As warm weather approaches, cyclists in Bend emerge from hibernation.
May is National Bike Month, and in Bend that means the revamping of a thriving bike culture, according to Lucas Freeman, editor and publisher of Bike Around Bend, an online hub for bicycle enthusiasts.
“I’d say Bend is pretty bike crazy,” Lucas said. “When you get into the warmer months, you would be hard-pressed to find any week without at least two or three cycling events.”
From the weekend recreational rider to road bike professional competitors, the Bend bike community has a bit of everything, according to Lucas.
Commuter bicyclists use a bicycle as their primary means of transportation.
Local bike shop Bend Velo is focused on helping commuter bikes become more of a reality by making them more comfortable and customized to the rider.
Bend Velo Bike builder, Torry Sox, develops rapport with customers by finding out their motivation to ride.
“[We ask] what’s making you drive your car instead of riding,” Sox said. “We try to make your bike as close to your car as possible.”
To do this, Bend Velo adds accessories to their custom bikes, the “John Livingston’s,” like cup holders, comfortable seats, saddlebags and fenders, so riders can avoid the “skunk stripe” when going through puddles, according to Tory Sox, bike builder at Bend Velo.
The biggest obstacle for people to get on bicycles is that they don’t know that it’s “cool” to be comfortable on your bike, according to Scott Wolfe, a Bend Velo customer who has spent 30 years in the bike industry.
“Take your old bike and make it relevant again,” Wolfe said. “A lot of people have stuff in their garage that would be perfect for a commuter, they just don’t know it.”
All the bells and whistles, are unnecessary, according to Wolfe, the important thing is to get out and ride.
Benefits of being a bicycle commuter
Biking is the best way to commute to school according to Owen Murphy.
Murphy is a health and human performance instructor at Central Oregon Community College and a daily bicycle commuter. He notices a difference between the days he commutes to work on his bicycle or when he decides to drive.
“It gives me a greater level of awareness when I ride,” Murphy said. “I can’t think of a better way to commute. In the grand scheme of things, it’s an easy choice.”
Deepish Sapkota, a nursing student at COCC, likes to ride whenever he can. On most days he rides his road bike to work and school.
Sapkota bikes to get his blood pumping and for the fresh air. Along with Murphy he said he notices a difference in his cognition when he rides.
“Every time I get to school I’m a little more fresh.” Sapkota said. “I’m wide awake.”
With the full schedule of a college student, Sapkota said his commute also serves as a workout session.
“I’m busy, so that’s where I get my exercise,” Sapkota said. “I don’t have time to go to the gym.”
The fitness benefits of bicycling is something Murphy also appreciates,as well as the feelings he associates with riding.
“I still feel like a little boy when I ride my bike,” Murphy said. “The older I get, it’s still a good way to stay in shape.”
Biking to improve health and happiness
Bicycle commuting has positive effects to health and stress management, according to Jenny Cruickshank, health and human performance instructor at COCC.
“When we do something that we enjoy or care about,” Cruickshank said, “the calories just disappear.”
At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, like riding a bicycle, is recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
This has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon cancer, anxiety, and depression, according to the CDC.
“Its building exercise into your daily life,” Freeman said.
Commuting by bike offers both exercise and exposure to the outdoors–something that’s recently been associated with greater vitality, according to the Journal of Environmental Psychology..
“Being outside has positive effects,” Cruickshank said. “Looking at scenery helps to decrease stress and depression, while increasing levels of happiness.”
Riding a bike to work or school also helps people get in touch with their surroundings and community, according to Freeman.
“It’s a quieter way to get to work,” Freeman said. “You’re going a little slower. You can wave and say hi to people.”
Commuting on a bicycle may seem out of reach to some. Both Murphy and Cruickshank believe it’s important to start out slow.
“It can be a little intimidating,” Murphy said. “I’d say get out in the evening or on the weekend and just get a feel for the bike.”
Getting to COCC can be especially challenging because of the climb up College Way, but Murphy believe that should not stop anyone from cycle commuting.
“If you’re intimidated by the hill, ride to the base and take the bus,” Murphy said. “No matter what the hurdle, it can be overcome.”
It’s important to plan ahead and not take on too much in the beginning, according to Cruickshank.
“Plan your route. Walk it or drive it ahead of time,” Cruickshank said. “Take your time and have fun, even if you get half-way there, that’s great.”
Commuting tips from local bike industry expert, Scott Wolfe:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Be upright and visible.
- Make eye contact.
- Make yourself part of traffic.
- Ask yourself, “What would I do if I was a driver?”
- Music can be distracting and dangerous.
- Maintain your bike.
- Use lights when night riding.
- Always wear a helmet.
Bend Bicycle Film Festival, May 22—Locally produced short films featuring cycle culture in Bend.
MTB High Cascades 100, June 20—One hundred mile mountain bike endurance race through the extensive trail system around Bend.
Freedom Ride in downtown Bend, July 4—Riders of all kinds come together in Downtown Bend to celebrate Independence Day.
USA Cycling Masters Road Cycling National Championship, Sept. 4 to Sept. 8—Racers take to the streets of downtown Bend and Cascade Lakes highway for 5 days of competition.
CyclePub, Ongoing—“Where bike meets beer.” Local pedal-powered pub tour allows patrons to sit at the bar, see the sights and get exercise all at the same time.