The Willamette Valley is no stranger to great bicycling. After all, it’s home to the first official “scenic bikeway” in America. But until this past weekend there was a large chunk of it which I had yet to pedal through: the western section of Yamhill County south of Forest Grove.
The impetus for my trip was a pre-ride of the Cycle Oregon Weekender event. As you might already realize, BikePortland and Cycle Oregon go way back. I’ve been doing their rides and covering their work for over a decade now and they’ve been a long-time advertiser. I believe in what they do, so I’m happy to work with them — especially when it gives me an excuse to get out on the bike and pedal Oregon’s gorgeous rural backroads.
This year’s Weekender (July 7-9) looks to be a charmer. It’ll offer two full days of great roads and meticulously crafted routes, with an extra day on the front-end to settle into base-camp at Linfield College, which is mere steps from McMinnville’s main street. Whether you can ride 16 or 73 miles in a day, there will be a loop with your name on it. And whether you spend all weekend on a bike or not, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the local history, eateries and wineries that have put Yamhill County on the map.
Of course I’m biased to seeing places from the seat of a bicycle. And how can you blame me? In two days of riding, my partner from Cycle Oregon Tom Simonson and I, pedaled through a tapestry of bucolic splendor that would make anyone fall in love with the Willamette Valley. Beyond the countless number of vineyards, we watched farm-life and wildlife unfurl amid classic spring weather. Friday’s sun saturated the green and blue hues as if the earth was showing itself off after a long and cold winter. Then Saturday’s rain and clouds saturated our bodies as if the earth wanted to remind us that it’s not August — the traditional end of winter around these parts — just yet.
The Weekender ($199 for riders 18 and over, $99 for ages 7-17) is a pretty perfect way to get a strong dose of Cycle Oregon’s legendary vibe in a much more accessible package than their week-long Classic event. With so many routes to choose from, it’s great for families or for groups of friends with varying degrees of riding experience and fitness. I’ve done the event in years past with my family and kids. This year I’m taking a group of friends to test how it works as more of an adult weekend getaway with equal time given to riding, hanging out, and soaking up a bit of the local rural culture that makes this part of Oregon such a cool place to call home.