Bike friendly – Local riders talk about Oregon’s opportunities, adventures

July 2022 Posted in Outdoor Life

By Melissa Wagoner


This spring the League of American Bicyclists ranked the state of Oregon as the second most bicycle friendly state in the nation – number one on the West Coast. But what do Willamette Valley cyclists think? A panel of avid cyclists from the Silverton and Mount Angel area weighed in.

Laura Wanker

“I’m pretty satisfied with Oregon riding,” Laura Wanker – an avid road cyclist who has ridden in countries around the world – said. “And Silverton is a great cycling destination… if you’re willing to ride on the road.”

Which she has to an almost obsessive degree.

“I like a challenge,” she admitted. “I like to have a goal. At one point I took a map of Marion County and I highlighted all the paved roads I had ridden on, with the goal to ride all the paved roads. And I was successful in it.”

But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been bumps along the way.

“I try to be friendly with drivers and I try to move over when I can,” Wanker said of the primary method she and her husband, Rod, use to stay safe while out on the road. 

“But we’ve each had a few accidents – nothing terrible. I’ve been hit once and I crashed under my own volition once. You just try to mitigate and be careful.”

Bobby Dixon

His arm in a cast from a recent collision with a car, Bobby Dixon is intimately aware of just what can happen when those mitigation efforts fail. Yet he is still singing the praises of biking Oregon’s roads. 

“Cycling has been a mental balancing thing for me,” the 39-year-old said, recalling his introduction to the biking world through his involvement in Portland State University’s Cycling Club. 

“It personified the Oregon beauty,” he explained. “I really think this is the best canvas, so to speak.”

Dixon would know. A fan of rides that include a challenging elevation gain, he once cycled the 200-mile Hood to Coast, “sunrise to sunset” relay route.

“That was a big accomplishment,” Dixon acknowledged.

Then there was a ride along Oregon’s coastline from Pacific City to Coos Bay on Highway 101 – which Dixon completed despite deep snow – as well as an epic ride from Detroit Lake to Bend. 

“We were on the back road that all the pioneers used to take,” Dixon recalled. “Then we camped at Suttle Lake, right on the dock.”

But more than anything else, Dixon uses his bike to commute, sometimes alone and sometimes with his three-year-old daughter. 

“It’s something I really want to expose her to, that freedom,” he said. “And I love seeing kids on bikes, developing their spatial awareness.”

So far, the task has been relatively easy, considering the bike-ability of his hometown.

“Overall Silverton (minus a few issues) is definitely trending toward being a cycling community,” he said. “It moves slow, but it’s happening. And this place is beautiful, so bikes should be riding around this town. There just needs to be more infrastructure.”

Joe Craig

“The infrastructure is hard to deal with,” fellow cyclist Joe Craig agreed. “But if you can get past that you can go anywhere.”

Even camping. 

“We’re really fortunate. We have two state parks within riding distance,” Craig said, referring to the Willamette Mission State Park to the south and Champoeg State Park to the north, both an easy ride from Silverton and the impetus for a bike camping course he and Fall Line – Silverton’s skate and bike shop – held
this spring.

“I think there’s an interest in doing bike traveling but people don’t know where to start,” he speculated, explaining that the course, a one-day clinic followed up by a three-day camping trip, is aimed at doing just that – introducing more people to the joys of exploring the beautiful state.

Justin Benguerel 

“Being in the Willamette Valley, there are so many back roads…” Justin Benguerel – Fall Line’s owner and himself an avid cyclist – pointed out. “And I really think Silver Falls is super great. There are so many gravel roads… so many routes you can do right from your door.”

Which is why he wishes more people – especially kids – would consider biking as their primary mode of transportation.

“I don’t see as much standard cycling to get around as I would expect,” Benguerel said. He speculated that at least part of the reason may be Oregon’s long, wet winters.

“ To ride year-around you need rain gear and fenders… it’s that extra step,” he acknowledged. But for those who are willing to try, “I’m happy to be a resource at the shop.”

Andres Goyer

Similarly, Andres Goyer, owner of the Mt. Angel Public House, also wants to be a resource to the cycling community, just in a different way.

“It all started when I was at the coffee shop watching lines of bicyclists pound pavement to Silverton,” he said. “And I thought – how do I get people on bikes to turn in to Mount Angel?”

That’s because every year bicycle travelers spend an estimated $400 million in Oregon alone, according to the Travel Oregon website. Goyer knew if he could entice even a fraction of those cyclists who passed through on Highway 214 on their way to Silver Falls or the Oregon Garden to stop in Mount Angel along their way, it would help not just his business but the entire town.

And so, he registered the Public House as a bike friendly business, stocking bike locks, phone chargers and packaged snacks as well as obtaining funding from the City to install a bicycle repair station and a parking corral. 

Now all he needs are the cyclists which, with newly posted “bike friendly business” signs and the state’s new ranking, shouldn’t be far behind.

Road Cycling Tips

Purchase a bike that fits your needs – whether that be a road cycle, a mountain bike or even a cruiser.

Get the right size bike and helmet – experts at your local bike shop can help.

Ride in comfort – that could mean bike shorts, riding gloves, jerseys, clip-in shoes and waterproof gear.

Don’t forget food and water – bananas, energy bars, gels and electrolyte drinks will help keep you energized.

Know how to fix a flat – and carry the tools to do it.

Research routes – consider apps like Google Earth, Strava, Map My Ride, and Garmin or the website 

Join a group – the Salem Bicycle Club, Bicycle Rides Northwest, the Adventure Cycling Association or Cycle America’s Pedal the Peaks are ones to try.


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