Group bicycle rides

Bend bicycle shops and clubs offer a variety of rides for cyclists. Here are a few:

• Bend Bella Cyclists: All-women club rides, join at www.bendbellacyclists.org

• Bend Area Cycling Enthusiasts: Club rides; visit ww.meetup.com/Bend-Area-Cycling-Enthusiasts

• Central Oregon Wheelers: Club rides, join at www.cowheelers.com

• Sunnyside Sports: Women’s Sunday Ride, resumes March 11 at 10 a.m. every weekend. Meets at 930 NW Newport Ave. Call Anne Linton at 503-928-0226.

• The Hammer Fest: Resumes March 13, 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays every week, race pace. Meets at 930 NW Newport Ave.

• The Hub Cyclery: Thursday mountain bike ride, moderate pace, resumes March 15, 6:30 p.m. at Phil’s Trailhead. Call 541-647-2614.

• Crow’s Feet Commons: Saturday Ride, 9:30 a.m., advanced. Meets at 875 NW Brooks St. Call 541-728-0066.

• WebCyclery: Tuesday Rubber Mallet Ride, resumes in late March or early April, 5:30 p.m., moderate-advanced pace. Meets at 550 SW Industrial Way #150. Call 541-318-6188.

•Bend Velo: Wednesday Steel Ride, resumes in April, 6 p.m., moderate pace. Meets at Jackson’s Corner’s east side location, 1500 NE Cushing Drive #100. Call 541-382-2453.

•Hutch’s Bicycles: Saturday Ride, 9:30 a.m. Race pace. Meets at 820 NE 3rd St. Call 541-382-6248.

Springlike temperatures are ushering in road-cycling season about two months sooner than usual.

Some cross-training cyclists are reluctant to put away their skis and snowboards, while others — particularly those who spun indoors on trainers — are happily pulling on their wool jerseys and hitting the road.

Most of Central Oregon’s popular loops and out-and-backs are snow-free, even if a little cinder remains on the road.

Riding these routes alone is a no-frills way to reacquaint yourself with skinny tires, yet much of the fun of road cycling is riding with others. But which group rides — and riding groups — are already rolling? Fewer than you might hope.

Despite the mellow weather, Bend group rides won’t get rolling until daylight saving time begins March 11. Even then, ride organizers will wait to let some global tilt afford more daylight so the evening rides don’t end in darkness.

That means institutional rides like the lung-popping, race-like Hammer Fest (Tuesdays) and Bend Velo’s conversational Steel Ride (Wednesdays) won’t roll until mid-March and April, respectively. WebCyclery’s Tuesday Rubber Mallet Ride, which is mellower than the Hammer Fest — as the group’s name hints — will also hold off until at least March 11, said shop owner Kevin Gorman. Hutch’s Bicycles’ all-women Thursday ride, which leaves from its east-side location, will resume at the end of March or beginning of April, said shop sales and events coordinator Janet Shofstall. Still, the weather can be a wrecking ball for plans.

“Even the stuff we plan in May or April can be kind of sketchy,” Shofstall said.

Cycling groups

Cyclists who are new to Bend or those interested in upping their riding have several nonprofit, non-shop-affiliated clubs that would love to welcome them as members.

The all-female Bend Bella Cyclists and the Bend Area Cycling Enthusiasts have been rolling year-round. They don’t plan many events in advance during winter because Central Oregon weather can be so unpredictable, organizers said. Those groups and the Central Oregon Wheelers plan multidisciplinary rides — whether they be on road or dirt — that accommodate endurance and skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced.

Marsha Wolfson, an executive committee member of the Bend Bella Cyclists, locally known as the Bellas, said the club has been churning a mix of mountain bike trails east of Bend and rolling on local road. During the off-season, the Bellas advertise their upcoming rides on Motion Social, a fitness-tracking website, and specify the requisite riding ability.

The Bellas count more than 100 members who each pay $25 annually in dues, a portion of which funds charitable projects, such as the collection of helmets they recently donated to local schools. Riders’ ages typically range from 40s to 50s. They host 10 rides during winter months, which either roll on single track or pavement, and three to four each week during the height of the biking season. The Bellas occasionally entertain coed outings called the Bellas and Fellas rides.

Of the club’s rides, “No one is left behind,” said Wolfson, 74. “You have to go as slow as the slowest rider. I won’t go on an intermediate mountain bike ride on Peterson Ridge, but others can manage 1,000 feet in climbing and big rocks.”

Group rides

While cycling groups can add variety to your cycling diet and can pepper your training log with riding days, weekly group rides are set on particular days each week, and you can count on them like clockwork (unless it’s pouring). As such, they’re the meat-and-potatoes workouts that make up many cyclists’ training diet.

Unfortunately for cyclists whose idea of fun isn’t riding until spittle flecks their cheeks, the only reliable Saturday morning rides that are presently active are those that, to varying degrees, emulate actual bike races.

The Hutch’s Saturday Ride, which dates to the 1980s, may be the longest-running group ride in Bend, said unofficial ride leader Cody Peterson, who began riding it in 2008. Regulars commonly refer to it as Saturday World’s — as in world championship — in reference to how seriously its regulars, which number about 15, take the ride. An out-and-back route, the Hutch’s Ride begins at the store’s east-side location on NE Third Street and traces the same piece of U.S. Highway 20 to Horse Ridge, where the only re-group happens.

“It’s a great route. Highway 20 is really boring, but the shoulder is really large, and that keeps the pack on the right side of the white line in a clean shoulder,” he said. “The view is good, too.”

Once the ride winds through town and picks up Highway 20, the elite ride leaders kick up the pace to about 20 mph (including stopping time) along the 40-mile route. “It’s not to lose people but to push themselves to the max,” Peterson said. “It’s a testosterone fest, everyone goes to the front to show what they have.”

Those cyclists who got blown off the back of the group are encouraged to rejoin on the way back, especially if they can still take pulls in the revolving pace line, whose wind-cutting abilities can reduce air drag by a third, Peterson said. Still, “a lot of people are shying away from the kind of riding” in which they get dropped, Peterson said.

Because of this, Hutch’s will pause its landmark ride’s rolling season in late March, early April. Spring and summer racing season eats up many riders’ weekends, he said, which accounts for low attendance. They’ll fire it up again in autumn, Peterson said. Also, many riders are looking for challenging group rides they have a chance to hang onto until the end, such as the Crow’s Feet Commons Ride, which is challenging but regroups several times during each of its alternating routes.

“The Crow’s Feet (Commons) Ride aimed squarely at the people who don’t want to do the Hutch’s Ride,” Peterson said. “And honesty, I like to do that, too. That’s why we’re going to pull the plug during the summer.”

‘Sparky,’ no-drop group ride

The Crow’s Feet Commons Saturday morning road ride, which is no longer organized by the bike and coffee shop yet still carries its name, was last year’s fastest-growing group ride in town. After a Crow’s Feet mechanic and ride leader left to work at another bike shop, Mike Hobson, a Los Angeles transplant by way of Nashville, Tennessee, took over leadership of the ride in late 2016 — and upped the pace a notch. Hobson, 56, leads groups of 10 to 20 cyclists on rides that feature sections that are intermittently sparky, sporty or punchy — his favorite descriptors for the no-drop ride’s hammer sections. The average pace is no slower than 18 mph. The ride alternates between three or four routes. After a two-month hiatus during December and January, the Crow’s Feet Commons Ride has attracted nearly 20 riders each Saturday this month.

“I think there has been some pent-up demand for riding,” Hobson said, adding that, lately, he’s noticed more road cyclists out and about than he does during the height of summer. This year, Hobson hopes to create a B ride to accommodate those looking for a more conversational, intermediate pace. More rides will also seek out routes that favor an increasing amount of gravel that’s still manageable on road bikes.

— Reporter: 541-617-7816, pmadsen@bendbulletin.com

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