For serious cyclists in the know, Oregon has always had Tour de France-level rides – sleepy wine-country lanes, Cascade Mountain passes, remote ranching roads. But a recent partnership between the state's park and tourism agencies has created a game-changing system of specially designated routes well worth the plane ticket. State employees canvassed local cyclists for a master list of rides linked to picturesque small towns. Then cycling teams rode and ranked each one by criteria including difficulty, road quality, and pure beauty. The nine routes that made the resulting short list – from afternoon thigh-burners to long-haul camping tours – were upgraded with bike lanes and "Scenic Bikeway" signage. (Several more routes are slated for approval by summer's end.) While the concept is simple, the net effect is a kind of turnkey bike tourism that allows out-of-staters to drop easily into epic, open-road journeys through jaw-dropping landscapes. As for where to begin: Fly into Bend, which offers world-class whitewater and rock climbing, excellent shops where you can rent a set of wheels, the highest per capita concentration of breweries in Oregon, and easy access to our three favorite rides from the new list.
The Coffee to Beer Route: Twin Bridges Scenic Bikeway (Bend)
Distance: 36.2 miles
Set up shop at the swanky Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend. Across the street, Thump Coffee offers the most cycling-friendly breakfast in Oregon: munitions-grade, house-roasted espresso and Picky Bars – small-batch energy bars created by pro triathlete and Bend local Jesse Thomas. Thump also provides a perfect starting point for a loop beloved by Thomas and the dozens of pro, ex-pro, and wannabe-pro cyclists who call Bend home. Less than a mile beyond the city's 19th-century business district, you'll zip past kayaking runs on the Deschutes, hobby ranches tucked into the ponderosa forest, and breathtaking views on the climb to Mount Bachelor. "It's a great mixed-terrain ride," Thomas says. "Climbs, flat sections, technical corners, and not too many stop signs, so you can really get after it." A word of caution: Every Tuesday, a group of locals screams around the loop like a pro peloton. Resist the urge to join, says Thomas. "I consider myself a strong cyclist, and even I've been left behind by that crew. The Bend guys are legit."
More information: At the ride's end, choose one of Bend's 10 brew pubs to kick back – Thomas' favorite is 10 Barrel. Not winded? Climb aboard the Bend Cycle Pub, a multiseat bar on wheels.
Credit: Photograph by Tyler Roemer