I hadn’t meant to push my bikey agenda so much at the family reunion last weekend. It all started out innocently enough: I knew there would be a pleasant network of bike paths in Sunriver, where we were staying, so my mom and I planned to bring our bikes.
So I started looking up places to ride, other than to the pool and back. A search for “cycling Bend Oregon” brought up the Cycle Pub, the 14-person bicycle I convinced my family to ride through Bend.
I also came across Central Oregon’s Scenic Bikeways. That’s right. Oregon has officially designated, helpfully signed Scenic Bikeways.
Cyclists are welcome to ride there. Invited, actually.
Enjoy the beauty of Oregon from a bike seat. State designated scenic bikeways are carefully designed to represent the best of Oregon’s scenic beauty. Every type of rider can find the ride that fits their style and mood- from family friendly to remote and challenging.
Designated bikeways are the “best of the best” road bicycle riding on existing roads and paved paths in Oregon. Routes show off Oregon’s Mountains, farmlands and historic places.
The bikeway program is a partnership between Cycle Oregon, Travel Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
The Twin Bridges Loop is the newest addition to the growing flock of routes. It starts out of Bend’s Drake Park, then loops up to the North through the amazing high desert countryside around the town of Tumalo (“Tumm-alow,” I was told).
I convinced my mom to do this ride with me. The entire route is 36 miles, but since her longest ride to date was our Mercer Island loop back in May, we decided to cut it shorter by starting in “Tumm-alow” State Park and just doing the loop section in a clockwise direction. Cutting the tail off the tadpole, as it were.
Two of my cousins decided to go with us, as well. We were a motley crew on our mixture of road bikes and mountain bikes, wearing our shorts and tees and sporting commuter bags and backpacks, but we had a ton of fun.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was a bit nervous about taking some of my favorite people out into unknown traffic conditions, but in the end the ride was truly amazing.
The route takes you through gently rolling* countryside, past sprawling ranches and gorgeous high desert scenery. The roads closest to Tumalo are busier, but they have fairly wide shoulders (and in some cases look to have been recently re-striped to widen the shoulder). The back country roads all had a narrower shoulder, but traffic was minimal and very respectful. I would even venture to say that we were passed by more cyclists than cars.
If you’ve never been to Bend, then you should know that the mountains surrounding it are incredible. The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and other snow-capped peaks of the Cascades are visible from almost every point on this route.
Despite a few roads that had regular cracks (due to paving over concrete slabs?), the roads were smooth and a pleasure to ride on. Almost all** the turns were marked with a “Scenic Bikeways” sign and an arrow, which meant that I hardly needed to get out my map.
We stopped for lemonade and iced tea at Bellatazza Café once we reached the town of Tumalo. Over half the patrons we saw while we sat in the air conditioned café were other cyclists, and the barista had a pitcher of cold water out on the counter for us all to refill our water bottles.
But now my vacationing is done. I made it back to Seattle just in time for our 90-degree “high temperature advisory” and to watch the Sounders trounce the L.A. Galaxy 4-0 (Go, Sounders!).
I’m falling in love with Bend, though, and I’m really interested in trying out some of the other Scenic Bikeways of Oregon. What about you guys? Has anyone ridden one? What were your thoughts?
* At least I thought it was “gently rolling.” You’ll have to ask Mom and Mary, who were riding mountain bikes, what they thought.
** The Oregon.gov website says that they’re still in the process of installing signs, and that they should all be in place by this September.