A year ago we introduced you to an Oregon bicycling all-star, Seth Patla of Forest Grove who had just rolled off on a quest to ride all 17 Oregon Scenic Bikeways. (Read last year’s interview here)
He’s just completed his 10th ride, the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway, which rolls out of La Grande to Baker City and back across 134 miles with stunning mountain views. We caught up with him on a rest day right after his return to hear about the big ride and find out what’s next.
When we met you a year ago you had just set off to ride all 17 Oregon Scenic Bikeways. You’ve just returned from your 10th and it’s a big one, the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway which begins in La Grande rolls to Baker City and back over a long figure-8 loop. It’s a big one at 134 miles but only with 4500′ of climbing. Why did you pick this one for right now and what were some of the standout moments?
It definitely is a long ride, but well worth it. I picked this one because the weather in late June in Eastern Oregon is pretty much perfect for riding: not hot, not cold, good chance of no wind (and if there is, you can strategically route yourself to have a tailwind home!). There were several things that made this ride outstanding: huge mountain views (snow capped right now!), very little traffic and great roads, and a nice variety of terrain: sagebrush, forest, farmland, hills, flats. It was just really engaging. I also really enjoyed the descents (I’m not a demon descender, so smooth not-steep descents like these are perfect!). My favorite section (at least with a north wind!) is leaving Union heading south: great roads, tailwind slight uphill that makes it feel effortless, beautiful valley – just amazing.
Any bike changes since last year? Which bike were you riding and what do you recommend for others who are interested in riding this route?
No bike changes! I’m still riding a Ren Appia (Ren is a small Oregon bicycle company, the Appia is their road bike) with 700 x 25c tires. The road bike is perfect for this route. Smooth pavement all the way except for one small stretch of dirt/gravel which is no problem at all. The road bike climbs really well, which is great for the southern loop of this route. I’d recommend road tires of some kind (just to help with rolling efficiency!) and a comfortable bike: there are a lot of miles in this one!
The town of Union stood out to you, why was that?
I was surprised by how quiet, decently-sized, and visually appealing it is. It’s off the beaten path (the interstate doesn’t even go nearby), but had the feel of a nice town with its own identity: it felt nostalgically old without feeling run down. I am also a huge fan of Victorian houses, and it turns out that Union is the City of Victorian Heritage. I had no idea! Yet another reason to do these bike rides – I learn things! So, naturally I really enjoyed seeing the architecture.
In the year since we first chronicled your mission to ride them all, Cycle Oregon has taken over management of the Oregon Scenic Bikeways program. What are some of the hits and what needs improvement?
I love to hear that Cycle Oregon is involved – congratulations and thanks for taking on the upkeep! So far I actually have very little to say about improvement: it’s all been a steady stream of hits! I’ve been really impressed with the signage (I like to use the Ride With GPS routes in general, but while a good idea they are not necessary for these routes!), and also with the routes themselves – really great riding, and easy to figure out starting points/etc.
What’s the next Scenic Bikeway on your list?
Next up is probably the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway: it’s closer to home for me, so easier access, and I’d like to take advantage of the prevailing summer north breeze and just float my way down the valley! After that I have designs on more of the Eastern Oregon routes. I had plans for the Painted Hills route that fell through and I was surprised at how bummed out I was that it wasn’t going to happen right then, so I obviously am really looking forward to that one!
Follow Seth and his Scenic Bikeway journey on Instagram. Tailwinds to you, Seth!