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What Makes Cycle Oregon The Best Bike Ride in America?

There are a lot of reasons riders refer to Cycle Oregon as the best bike ride in America. I’m constantly blown away by how big and how well organized this event actually is and how everything just works. Of course, being big and well organized is only a part of it. As I was walking around camp today, I gave some deeper thought to what really makes this event special to me as a rider. These include:

The Riders
Cyclists are passionate folks, and it’s no wonder the community of riders is so strong. Though the community is fairly tight-knit (and there are definitely communities within the community) it is also extremely welcoming of new members. Some of my very best friendships have been forged either training for Cycle Oregon or at the event itself. I’m also fortunate enough to have been able to help coerce several of my other friends to take the plunge into the lifestyle (and I’m even OK that I can no longer keep up with any of them).

The Routes
Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the world. A monkey throwing darts at a map would likely have some success choosing a great day ride. But choosing seven great-day rides in a row that include stops in interesting towns that can handle an event that often doubles its population takes some skill. The route pickers get it right every time.

The Host Communities
I’m always glad to get away from the city for a while – even when the city is Portland. People in small towns are amazing. They are hospitable, gracious, entertaining and honest. We can leave our expensive bikes sitting around camp unattended all day and all night without a care in the world (I think there has been all of one problem in 23 years). It is simply refreshing to be among these folks for a while.

The Sherpas
The “Sherpas” carry our bags from the big trucks to the campsites (our bags that are supposed to weigh less than 65 pounds but sometimes don’t). Frequently the Sherpas are local high school football players. The tips they collect normally go to help fund the program. They are hard-working, extremely polite and very pleasant.

The Food
Feeding 2,200 riders and a whole mess of volunteers in camp and on the road isn’t easy, but if you go hungry at Cycle Oregon, it’s your own fault. There’s plenty to eat, and the food is actually pretty amazing, all things considered.

Cycle Oregon does an amazing job of dealing with the garbage that is produced during the ride. In camp and on the road, all trash is carefully sorted. There’s a place for recyclables, a place for compostables and a place for garbage. Cycle Oregon has used compostable disposable tableware and cutlery for the past few years. In 2009, 73% of the trash was sent to a commercial composter. The goal for this year is 80% and it looks as if the crew is on track to hit that goal. That’s a good thing.

The Bike Gallery Mechanics
The Bike Gallery sends a LOT of mechanics to Cycle Oregon. They are in camp and all over the course. I’m not sure if or when they sleep, but I am sure that they work really hard to make sure that, no matter what, everyone’s bike is fixed and ready to go for the next day’s ride. As if that weren’t enough, their services are FREE.

The Massage Tent
One of my favorite Cycle Oregon amenities is the massage tent. Twenty or so massage therapists travel along with the event. These aren’t folks who simply move the fat around and make you feel relaxed. These guys and gals know what it takes to keep endurance athletes on the road. I’ve hobbled into the massage tent crippled and walked out standing straight and several inches taller. Were it not for their services, CO would surely need more SAG vehicles.

The Roto-Rooter Team
If you’ve ever been inside a blue room that has not been properly serviced, you know how horrifying the experience can be. But you will NEVER see a blue room at Cycle Oregon that is anything but pristine. That’s because an extremely hard-working crew from Coos Bay is on the job day and night. The work might not be glamorous, but their contributions must not be overlooked.

The Beer Garden
Wherever we go, there’s beer and wine. Beer and wine make life worth living.

The Traveling Pizza Joint
Pizzicato sends a mobile pizza oven that’s never more than a stone’s throw from the beer garden. Having daily access to pizza at an event that requires this much effort is a very, very big deal.  Being from the East Coast, I’m a bit of a pizza snob, and I can say with authority Pizzicato makes a solid pie.

The Volunteers
Without things like beer, pizza and massage, Cycle Oregon wouldn’t be as great as it is. But without the army of dedicated volunteers, Cycle Oregon wouldn’t be. Many volunteers have been at it for years. Several have been at it for decades. They drive the SAG vehicles, make sure we don’t get lost on the route, make sure we get fed, make sure we stay hydrated, know where to go in camp and a thousand other little things (one even staffs The Blogmobile so I can ride). To all the volunteers, from all of us – THANK YOU!

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