Get in Gear with This Urban Bike Guide to Portland
In a great bike city like Portland, it's probably inevitable that the cycling guidebook shelf would be well-stocked. Witness titles from Pedal Portland's "25 easy rides" to local beer writer Lucy Burningham's Hop in the Saddle and the (now sadly out-of-stock) Portland Radical History Bike Tour.
Local writers Ayleen Crotty and Lizann Dunegan aren't afraid to say it: They think they've written the best. Their September 2016 addition to the Falcon Guide series, Best Bike Rides: Portland, Oregon, offers 40 bike routes they think constitute the metro area's "greatest recreational rides" for beginners and bombers alike. Each route lists invaluable information such as the route’s duration and notable sights, as well as types of roads and level of traffic the cyclist will encounter.
Crotty, who has worked in the bike industry since 2000, organizes events such as Filmed by Bike, an annual bike film festival, and runs the site ORbike, which provides cyclists across the state with the tools to bike successfully and safely. Dunegan is a photographer and veteran writer of Oregon cycling guides who has previously published Road Biking Oregon, among other titles.
Crotty and Dungeon are so confident, they're willing to give you a sneak preview. Below, they share four favorite rides, from a quadrant-hopping urban tour to a low-traffic trek through St. Johns. (For full maps and directions, buy the book online or at Powell’s City of Books (in limited stock as of publication).
For the Beginner:
North Portland Loop
Crotty’s favorite route is perfect for cyclists looking to get more comfortable on their bikes, or experienced riders who want to soak up some wildlife without venturing too far out of the city. The 18.4-mile ride starts at the north end of Kenton Park and remains flat and smooth throughout. A few miles in, stop for a picnic and a gorgeous overlook of Smith Lake before continuing on and looping all the way back around to Kenton Park via Lombard and Willamette Blvd. “What I love about this route is the opportunity, in an afternoon, to see some wildlife, see the confluence of two major rivers, swing through St. Johns, maybe have a beer—all on a really lovely, low-traffic ride,” says Crotty.
For a Rainy Winter Day:
Five “Quadrants” Ultimate Portland Loop
This loop truly has it all: starting at Velo Cult Bike Shop on NE 42nd, you’ll pass through Hollywood, Alberta, Mississippi, 23rd, Hawthorne and Ladd’s Addition, and finally Laurelhurst. Crotty recommends that you bundle up well for any winter ride—you’ll really appreciate anything you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Get into game mode before setting out for this 20.2-mile ride, but don’t fret! You’ll have ample opportunity to take breaks and warm up at the many urban hubs along the way. In the summer, this route is also perfect for a tourist or newcomer looking to get better acquainted with Portland’s offerings.
For the Hill Climber:
Heights of Portland
This breathtaking ride through Washington Park includes a climb up to Council Crest, which (no biggie) is the highest point of the Tualatin Mountains. “Council Crest has signature postcard views of the city,” says Crotty, adding that riders shouldn’t be too intimidated. “It is hilly, but it’s a slow and steady climb. It’s one of those climbs where you just sink in and you do it and it’s great.” Either a road bike or a hybrid is well-suited for this 10.2-mile loop. The cycling itself may take as little as one and a half hours, but be sure to plan some time to do some exploring at the Oregon Zoo and the Japanese Garden.
For the Day Tripper:
Pete's Mountain–Canby Ferry Loop
Dedicated cyclists will be thrilled about this challenging route that begins in Oregon City and includes not only an outdoor elevator ride (the 130-foot ascension gives tired legs a quick break) but a ferry ride across the Willamette. “It’s beautiful,” Crotty says. “You also go past some gorgeous homes.” Rest assured that the tough climb up Pete's Mountain Road will more than make up for these luxuries. The book warns that though the climb may only take up three of the route’s 24.6 miles, it will feel like a lot longer.