Sometimes when you’re between tours, you get that itch. That itch deep down in your soul when you look outside, the weather has cleared, and the clouds play patterns across the hills. Today is the day to ride. And once outside, cycling with friends only adds to the fun! Luckily for me, I was in Eastern Oregon this week!
Cycling in Eastern Oregon, specifically Wallowa County offers some of the best views, and experiences that Oregon has to offer. Wheras many folks think that Bend is the extent of the “East” side of Oregon, there many places that offer a unique climate, culture, and bicycling experience. Whether it’s grinding your way over one of the many dirt roads, dust spitting behind your wheels while you ride in virtual solitude, or bombing it down a 22 mile grade from Joseph To Imnaha, this county has a lot to offer.
With the weather looking good, Hugh, Nick, and I set out for a modest day ride up Wallow Mountain road. This road is a popular way to get from the county over to Halfway via bike. I was excited to get back in the saddle because my chainring was damaged during shipping from Tucson, and I had just received the replacement they day before. I couldn’t believe it had been over a week since I had been able to ride my bike! (to be fair, I could have ridden on my two lower gears, but with a top-speed of 14mph while cranking like crazy, I just wasn’t too jazzed at the idea) I was glad at the chance to ride again, and doing maintenance on my bike allowed me the time to film a video on folding spare touring tires I’d been wanting to do for a while.
It seemed like my bike was ready to go, but as all first rides after-shipment go, there were some kinks that needed to be worked out. I met Hugh and Nick in a parking lot in downtown Joseph, our starting point for the day, and was immediately glad that I had brought my toolkit. Hugh had brought his recumbent! Woo! It turned out that both Hugh, and Nicks bikes needed some work before the ride started (hugh had recently re-assembled his bike from shipping, and Nick was trying out a bike he had picked up recently. While work was finishing on Nicks bike, I took the opportunity to avail myself of Hugh’s recumbent. I’ll say it now, if you ever get a chance to try one of these you should definitely give it a shot! In fact, by the time we were ready to go, I found that I so liked the change of pace, that I switched pedals and ended up riding the recumbent the entire day!
We meandered our way out of Joseph, and I found myself adjusting the the new riding style. Recumbents are different beasts, and take a bit of getting used to. For one thing, the steering wheel is in-between your legs, and they turn much sharper than you first anticipate. I found myself yelping and overcorrecting more than once after near fatefully diving into a gravel bank. On the plus side though, these bikes can cruise! On the big dip into Imnaha Canyon, I easily out-coasted my companions, nearly hitting 45mph before pulling back due to not wanting to end the day in a body cast. (From past experience, pushing limits on new equipment the first time you use it invites pain.) At least the brakes worked!
We took a stop at the top, before the grade to attempt to correct an issue with Hugh’s chainring (it seems to be a theme around here to have troubles with them) Having been recently put back together, the smallest chainring was accidentally put on backwards, leaving the lowest gear unavailable due to chain skip. Oops! We tried our best to get the crank off, and reverse the ring, but alas, no luck. Luckily we managed to make it work, and needed an excuse for a lunch break anyway.
After heading down into the Imnaha Canyon, and back up Wallow Mountain road, we eventually turned back, having seen only five vehicles over the duration of our journey. This was but one of the fantastic roads to bike in this area, and in the future, I’m looking forward to pedaling more!