Bicycling Oregon – Willamette Valley

Tucked about a hour away from Portland, Oregon is a different place.   The Willamette Valley (accent on the la) is an area of vineyards, farms, small cities and much open land.  Where Portland’s weather in summer is in the 60s and low 70s, The Willamette Valley is in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and very dry.

Susan and I had the opportunity to ride there today from the B & B we are staying at.

Here is the good and the bad.

The free mountain bikes at the B & B are all there is, as the bike shop in town does not rent bicycles and there is nothing else nearby.  The owners are, obviously, casual cyclists as the men’s bike was a Trek and the womens, a Huffy!  Both are in need of serious tune ups.  However, they were ride able if you knew how to futz with brakes and shifting.

Glenn is ready to ride.

The ride start is good.  Down  you go from the hilltop B & B and turn onto roads that descend more than they ascend (yes, the bad comes later).  We passed open fields, vineyards, llama farms, tiny towns, teenagers jumping off a bridge into the ‘ole water hole’ and a full wood log railroad trestle.

Top of the .8 mile driveway. Four sections over 20%.  One at 29%.                                                           LLama farming

We meandered over rolling terrain on heavy mountain bikes with under inflated tires in 90 degree heat.  So, we are bit dedicated or stupid.  The ride was as lovely as we were hot.

Most of the roads were super quiet, except State Route 99.  While a busy road, it had a good shoulder and was flatter than the alternatives.

The end was the payback however.  Until the last 1.5 miles we had descended 1000 feet and ascended 500 feet.

SO… up we went.  The first .7 miles was not too bad and gained us 200 feet.

However, the last .8 miles was the driveway up to the B & B.  Four sections of this driveway (all paved) had grades over 20%!  Maybe it was the heat.  Maybe it was the heavy bike.  Maybe it was me, but for the first time in 12 years I had to walk parts of that driveway.  The last part was so steep that I had to rest while walking the bike!!!

Loved the ride.  Would even put up with the bikes. Will not do that driveway again, however.  So another ride is up in the air.  If the owners will drive the bikes back up, I may go out again.  We’ll see.

The quieter view from the B&B.

BTW: Oregon is an incredibly bicycle friendly state. There are bike lanes everywhere, even on highways.  On one highway from Portland to the Airport, I even saw off road bike paths! Motorists and cyclists seriously share the road.
There was even a sign at a busy right hand turn in Bend, Or.  “Motorists Yield to Cyclists”.

In Portland there are multiple bike hooks in the cars of the light rail system.

More on this in another blog, however.


Private Roads, Public Access

I have phoned several police departments in my area about cycling on private roads. They all pretty much said NO PROBLEM.  However, a friend of mine told me, the other day, that not only was cycling allowed, but so were cars.  So, I decided to see what I could find.  It appears that he  was correct.

This information took awhile to find.

The sites below seem to indicate that these roads are not really private to public access.  However, when I read more websites, conflicts seemed to arise, particularly about motor vehicles, on private roads.  So, even with these three sites stating one thing, others reflect slightly different views.  Most of the differences pertain to motor vehicles, not bicycles.

General Info, Identical at two sites:

Private Road.. Excerpts from above sites.

A street or route that is designated by a public authority to accommodate a person or a group of people.

A private road is often established because an individual needs to gain access to land; such a road can cross another person’s property. A private road can be used by the general public and is open to all who wish to use it, but it primarily benefits those at whose request it was established. Unlike highways that are cared for by the public at large, private roads are maintained at the expense of the private individuals who requested the road.

The authority to establish a private road is derived from the power of EMINENT DOMAIN and exists only when expressly provided by a statute. The statute must be strictly followed, especially when the private road benefits only the requesting party.

Specific To Boston Area…but in reading same in other states, pretty  much the law of the land

Excerpts from website:

You wouldn’t believe how tough it was to get a straight answer on this.

Residents cannot put up a ‘No Trespassing’ sign at the front of a private way,” he said. “The public has the right to pass on it. People think of ‘private’ in the sense of something being exclusive. But it’s really private in that it has not been accepted as a public way, with public standards. It does not mean exclusivity. Being a way, it’s open for the public to pass.

Do the people along the private way have rights in the private way? Yes,” Rumley continued. “But those rights are subject to the right of the public to traverse the way. Some people will say to you that as abutters, we own to the middle of the way. When they say that, ask them to go to the assessors’ office and see if the additional footage into the middle of the street is on their tax bill. I can tell you: No, it isn’t. And do they want it included? No, they don’t.”

Police, in fact, can hardly enforce any driving regulations on private roads, because they are not owned by the state or by municipalities. (There are rare exceptions, such as drunken driving arrests.)

Cape Cod 2010

Once a year Susan and I go to Cape Cod with one of the bike clubs we are members of.

The rides are almost the same, but somewhat mystical, nevertheless.

Martha’s Vineyard is one of the highlights. In 52 miles we see ride on/through coastline, bluffs, forest, farmland, bogs, beach and scrub. We also pass two light houses.

We take the ferry from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven.  That, in itself could be a ride on the deck or in the air conditioning. There is a full service cafeteria on board if you wish to buy breakfast.

In Vineyard Haven we follow the shore line, through East Chop, over to Oak Bluffs.  As we come into town, the harbor in on the right and the victorian gingerbread houses are on the left.  In three or four miles we have experienced multiple scenery changes!

We then head out of town for miles of riding along the shore on one side and many inlets on the other.  You can ride the bike path or the road.  A stop at Edgartown Bicycles, right on our route is optional.

Though we used to ride through Edgartown, we now skip this side trip.  It is worthwhile if you have never been.

From the Edgartown turn off we head to Katama Beach. Again, there is a bike path available.  The shoreline here is a series of high dunes. Quiet stunning, though ocean glimpses are rare.  At the end of the beach we turn right.  Sometimes we can see the small planes landing and taking off at the local airport on the right.

A cutoff on Old Meetingtown Road, followed by more turns to avoid the dirt portions of the road bring us to the main southern road across the island.  Here, there is a shoulderless road with woods on both sides.  Unfortunately the bike path through the woods, while perfectly rideable, has seen better days.  We tend to stay on the road, despite some motorists telling us to get on the bike path.

Just before the end is our rest stop…a youth hostel planted right in the forest.  It easy to miss.  Look for the stone driveway about seven miles down the road.  There is bike parking, shade, water and a rest room.  Very quiet and serene.  If this is not for you, however, there is a general store about two miles further down the road.

We head back out Edgartown West Tisbury Road to West Tisbury.  Left at the end of the road, past the general store and right on Music Street brings us to Middle Road.  So, after shore, bluffs, beach and woods, we now see farmland.

The only real hills are on the continuation to Aquinnah and the light house.  The ride takes us partway. We then cut left of a road called Moshup Trail, which brings us to the lighthouse via beach and scrub.

On the other side is Lighthouse Road, which takes us to the bike ferry ($5 per bike for the 2 minute ride) to Mememsha. Here we have our traditional lobster roll from the fish market (not the snack bar).

The 12 mile ride back to Vineyard Haven has one climb up from the shore, then a fairly level road past more scenery.

The reward is stop at Mad Martha’s Ice Cream, before boarding the ferry back to Woods Hole.

What more could one want?


Recovery Ride

The other week Susan and I rode an unusual amount, even for us retired folk.

We rode Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday — or five out of seven days.

For us, this is a lot.

Our Friday ride was a true ‘social ride’.

We went through places we’d rarely been.

The pace averaged 11-12 mph for the entire ride.

We noticed things, we talked.

It was great for its timing and for a change.

The next day we marshalled the Tour de Cure on Long Island and we breezed through the 65 miles at a modest 14.5 mph.

Every now and then , I need to remember that Friday ride and do one of those.


The Best Bike For Me !

Every now and then the  “do I need/want a new bicycle” syndrome rears its head.

If  I actually buy a new bicycle it will be titanium.  I personally know of one tragedy (death) and two or three found fractures in the frame before any serious injury, from carbon fiber bicycles.  I understand some are built more reliably that others.  I also have a rational or irrational concern with bicycles built in China.

That being said:

My current bike, a 2003 Litespeed Tuscany (titanium) is a good bicycle.  I like it.  It is on the heavy side,  about 20-22 lbs.

There are some real pluses to this bicycle, however:

  • Since I usually ride with my wife and she is not quite as strong a rider as I am, there is no issue with my current bicycle.
  • In the groups I ride with my ability level on my  Litespeed  puts in the top 25% to 50% of the riders, depending on who is out that day.
  • The bike is extremely comfortable.  The geometry is right for me.

The rationals, legitimate or not for looking for a new bike are:

  • At faster speeds or hillier rides I do need to work hard at times to generate the output I desire.  This, however, could also be a plus.
  • Life it short. I can afford a new bicycle. Why not?
  • A new bike may be a lot expensive than losing five more pounds, but it is easier :).

For now, these are just thoughts bouncing around.  Should I get serious I actually have to find a manufacturer that builds titanium bikes in the US, Canada or Western Europe and has a size with a 51 cm top tube.

Anyone else out there going through this process?


The New Bike Toy

So, I broke down and bought a Garmin Edge 705 GPS.  My thoughts follow:


  • It tracks a lot of information…up to 16 different items are instantly viewable with a single button push. For instance: Speed, Average Speed, Max. Speed, Elevation, Elevation Gain, Percent of Grade you are on, Heart Rate, Average Heart Rate, Cadence, Average Cadence, Calories, Lap time, Ride Time, Pause time, etc.
  • The unit, with or without the wheel sensor (in which case all distance comes from satellites) seems more accurate in terms of ride time, pause time an miles, than a standard cyclometer.  In fact, with the wheel sensor, put the wheel size on automatic and it will set and periodically adjust the proper setting for you.
  • By setting up a series of  Favorites I can easily cut off a long bike ride for a shorter way back.
  • Even on a hike, with just a tracking of my steps, I can see where I am in relation to where I started.
  • If I want to store a route that I am riding, I just need to Start the unit and Stop it and Reset, when I am done.
  • There are thousands of links to GPS files online to download.
  • Two Garmin 705s can transfer rides between them just by pressing some buttons.
  • Many online and computer based mapping systems export to GPS, which I can then upload into my Garmin.
  • There a many not so obvious features that I am still learning about.


  • In speaking with other cyclists who have this unit it seems that an awful lot of people use it as no more than an extremely expensive cyclometer.  They never program it on any level.
  • For the price of a unit like this you’d think that it would include a thermometer.
  • As a near monopoly, the ‘nickel and dime’ to death attitude of what you really need to buy to make the unit complete is another example of corporate greed.  You need to buy maps for the unit and map software (if you want to use theirs).  The wheel sensor and cadence monitor are extra as well.
  • The Calorie counter is a joke unless you set your weight to 50% to 60% of what it really is. When I questioned tech about this I got a defensive non answer.
  • The Garmin Map Source (to create routes) works, but is definitely second rate software.
  • The menu system is logical to someone, but not me.
  • Checking Avoid Major Roads doesn’t always recognize major roads for bicycles (which may not be true for cars or tanks).

Anyway, I am enjoying it for what is does well.


Rant #3 – The Never Ending Safety Issues

The other day a member of our bicycle club was telling a group of us how safe someone was who she regularly rode with.   We all listened politely.  When she left we looked at each other and rolled our eyes.  To a person we all felt the ‘safe rider’ being described was extremely careless on the road.

Yesterday about 12 or us were riding a along the L.I.E. service road in Long Island, NY (not too much traffic on weekends) when two riders in there own group whipped past us on the right.

Group riding safety IS important, not only for the safety factor but for the enjoyment of all who are on the ride.

I am not going to post yet another a list of safe riding topics.

If you do not know what they are, you can find them all over the internet.

If you do not care what they are, you should not be riding with other people.

Rant # – Leading Rides Well

Leading a bicycle ride from time to time is something all regular and semi-regular club riders should do.

However, leading is more than getting out in front and having people follow you.

So, for all the leaders I have known and followed, both good and bad, here is the obvious list of dos . . . so many of which are not done.

1. KNOW YOUR ROUTE. Look at it on a map.  Drive it or ride if you must. Have a detailed cue sheet if necessary.  Nothing is a worse drag than following someone who really has no idea of where they are going.

First time leaders get some leeway. It is okay to ask for help from other riders, but not to the point that they are leading you. We all get turned around from time to time or under/over estimate distance and time.  However, it is your job to understand enough about the roads to compensate, if necessary.

2. KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ON YOUR RIDE AND WHERE THEY ARE.  Rides get strung out all the time.  You may need a sweep or a drop to make sure the last person is not the lost person.

By the same token if someone is terribly holding of the ride, constantly, and they do not have the courtesy to drop themselves,  you may need to point them home on their own.

3. ALLOW FOR BREAKS AT A REASONABLE POINT.  A pit stop after 45 minutes is fine.  A lunch stop less than half way through the ride is poor planning.

4. GO FOR AN INTERESTING ROUTE.  If  you cannot come up with one, get one from your club forum, ride list or another member.

5. ON RIDES WITH LOTS OF TURNS HAVE SOME REALLY GOOD CUE SHEETS.  Hand these out to riders who will sweep or drop for you.

6. ASK FOR HELP PULLING IF YOU NEED IT. Or, lead from several riders back and call out turns if no one will volunteer.


So simple, yet so often ignored.

Rant 2 – About leading rides and pulling the line.

When riding, regularly, with a group there are some courtesies, beyond those of safe riding that should be observed.  Unfortunately, too many of the people I ride with fail to observe these courtesies.


There is one ride Susan and regularly join on week days (the benefits of being retired or out of work).  This ride does have two people that lead most of the time.  Some of us will try to lead a couple of times a season to give the group a different route or destination and to give the regular leaders a break.

The riding we generally do on weekends does have a rotation of about a dozen leaders. Some lead regularly, some sporadically.

To all the above people, Thank you.

For those of you who lead without a clue.

  • Know your route cold, or know how to modify it on the fly if necessary.  Drive it or ride it.  Improve it if you do not like it.
  • You are leading a group, not just riding.  Pay attention to your speed vs. the group’s speed and how much they are stretched out.
  • Take the lead seriously.

For those of you who do not lead rides . . . come on people.  Your excuses/objections/reasons are,  for the most part, lame.

Reason 1 –  I am new to the area and/or this group.
Reply 1 – That is a legitimate reason to not be leading, for the time being.

Reason 2 – I don’t know any routes.
Reply 2 – So learn some.  Get a map, drive the route. Go online to Mapmyride, Bikely or Google Maps.

Reason 3 – I am directionally challenged.
Reply 3  – You don’t believe and no one else does.  You drive your car from point A to point B.   A bike ride is merely connecting A to B to C to D.

Reason 4 – I am one of the slowest one in the group.
Reply 4  – Actually a reasonable concern.  However, that does not mean you cannot lead.  So, it will be a slower ride. That is actually nice now and then, particularly at the beginning and  end of the cycling season.

For those of you who CAN, but DO NOT, help the leader PULL.

Let’s keep this simple.

  • You are in a line, but not an organized pace line with rotating pulls.
  • You are a strong enough rider to pull this line yourself, at least for awhile.
  • You are riding fast enough to generate wind or there is a cross wind or headwind.
  • Your leader is out in front take the brunt of the work, while you are working significantly less by drafting.

Do you THINK, the leader may like a break?
Regardless of if you are asked, take a turn.
I have pulled entire rides for 40 miles.  Great exercise, but totally exhausting.

And when you pull, do so responsibly.
Make sure you are not going so fast that you lose the people behind you.
If you need to slow down momentarily, say “Slowing” in your outdoor voice.
If you need to slow down the pace line because YOU are tired, don’t.  Pull off to the left and indicate to the 2nd rider that he or she should pull for awhile.

Group riding is a shared experience.  You can take most of the time, but you need to give back as well.