- Open design pedal
- The open binding mechanism is designed to better shed mud
- Low maintenance...
Bicycling Essentials for Northeast Oregon
(This article was originally published at LaGrande-online.com on 13 Mar 2006 11:03:47am)
Northeast Oregon is truly a beautiful place to ride a bike. This is why Cycle Oregon often visits the area, and will again ride through this September. What others consider a scenic getaway vacation, La Grande residents have readily available. Consequently, my enthusiasm for cycling has been intensified since I moved to Summerville four years ago.
The Grande Ronde Valley and surrounding areas provide distinct advantages for the cyclist. Nearly every road offers a scenic view of the natural beauty in the region. On a bike you get to experience it more intimately. Landscape passes by too quickly in a car, and you don’t see enough while walking or riding a horse. Bike riding allows you to fully absorb a myriad of sights with an added rush of exercise-induced endorphins that heighten the experience.
The scenery is further enhanced by the lack of automobile traffic encountered on the roads. Due to the low population density, the roads and trails in the region offer solitude for the solo cyclist and conversation opportunities for two or more.
Furthermore, the roads are very clear of menacing debris that causes flat tires. The cyclists I come in contact with from outside the region suffer numerous flat tires from punctures caused by nails, thorns, and other hazards. Conversely, I’ve ridden thousands of miles in the valley in the last three years without a flat.
Road cyclists will enjoy an aerobic exercise advantage training in this area. Once outside of La Grande (which only takes a few minutes), the roads offer flat terrain for long uninterrupted distances. This allows you to get your heart rate up and hold it steady for long periods of time. Staying in your target training zone provides more positive fitness benefit for all levels, recreational beginner to advanced racer.
The stop-and-go nature of bike riding in cities and congested neighborhoods disrupts the exercise experience and can lead to inefficiency. This is rarely a concern in Northeast Oregon.
Unfortunately, the Grande Ronde Valley is not perfect for cycling due to the harsh winters and fierce wind. However, these drawbacks are overshadowed by the positives mentioned previously. During the peak of summer, when much of the nation is sweltering, we have perfect cycling days and limited wind.
In order to enhance enjoyment and safety, here is my list of essentials that every cyclist in northeast Oregon should heed:
- Know how to fix a flat: Even though your chances of getting a flat are negligible, it will happen and you should know how to fix your tire and get going again. With the proper tools and practice, the fix should take 5-10 minutes. Simply carry a spare tube, tire levers, and a pump with your bike and follow these instructions provided by Park Tools. Don’t bother with a patch kit, just replace the tube because new tubes are inexpensive and makes for a quicker fix.
- Stay dry: Moisture is the main threat for hypothermia, even when the road is dry. Getting wet creates a dangerous situation in just about any temperature. Many inexperienced cyclists make the mistake of wearing too much clothing. When you are working hard on your bike, clothing next to the skin soaks up excess sweat. Control the problem by wearing base layers that wick sweat away from the skin. Also, layer outer clothing so that they can be removed or unzipped to vent heat when working hard. This is particularly important when mountain biking in more remote areas where the temperature can drop rapidly and help is far away.
- Travel on the right side of the road: I see many cyclists traveling on sidewalks or the left side of the road. Sidewalk travel creates a problem because it is dangerous to pedestrians—and the cyclists. Plus, the obstacles and uneven surfaces make for hazardous and erratic travel. Traveling on the left edge of the road is not only illegal, but creates a more volatile situation in the event of a collision with a car. Traveling with traffic negates the effect of any collision. For a complete list of guidelines for travel on a bike, see the Oregon Department of Transportation’s bicycle page which includes the Oregon Bicyclist Manual.
- Use a light: A good taillight that flashes is important anytime darker conditions prevail. I see many cyclists traveling at night or dusk without this important safety device. Reflectors are good, but insufficient. A flashing taillight will get the attention of drivers. In addition, add a headlight to help see the road in front.
- Adjust the seat to the correct height: I often see cyclists riding with a very low seat, which leads to cramped up legs and an inefficient motion. The seat should be high enough to get appropriate extension out of the legs for adequate power delivery to the pedals. In general, the seat height should be enough so the leg is slightly bent when the pedal is all the way down. A simple formula by Greg Lemond, three-time winner of the Tour de France, is to multiple 0.883 by your inseam measurement. The inseam is measured from your crotch to the floor without shoes on. After calculation, take the result and apply this by measuring from the center of the bottom bracket (this is what the cranks and pedals attach to at the bottom of the frame) to the top of your seat. Or, just stop by a local bike shop to have the mechanic set the height correctly.
- Water: Take a full water bottle on your ride. During exercise, you should be drinking every 5-10 minutes to keep energy up and avoid dehydration.
In the La Grande area, the roads are well marked with warning signs for cyclists. Enjoy just about any road in the area, but don’t forget the essentials.
About the author: Brian Sather is an assistant professor of physical activity and health at Eastern Oregon University. He has co-authored a book titled Mountain Biking La Grande, Oregon. He also maintains an active website with cycling information at LaGrandeRide.com