Learn from Past Riders
Several years ago we enlisted the help of a team of veteran Cycle Oregon riders, asking them to provide their hard-won insights into a variety of topics. The idea was to help new riders plan and prepare – and help returning riders smooth things out. From our Panel of Experts, here are pearls of wisdom on a variety of hot topics. (Keep in mind that these riders have done the Week Ride, but we’ve included the things that might be helpful to Weekend Ride participants here.)
- Try to plan opportunities to train on terrain similar to the Cycle O route. Check out local cycling club rides to get used to riding in groups. It’s a good idea to sign up for event rides in your area (like metric and full centuries) in the spring and summer to stay motivated and maintain your fitness level. Spinning classes and indoor trainer/stationary bike can be effective, but it’s important to get as much “time in the saddle” as possible by actually riding.
- It’s important to note that what you get out of your training is what you put into it, meaning you need the time in the saddle. You should also ride a variety of terrain and in different weather conditions (e.g., heat training, etc.).
- People need to know that you can do Cycle O even if you’re not a high-mileage rider. Really, no rocket science involved. Just try to go out and exercise on your bike to have fun.
- The simplest thing you can do to improve everybody’s safety and gain the respect of motorists is to use a mirror – cyclists, support vehicles, other traffic… know what is happening behind you before you pass the cyclists in front of you.
- Ride at a comfortable pace and within your abilities, especially on descents; don’t worry about being passed or riding slower than others (there will always be someone riding faster than you). Notify cyclists behind you if you are going to stop, slow down, turn, etc. by using hand signals and/or verbal commands. It’s important to stay to the right, “hold your line,” and be as predictable as possible.
- Don’t skip a rest stop unless you have plenty of fluids to drink to reach the next one.
- A tire tip that has worked very well for us in preventing flats is that each time we stop for a break, we carefully watch where we lay our bikes and we always rub off both tires before starting again.
- Be sure to unclip well in advance of pulling into and out of rest stop areas. And when stopping at a rest stop, be sure to pull off the road before you stop. Not all riders stop at every rest or water stop; therefore, the roadway needs to stay open.
- When drinking, keep your chin down and tip your bottle up and to the side, allowing you to keep the road in sight. When turning to look behind you, tuck your chin into your shoulder; this will keep you bike in a straight line and not veering into traffic (bike or car).
- Try to place your tent in a place where it will not block a major traffic corridor, and watch out for tent guy-lines. Oh, and if you snore like a Harley-Davidson, find a place off on the edge of camp.
- There will be lines at meals, showers, blue rooms, etc., but be patient as they tend to move fairly well. Introduce yourself and strike up a conversation with those camping, standing in line and eating next to you – it’s a great way to meet new people on the ride.
- When parking your bike at a rest stop, be careful to not lean your bike on someone else’s.
- When in camp, be sensitive to those camping near you. Hint: Not everyone wants to listen to your cell phone conversation while they’re trying to go to sleep.
- Don’t slam the Blue Room (that’s CO lingo for portable toilet) doors – especially true for those late-night trips. That being said, if you’re a light sleeper, best bring ear plugs.
- Open “your” beer garden table to a single rider who’s looking for a place to sip a cold brew. The beer garden can be crowded on a hot afternoon, and if you’re saving a place for a friend or two, invite a stranger to sit down. Your friends will understand, and those “reserved” chairs can be put to good use.
- Use your “quiet voice” when you return to camp in the evening.
How to Prepare
- Check the condition of your camping gear, practice pitching and packing your tent, and start gathering any items you’re missing or need to be replaced. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering that you’re missing something after arriving at the start or to be struggling with your tent in the pitch dark.
- To have a great day at CO you need your sleep! If you haven’t camped for a while, you may wish to get a bit of experience before that first night at CO. Get a good tent and sleeping bag, and a really good, thick self-inflating pad, and try a few cycling campouts before you get to CO.
- At this point, the first thing is to assess. Think about a spring bike tune-up while the bike shops still are not too busy; they may even offer winter specials. Also consider any upgrades you might need, depending on riding capability, age, injuries etc. Consider scheduling a bike fit, which is very beneficial.
- Now is a good time to make sure your bike is properly set up and comfortable for long days in the saddle. Getting a “fit” at a reputable bike shop is a good idea. If you’re considering changing components, such as going from a double to a triple chain ring or replacing your saddle, we recommend you do that sooner rather than right before Cycle Oregon, so you have time to train using the new equipment and can make adjustments as needed. By (early summer), schedule an appointment for a complete tune-up (or do it yourself) to make sure your bike is running smoothly and any mechanical problems can be addressed.
- Be sure to think “layers” for clothing, both on the bike and in camp, and pack accordingly (including a stocking cap and gloves for chilly mornings/evenings), as you could experience a wide range of temperatures.
- Small plastic grocery bags or something to cover your bike seat and handlebars at night to protect bike from dew. A small chamois towel to wipe dew off bike handlebars and seat in the morning. A small backpack to use in the evening to carry warm clothes in. Many nights in the beer/music area start out warm and get cold very fast, and often it is too far to walk back to the tent. Finally, two words: ear plugs.
- Pack a separate backpack at the top of your big bag with your shower stuff and a change of clothes – makes it easy and quick to get to the showers. When in camp I carry a fanny pack with cash, sunscreen, flashlight and a portable toothbrush. The latter comes in handy at the end of the day so you don’t have to make a separate trip back to the tent to get this stuff.
- An iPod works equally as well as earplugs to drown out the nightlife and allow you to softly drift into the land of slumber.
Day-to-day Insider Tips
- Always go to bed with water – it’s handy for that late-night and early-morning ibuprofen dose. I keep my water bottle in my shoe; it stays upright that way.
- Get an early start in the morning – the blue rooms start clean and there is much less traffic to deal with.
- Go to dinner in the first hour it’s open, to avoid trying to find a seat at the tables. This also allows you to get a good spot at the main stage for announcements and entertainment.
- Pack a folding camp chair to dinner with you and you won’t need to go back to the tent. You should also leave camp with your headlamp instead of wishing you had on the way back in the dark.
- Avoid setting up a tent in an established traffic path. Look around and see how the foot traffic through Tent City is flowing, and avoid putting your tent down in a traffic corridor. Quiet sites mean more walking, but are generally worth the extra effort. Don’t locate your tent close to Blue Rooms, showers or other busy areas, unless you’re not bothered by a lot of noise.
- Bring your own camp chair, pick your spot for the evening entertainment and leave your chair before you go to dinner.
- In the morning, take a canvas sack or fanny pack to breakfast with your toiletries in it so you can stop by the sinks at the showers to finish getting ready (e.g., brush teeth, put in contacts, etc.), if you’re not camping in close proximity to them.
- Usually the “blue rooms” closest to the dining area or where the route starts have the longest lines; look for blue rooms located in the less-congested areas and many times they will have shorter lines.
- In addition to putting a plastic bag on your saddle at night, you may want to take off your cyclometer and any saddle/bike bags so they don’t get wet overnight from rain or dew.