Cycle Oregon Day 4: Tygh Valley to Madras

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-50

After conquering the hardest climb in Cycle Oregon history, riders fell deeply in love with a water crew member assigned to spray us at the top.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Day 4 official route map.
(Click to enlarge)

While the leading roles in this year’s Cycle Oregon are filled by the “Magnificent Seven” Cascade peaks, it was a little-known upstart that stole the show. The ride up Pelton Dam Road — 14% grade for 1.7 miles (at mile 72 on the day) — was the hardest climb in the 27-year history of the event.

But a historically brutal climb won’t be the only memory from today’s ride. We were also treated to the broad expanses and ranches outside of Tygh Valley, our first views of Mt. Jefferson, the amazing geology of the Warm Springs Reservation near Kahneeta, and several miles riding alongside the wild and scenic Deschutes River.

I got an early start again this morning, rolling out into Tygh Valley while the moon was still out and our shadows followed us on golden hills:

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-1

(Excuse the presence of my shadow in this image.)
Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-3

Leaving the town of Tygh Valley on Wapanitia Hwy.
Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-4

One of our last good looks at Mt. Hood (for now).
Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-6

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-7

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-8

View of Mt. Jefferson on Reservation Road in Warm Springs.
Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-10

A rest stop in Simnasho.

As we continued south toward Kahneeta, the earth opened up to reveal expansive, red-earth canyons and ancient volcanic geology. The descents were so fun and fast that it was hard to convince myself to even stop and take photos.

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-12

Descending into the canyons in the background of this image were a highlight of the trip for many riders.
Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-15

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-16

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-17

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-19

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-21

A few miles later we had crossed Highway 26 and headed south alongside the Deschutes River. We got special permission to ride across a dam managed by Warm Springs Power & Water Enterprises. Then it was onto Pelton Dam before the big climb of the day.

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-23

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-25

This guy was standing in the middle of the road handing out
peaches he just picked. I grabbed two.
Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-26

Pelton Dam.

Then the climb began. An absolutely leg-breaking ascent of Pelton Dam Road. Many people walked, some cried, others seemed to spin up it with relative ease. At the top, one of the members of the Cycle Oregon water crew was there to spray us off. The Climb was all the buzz at camp tonight. Everyone had a story to tell and a memory of “That insane hill we climbed on Cycle Oregon 2014!” will last for a very long time.

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-27

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-28

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Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-32

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-33

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Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-36

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-39

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-40

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-41

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-45

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-43

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-46

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-48

She made it all the way up and was so excited.
“I brought my walking shoes! But I didn’t need them!”
Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-49

The epic day was followed by a Cycle Oregon tradition: the Bike Gallery Bike Rodeo. The Bike Gallery has dozens of staffers here at the event. They work non-stop fixing bikes and helping people with whatever it takes to keep them rolling. The Rodeo is there chance to have some fun and let off some steam. Complete with a ring-leader, a referee, and a rodeo clown, they competed in events like foot-down, jousting, and limbo.

Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-115


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Cycle Oregon 2014 - Day 4-112

We stay two nights here in Madras. Tomorrow is a layover day, which means that we have the option to ride or not. There are a ton of activities to choose from. I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet, but it might involve a ride on the Madras Mountain Views State Scenic Bikeway and maybe a loop down to Smith Rock. But then again, my body’s tired! And I’ve got plenty of work I could do here at camp. We’ll see.

Stay tuned and thanks for all the great feedback about my photos. If you’ve missed any of the previous day’s stories, you can read them all here.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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9 years ago

Rumor has it that the guy on the fixed wheel was skipping rest stop food in lieu of nails stolen out of fences and raw hand-killed cougar meat.

9 years ago

Ugh, amazing photos as always, Jonathan! so good!

Jim Lee
Jim Lee
9 years ago

Looks like he has a double-fixed hub, so he could stop, flip the rear wheel over,changing gears when necessary.

I keep telling folks that fixies have 30% more torque than a free-wheeling bike in the same gear: longer and more efficient power stroke because absence of a ratchet in the hub obviates the rear wheel’s overunning the cranks when they are vertical; no need to finesse the cranks through the vertical dead zone and so lose some 20 degrees off the power stroke.

The real problem would be spinning down those long grades.

But, yeah, it works!

Dan Morrison
Dan Morrison
9 years ago
Reply to  Jim Lee

Fixies are silly outside of flat cities. Your whole mechanical advantage argument only works on crumby 3 points of engagement hubs. Give my SS with 72 points of engagement a try and see how little play there is. Give me one gear ratio, brakes, and the ability to coast and that’s all I need. But I need brakes and coasting. Need.

9 years ago

Thanks for the amazing photos from germany

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
9 years ago

I see the Rabbit brush is in bloom. To the southeast and southwest of Madras is the Crooked River National Grasslands, something to remember for the spring wildflower season.

Gisela F.
Gisela F.
9 years ago

How many people are dropping out of this? This climb looks extreme. I guess, most of you or all must be incredibly hardy. Congratulations. Hope you can also enjoy the scenery.
Gisela F.

Ted Buehler
9 years ago

For the map wonks, here’s the steep climb up from Lake Simtustus on a USGS topo map mirror site.,-121.23134&z=15&t=T

It’s the road in “Hurber’s Canyon” from water level up to the mesa. Elevation 1600′ to 2360′ in about 1.2 miles, or 760′ vertical in 6300′ distance, average grade of 12%. From the photos it looks like its quite a bit over 14% in spots.

For scale, the big red squares on the map are 1 mile square.

Great pics, Jonathan, motivating me to get out and do some touring this fall.

Ted Buehler

Jonathan Gordon
Jonathan Gordon
9 years ago

This appears to be the Strava segment link for the big climb of the day:

After 72 miles, that looks like a doozy. Nice work guys!