Year-round, two-wheeled pursuits for enthusiasts and commuters
There’s no question Bend is bicycling mecca. Estimates of up to 1,200 miles of single track within an hour of downtown include 300 miles accessible from Bend’s west side. Mountain biking areas such as Phil’s Trail, along with six Oregon Scenic Bikeways within an hour, draw cycling enthusiasts from all over the world.
On any given summer day commuters fill bike lanes, amateur mountain bikers hit the jumps on Whoops Trail and professional cyclists ride Twin Bridges Loop in preparation for our own Cascade Cycling Classic. For many Bendites, cycling is strictly a summertime pursuit, but local non-profits and advancements in technology look to combine the beauties of winter and riding.
Bend currently has roughly 160 miles of bike lanes crisscrossing the city. While opponents point to colder temperatures, darker evenings, and less-than-optimum road conditions, with the right preparation, cycling can be enjoyable all year long.
The aptly-named Commute Options works to reduce the number of solo drivers on the roads. Throughout the year, they partner with other organizations, governments and businesses for the year-round promotion of inclement weather riding.
“Commuting by bike is always safer when we allow ourselves some extra time to get where we need to be,” says Brian Potwin, Education Coordinator for Commute Options.
Beginning last year, the Deschutes County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee partnered with Commute Options, the City of Bend, and the Road Users Safety Task Force for “Light Up the Night” events. The evening events highlight the important safety issues behind nighttime cycling and distributes critical gear, such as reflectors and lights, to eliminate crashes.
Another organization looking to improve Bend’s livability though better bike commuting options is local non-profit Bend Bikes. Formed in 2012, Bend Bikes focuses on our bicycle infrastructure for everyday riders. They are working to ensure Bend’s policy makers understand what it means to have a fully connected network of bicycle lanes, especially as Bend grows.
“If more people chose healthy transportation or public transit over single occupancy car rides, Bend would reap a long list of benefits, including: savings on road maintenance costs, a healthier populace, less car traffic congestion, and more business for retailers along those active transportation corridors,” comments Lucas Freeman of Bend Bikes.
Rise of the Fatbike
Gaining considerable traction over the last two years, fatbikes have become the go-to ride for cyclists in the know. Using a low pressure tire, twice the size of a regular mountain bike tire, fatbikes have grown from being strictly a snow bike to providing year-round fun. By offering stability and comfort, the larger tire’s capabilities outweigh any additional weight.
“I appreciate the ability to ride year-round in many conditions that were not rideable before, or at least weren’t any fun to ride in, such as sand, snow, and deep mud,” says fatbiker Aaron Brandt.
Local fatbike expert Gary Meyer has been working with the Central Oregon Trails Alliance and the United States Forest Service to create a dedicated snow bike trail system. Under a two month trial permit with the USFS, the trails, which require tires wider than three and a half inches and tire pressure less than 10 p.s.i. are up and running out of Wanoga Sno-park. For those interested in fatbikes, Meyer recommends renting one at a local bike shop first.
For those who like the wind in their hair without the effort, electric bikes have risen in popularity. Replacing the legwork from cycling with an electric motor, electric bikes are now allowing riders to commute, take kids to school and pick up groceries, all without the workout. Electric bikes have established themselves as an excellent substitution for gas-guzzling transportation.