a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. As you wind your way back to The Dalles, in addition to Hood you will see Mt. Adams to the north, and possibly Mt. Rainier (near Seattle, with altitude over 14,000 feet) looming beyond it. You may even see a log-gray mountain between Hood and Adams, which is Mt. St. Helens.



Route Talk With Ken Chichester

 DAY    7          Tygh Valley to The Dalles

Farmland with Mt Hood If possible, the last day should be relatively short and easy, so everyone can finish early and those who don’t live too far away can get home by evening. At only 41 miles, today fits the bill nicely. It’s also easy, if you don’t count that 5-mile hill – but it’s at the beginning of the day, and only a 6 percent grade. By the end of this week, you’ll hardly even notice.

The direct route to The Dalles follows U.S. Highway 197, but of course that is not our route. We use nearly every available paved county road to avoid the main highway. After finishing the big hill, the route crosses the main highway once, and then we only have to ride on Highway 97 twice for a total of less than 4 miles. As everyone has come to expect during the week, these county roads are almost void of traffic.

Just before the top of the big climb, the route turns left onto a county road at the summit of Tygh Ridge, and then it’s nearly all downhill for more than 30 miles to the finish. We’ll be traveling through wheat fields for most of the way, skirting Dufur, the town that hosted us at the end of the second day. There are some great mountain views before dropping down into the canyons of Eightmile Creek and Fifteenmile Creek. The latter canyon is heavily shaded and ends just before reaching The Dalles, where the route travels through cherry orchards into the city.

Rather than returning to Sorosis Park and climbing another big hill at the end of the week, we’ll again stop at Riverfront Park (the lunch site on Day 2) for the finish celebration and lunch. After lunch, those who parked their car for the week will ride their bike for 4.5 miles (mostly on the Riverfront Trail) to Long-Term Parking, where baggage will be waiting for the return home.

Sine Die – and see y’all next year.


Making a Great Ride Greater – Etiquette On The Move

il_fullxfull.384476172_tm43You’re about to embark on an epic adventure – one that has the ability to change lives for good. You’re helping raise money for some great causes. You’re getting the chance to meet some amazing people from some of the most awesome communities in the world. And last – but far from least – you get to have an entire week of fun with 2,199 other people with at least one shared passion.

While you might not know a lot of your fellow riders today, that’s about to change. In a few days you’ll all be friends and family. One of the very best ways to facilitate this wonderful transformation is to ride in such a way that you make sure everyone is having as much fun as you are. Here’s how:

Maintain Road Awareness – We’ll be on some pretty rural roads most of the time, but there will always be traffic. You, your fellow riders, Cycle Oregon support vehicles, motorists and people who live in the area are all going to be on the road. Knowing at all times what and who is around you is a great help to you and everyone else. Keep your eyes and ears open, and frequently check your six, and you’ll be well on your way. Mirrors help a lot with all of this, and we highly encourage that you use one.

Position Yourself Strategically – If you’re a slower rider, keep to the right. If you’re a faster rider, give those you pass a wide berth. If you you’re being passed, move to the right. If you’re going to stop, move over to the right before doing so (ESPECIALLY if you’re on a steep climb). If that’s not possible, make sure no one is right behind you before you jump off. If you have no reason to change your position, hold your line.

Communicate – If you notice a car coming from behind, let your fellow riders know by calling “car back.” If you see a car coming toward you, it’s “car up.”

If you’re passing or stopping, let that be known as well. Likewise, if you notice a hazard, point it out (and if you want to give a hand signal, point toward the hazard, not in the direction someone needs to go to avoid it).

Pass Properly – Before you pass, check behind you and to your left before you make your move. Assume another rider or a support vehicle is passing you at all times. Those of us who drive on the course regularly know this is something a lot of folks tend to forget. Keep in mind that support vehicles are often driving slowly and quietly until it’s safe to pass riders. Don’t assume you’ll hear them.

If there’s a car behind you or someone is passing you, hang back a few seconds until the coast is clear. Also, when you hear “car back,” wait to initiate your pass until the car goes by. Going for the quick pass when you hear “car back” is dangerous and obnoxious. When you finish your pass, move back to the right when it’s safe to do so (someone might want to pass you, Speed Racer). Don’t pass someone who is in the process of passing someone else.

Remember, this isn’t a race, and your desire to get around slower riders should never put you or them in jeopardy. We never run out of beer, food or places to pitch your tent.

Obey Traffic Laws – All of them. It’s amazing how many people do blatantly silly stuff. Blowing off a stop sign isn’t a good idea. Blowing off a stop sign WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING FOR TRAFFIC is just dumb. And it’s something we see happening frequently. If you’re going to stop along the route, Oregon law dictates that you pull off the road. Likewise, it requires riding single-file if there’s traffic behind you. Keep in mind that the motorcycle police who accompany us can and will issue tickets as warranted.

etiquettebook_smPaceline Politely – Riding in a paceline is a lot of fun – particularly if you’re a skilled and seasoned rider. (It is never recommended to paceline with anyone other than you are used to pacelining with.) But your fun should not come at the expense of everyone else’s fun (not to mention safety). Please restrict paceline riding to areas where it’s safe. If your whole group can’t safely pass riders, don’t pass. And if you have to drop off your paceline to avoid putting someone else in danger, do it.

Share the road – “Share the road” is not simply a saying to remind motorists that they need to make room for cyclists. It works the other way around. On an event like Cycle Oregon, it’s important to make sure we leave room for traffic. Riding three (or four or five) abreast while letting cars stack up behind you is not sharing the road. Moreover, it isn’t the way to endear ourselves to the local motorists (many of whom are our hosts). We’re ambassadors of our sport, and the way we conduct ourselves on the road matters.