MADRAS, Ore. (AP) — The Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway, a 30-mile loop that starts and ends in Madras, offers up multiple treats for Central Oregon road cyclists looking to add a new route to their routine.
Pedaling along smooth roads with virtually no traffic, bikers on a clear day have spectacular views of Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood for most of the ride, including a 4-mile stretch through The Cove Palisades State Park along which the two Cascade peaks overlook Lake Billy Chinook.
But the mental note that sticks with me when I think about the ride is how great it smelled. Cornfields, cattle ranches and oh-so-sweet-smelling lavender farms dot the countryside of this route, one of the newest of Oregon's 11 designated scenic bikeways.
As an enthusiastic bike commuter and sometimes road cyclist, I recently tested the Madras Mountain Views ride for the first time. With summer over, I figured the Madras-based route might make a nice late-season ride for area cyclists, ideally a bit warmer and drier in the fall and winter months than anything that starts and ends in Bend.
I was right, kind of.
Riding with bike buddy Dustin Gouker, the Bulletin's assistant sports editor, we drove 50 miles north of Bend and started our trek in the middle of Madras at Sahalee Park.
The route, which kicks off at an elevation of about 2,200 feet, takes riders west out of town with about 300 feet of elevation gain in the first 2 miles. That's about it for climbing until mile 22.
Making our way to the small towns of Metolius and then Culver, we had the roads to ourselves except for the few hundred feet spent on the Culver Highway. To be exact, we saw more riders on horseback (two) than we did fellow cyclists (zero) during the 30-mile loop, and not that many more cars.
Heading south into Culver, riders have the Cascades rising on their right and the Ochoco Mountains slowly showing themselves on the left. On our particular ride, our focus was on the impending rain showers coming off the Cascade Range.
In Culver, which is about 11 1?2 miles from Madras, the route turns west for about a mile before heading north toward The Cove Palisades, which sits atop a canyon that overlooks Lake Billy Chinook. The park is the visual highlight of the bikeway, with several scenic pull-off spots that make for great picnic or photo breaks. Mount Jefferson dominates the horizon to the west and Mount Hood lurks to the north. Cyclists stay north on Mountain View Drive — the road that snakes through The Cove Palisades — for about 6 miles before heading east back to Madras for the ride's final 9 miles. Cap your day with a beer — or as we did, after riding the last 15 miles in the rain, a coffee or espresso at Great Natural Foods in downtown Madras.
At 30 miles and with little elevation change, this ride is great for novice road cyclists or anyone wanting to try a new road loop. Dustin, a marathoner and mountain biker who had done little road cycling, easily cruised along on a cyclocross bike. The lack of cars and the smooth roads make the Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway a solid way to introduce new bike riders to the joys of road cycling. Yeah, for the superfit crowd driving 50 miles to ride 30 miles might not make a lot of sense, but it never hurts to throw a new route into your riding rotation.
One note of caution: As new as the Madras Mountain Views bikeway is, road crews are still installing the scenic bikeway signs that mark the route. Make sure to print a map of the bikeway and you will be set to go.
And don't forget to stop and smell the lavender.
The original story can be found on The Bulletin's website.
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