A quick break along the Crooked River Canyon Highway.
Mountain biking, related activities add tourism jobs
By Stephen Hamway / The Bulletin / @Shamway1
Published Nov 11, 2015 at 12:01AM
Long known as a regional center for logging and agriculture, Crook County is trying to attract a different outdoor industry.
The county has a number of projects designed to make Prineville a regional hub for bicycle-related tourism, including the first Ochoco Gravel Roubaix, a bike race that drew 150 riders, and a 1.5-acre bike park in Prineville slated to open next spring.
Perhaps most importantly, several public and private parties are adding to the region’s mountain biking trails, leveraging the city’s proximity to the Ochoco Mountains and 66 acres of state land in southwest Prineville, known locally as the Lower 66. Central Oregon Trail Alliance is adding to the approximately 3 miles of nonmotorized trails in the Lower 66, according to Darlene Henderson, COTA’s Crook County chapter representative.
Casey Kaiser, executive director of the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, said the addition, which is designed to extend trails to the top of the rim overlooking downtown Prineville, would add up to 15 miles of trails to the system within three to five years.
Additionally, Kaiser said Crook County wants to double the amount of single-track trails in the Ochocos, to around 150 miles. These trails, which could be complete within five to 10 years with help from volunteers and various state and federal agencies, represent an opportunity to diversify the Crook County economy, Kaiser said.
“Prineville historically has been pretty dependent on industries that have had a lot of ebbs and flows,” he said.
Crook County’s economic recovery has lagged behind the rest of Central Oregon. In September, Crook County had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate that was more than 3 percentage points higher than the rate in adjacent Deschutes County, according to the Oregon Employment Department. Woodgrain Millwork, once Crook County’s third-largest employer, will be shuttering its remaining operations in Prineville at the beginning of 2016.
However, the leisure and hospitality sector has bounced back somewhat in recent years. In the second quarter of 2015, 633 jobs in Crook County were in leisure and hospitality, up from 589 during the same period in 2014. County Commissioner Seth Crawford said bike-related tourism is leading the charge.
“I’ve seen a lot more people coming into town and eating in town and staying in hotels here,” Crawford said. “Outdoor tourism is really our bread-and-butter.”
Outdoor tourism in Prineville received a boost in October 2014, when Good Bike Co., the first retail bike shop in town, opened on NE Third Street.
“You need about three, four things for that (bicycle) industry to flourish, and I filled one of those gaps,” said owner James Good. “It gives you more validity … as an industry within the community.”
Good said one advantage that Crook County has over other mountain biking destinations is its remote location. Unlike Bend or Hood River, it’s easy to find relatively deserted biking trails near Prineville.
Kaiser added that the trails in the Ochocos tend to be more rugged and technically challenging, which attracts a different demographic. The only thing missing, Good said, is more trails.
“You talk to anyone in Bend, if they know the Ochocos, they’ll say it’s probably some of the best single-track riding in Central Oregon,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7818, email@example.com
Group has raised enough funds to start construction
The Bend bike scene just got a little bit of friendly competition from another High Desert city. That's because the Crook County chapter of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance finally has enough funds gathered to build a bike park near downtown Prineville.
The city is already a stop for many cyclists traveling one of two major trails that run right through Prineville, the Trans-American and Oregon Outback.
"It just dissects Prineville," James Good, owner of the Good Bike Co., said Tuesday.
Good says he meets people from all over the world at his shop.
"Last week, we had a guy from Switzerland and a group from Australia," Good said.
His shop caters to passers-by and locals. He says the bike scene in Prineville has always been there, but now it's emerging even more. It's not a hidden secret any more. The bike park will help that even more.
"The bike park and these local trails, it's enough to get people out and about," Good said.
Crook County donated a one-acre parcel to the Crook County Central Oregon Trail Alliance chapter. The bike park will have rock and wood features, jumps, pump tracks and more. It'll be \open to mountain bikes, strider bikes and BMX bikes.
"I'm up in the mountains, and if I get up in the mountains to a really rocky, technical section. I can come back in town and practice it and hopefully ride it next time," Good said.
Anyone can practice, but it's locals who got the wheels turning.
"A lot of local businesses are supporting tools and materials," Good said.
That's everyone from kids donating a dollar to large businesses donating thousands. Others are donating in kind, giving materials and time. Construction is planned to start next year.
To find out more about the project, visit: http://cotamtb.com/2015/prineville-bike-park/
Pigs and goats and cows and … bikes! Central Oregon puts its own spin on agritourism this summer and fall with the inaugural Crooked River Open Pastures (CROP) series in and around the town of Prineville, just 35 miles north of Bend.
Organized by the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance, the Saturday tours include rotating farmers markets at local farms and ranches, the chance to meet the farmer and various family-friendly activities. “For visitors it’s a great opportunity to learn about where their food comes from,” says Seth Crawford, Crook County Commissioner. “That’s why I take my daughters. I want them to know.”
CROP events run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and are free of charge. The fun began in May and will run through October 10, culminating with a day at Windy Acres Dairy Farm (with special guest Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, chronicled in Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” There is a small fee for this event).
Prineville’s bike shop, Good Bike Company, will host two-wheeled tours along the CROP stops. Visitors can also book guided bike tours of the area on other days. Good Bike owner James Good says road bikers will find authentic, down-to-earth people in a beautiful area. “There is exceptional road riding and exceptional farms and ranches producing some the of the best cheeses and meats and vegetables that you can find,” says Good Bike owner James Good, “So to combine the two is the perfect marriage.”
The CROP tour on July 11 visits Bluestone Gardens, which offers herbs, plants, goats milk and landscape design services. On July 18, Dancing Cow Farms hosts, giving people the chance to view heritage and pasture-raised cows, sheep and poultry. Flying Pig Hops farm is the venue on August 8. Crawford says the location, tucked in at the western edge of Crook County, offers gorgeous views of Smith Rock. On August 15, visitors can meet a professional forester and have a “timber-to-table” experience at Wine Down Ranch. September 12 will see a harvest gala at Smudgie Goose Farm, and Sept. 19 takes people on a tour of award-winning Brasada Ranch.
CROP tour enthusiasts can pick up a passport and collect stamps along the way for a yet to be determined prize. For more information, go to the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance’s website.
Gravel ride across Oregon likely to roll into Prineville today
Crook County proving popular for bikepacking and gravel riding
By Beau Eastes / The Bulletin / @beastes
James Good expects the first Oregon Outback riders to reach his Prineville bike shop, Good Bike Co., some time today.
The Outback, the 364-mile unsanctioned and unsupported off-the-grid gravel ride/race that starts in Klamath Falls and concludes in the Columbia River Gorge, kicked off Friday in Southern Oregon. While most of the 200 to 300 bicyclists participating in this year’s event will take five to seven days to complete the ride, a handful of hard-core “bikepackers” — camping via bike — will be shooting to finish the whole trip in around 24 hours.
With his shop located in the only full-service town on the route — the Outback riders also roll through the booming metro areas of Silver Lake, Fort Rock and Shaniko, to name a few — Good is planning on helping cyclists 225 miles into the Outback any way he can.
“We’ve got a map room, coffee, beer, a lot of different resources,” said Good, who last summer opened his bike business in a former service station on U.S. Highway 26 right in the heart of Prineville’s downtown. “We’re in an old gas station, so we try to help people refuel, whatever way that means to them.”
Cycling is becoming more prevalent in Crook County, which in the past has been known more as a ranch and ag area than a place supportive of spandex and singletrack.
In less than two weeks, on June 4, Good’s shop will celebrate its grand opening in conjunction with the official introduction of the Lower 66 mountain bike trail network on the west side of Prineville. Later this summer, Prineville hopes to break ground on a BMX bike park, and the Central Oregon Trail Association recently adopted several mountain bike trails to maintain within the Ochoco National Forest.
City and county officials are working on earning a scenic bikeway designation from the state for a ride south of town in the Crooked River Canyon. And Prineville has long been a stop on the TransAmerica Bike Trail, the road cycling route that starts at the Pacific Ocean and ends at the Atlantic.
But the regional surge in bikepacking and gravel riding may be where Crook County truly makes its mark in the cycling world. The county is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of gravel and dirt roads.
“The Ochoco (mountains) and gravel roads are five to 10 miles from town,” said Good, who in August is putting on the inaugural Ochoco Gravel Roubaix, which will offer 10-, 45- and 120-mile gravel races. “There’s a lot of designated and primitive camping in the Ochocos that you can turn a beautiful ride into a fun, short weekend experience.”
The incredible growth of the Oregon Outback highlights the soaring interest in long-distance bikepacking trips. After organizing a handful of gravel rides around the state, off-road enthusiast Donnie Kolb put together the unpaved beast that would become Oregon Outback in 2014. He figured he would have a hard time attracting more than 50 people on a ride that climbs more than 14,000 feet over 360 miles. To his astonishment, he had to shut down registration after 400 bikers signed up. Slightly more than 100 cyclists actually completed the first running of the Outback. This year that number was expected to be closer to 300.
“The riding in Central Oregon is spectacular,” said Abraham Sutfin, who owns the bike shop Abraham Fixes Bikes in north Portland. “It’s some of the best in the state.”
Sutfin, who has done long-distance bike tours all over the Pacific Northwest and even New Zealand, says the allure of gravel riding is the chance to get off the grid and provide for yourself.
“It puts cyclists in a place where they don’t have to rely on state parks and bike hostels,” said Sutfin, whose latest project is to find a rideable route along the Deschutes River from its conflux with the Columbia all the way to Bend. “In Oregon, you can pull off on the side of any dirt road and camp and not bother anyone. … Getting off paved roads, it brings people to places where they don’t have to rely on civilization.”
Even Travel Oregon, the marketing arm of the state, is getting in on the gravel craze, publicizing popular gravel rides around Oregon.
“This isn’t just a fad,” Good said about newfound popularity of bikepacking and gravel riding. “Yeah, they’ll be some ebbs and flows … but I just see it growing.
“There’s something to be said about Prineville,” he added. “It’s still very Western and real life. It’s refreshing for folks. The area’s not this big, hyped up place, but instead it’s real and fun and you can have a unique experience out here that’s hard to find.”
Bend, OR is generally considered Central Oregon’s bicycle capital. It has a great cycling culture, plethora of bike shops, and easy access to both mountain bike trails and great road rides. However, this past weekend we explored a town not too far away from Bend that we feel has the bones to be the next adventure bike capital of Central Oregon – Prineville.
Prineville is already on the map, so to speak, for bicycling. It is directly on both the Adventure Cycling TransAM route as well as the Oregon Outback. It has a great local brewery, Solstice Brewing Company, and most recently a local bicycle shop again, The Good Bike Co. Several community members are aware of the potential of bicycle tourism in Prineville, as seen by a recent Ford Foundation leadership class choosing bike racks as their signature project. In Prineville, all the ingredients are finally coming together.
Riding the North Star
We’ve spent a little time in Prineville, but haven’t really delved deep into the cycling in the area until this weekend. We decided to ride one of the RideWithGPS Ambassador Routes in the area called the North Star that was mapped out by James at The Good Bike Co. It is a 45-mile loop starting and ending in downtown Prineville, and traversing fantastic country roads and mixed terrain in the local Ochoco Mountains. We were joined by Laura’s brother and sister-in-law, who are Bend residents and also curious about the riding possibilities out of Prineville.
We started at around 11am from Good Bike Co and rolled North on Main St, which eventually becomes McKay Rd (pronounced “mc-KAI” by the locals). Main St has an ample bike lane out of town, which we appreciated. After passing some businesses and residential areas, the land opens up considerably. You find yourself surrounded on either side by ranches and farms. By mile 5, you are on a gentle country road that looks as pastoral as anything you’ll ever see. The traffic was extremely light and the few cars that passed went out of their way to pass safely.
The fun starts at around mile 13 when you are on NF-33 and the pavement turns into dirt. The road surface on the ascent was pretty hard-packed and surprisingly smooth. Laura rode 28mm Panaracer Gravel Kings which have a fairly fine file tread pattern and didn’t have a problem. The only tricky part was near the summit where the road was wet from melting snow. It made for a tacky surface. If we had wetter conditions, it wouldn’t have been as pleasant, since we no doubt would have been slogging through a lot of mud. The climb was pleasantly shaded and ran alongside McKay Creek that was flowing with water. James told us that it is seasonal and generally dries up in the Summer, so its not a reliable source of water later in the year. You’ll also notice quite a number of primitive camping areas along the road (mental note for future bike tours in the area).
The descent was fun and fast. It is on the downhill that you finally get a few views of the surrounding mountains, so be sure to stop and take it in. Just before we hit pavement again we passed Wildcat campground, an established Forest Service campground with a vault toilet and supposedly drinking water (as per the Forest Service website), although we didn’t confirm it. As you make your way back to civilization, you’ll pass an impressive monolith of rock known asSteins Pillar that juts out above the tree line like a prehistoric skyscraper.
At about mile 31, you’re back on a paved country road that gently descends towards HWY 26. Once you hit the highway, it is a straight shot back into town. There is generally a pretty good shoulder the whole way. If it’s hot or if you are running low on drinking water, a stop at the reservoir is in order.
This was one of our first longer rides in the greater Prineville area and we were pretty impressed with how quickly you could get out into the wilderness on your bike. While Prineville isn’t the first bikey town that leaps into your head when you think of Central Oregon, we did see a handful of other cyclists on the road (we even spotted a group wearing some jerseys from a Bend bike shop). This route is great for beginner to intermediate riders. The elevation is gained pretty gradually except for a few stretches of 7-8% near the top. Once you are pass the summit, the route is generally trending downhill, giving your legs a rest. It’s the perfect length for a day ride in the area if you are passing through town.
While in Prineville, we got a chance to talk with James and Natalie, the owners of the The Good Bike Co. The shop is centrally located and the building used to be an old car service station. Because of this, there is a huge outdoor awning which provides shade for the outdoor seating. The Good Bike Co. is a next-wave bike shop, serving beer and coffee, in an unlikely place. They have a great outdoor patio where James envisions many a cross-country bike tourist or day rider will find themselves after a long ride.
Although the shop isn’t even a year old, James is finding himself busier than he thought he would be. Since he has opened, locals have been bringing their bikes to be repaired in droves (the unseasonably nice weather has jump-started the riding season). While he is focusing primarily on repairs and service, he has also found himself selling a lot of hard tail mountain bikes to local residents. The local mountain bike advocacy group, COTA, has been hard at work creating a new 3-mile mountain bike trail that you can easily access from town. Since this resource is so close to downtown and doesn’t require a long drive to get to, a lot of Prineville residents have either been dusting off their old mountain bikes or buying new ones.
James hopes to cater to touring cyclists on the TransAm as well as the growing adventure bike segment. He is carrying some pretty interesting products, from Bartender bags from Randy Jo to frame bags from Revelate. Out front, he has a few fat bikes and even a Surly Straggler for rent. He and Natalie are also looking to put on a 100-mile gravel race later in the year!
Beyond just operating the bike shop, James and Natalie are also looking at the bigger picture and the potential of bicycle tourism in Prineville. James actively attends the local chamber meetings, is part of a proponent group for a potential Scenic Bikeway, as well as working with other businesses to figure out ways to combine agritourism and bicycle tourism in the area.
Is Pedaling in Prineville’s Future?
We’ve always had a soft spot for Prineville. We had a great welcoming experience as bike tourists there when we were on the TransAm 3 years ago. Since then, we’ve passed through a few times and have always thought that there is great potential for the town to capitalize on bicycling. It seems as if, with the addition of a new bike shop and leadership excited about bicycling, this might be the time for Prineville to create a strong cycling identity and give that other bike/beer Central Oregon town a run for its money.
COTA hopes to have new trail system done by June
By Beau Eastes / The Bulletin / @beastes
Published Jan 7, 2015 at 12:01AM / Updated Jan 7, 2015 at 06:17AM
Crook County COTA chapter
Note: Ad-hoc work crews to finish Lower 66 begin this month
PRINEVILLE — The wheels are moving on multiple bicycling projects in and around Prineville.
The Crook County chapter of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance announced Tuesday night at its January meeting at Good Bike Co. that by this June it hopes to have the area’s newest trail system, Lower 66, completed, as well as a 1.5-acre BMX bike park.
Lower 66, which sits on 66 acres of state land just south of the Ochoco State Scenic Viewpoint off state Highway 126, will boast three miles of multiuse trails within the Prineville city limits once completed.
The two main loops are nearly finished, said Darlene Henderson, head of the Crook County trail alliance chapter, with the connector trail between the north and south loops requiring most of the work. Signage and a trailhead kiosk are also expected to be added.
The Prineville Bike Park, which will be located adjacent to Ochoco Creek Park, is in the initial fundraising stage, according to Henderson, but she expects construction to start and finish within a two- or three-week period this June. COTA, which has raised $10,110, estimates the bike park will cost approximately $102,000.
“All the right pieces have just fallen together in the last two years,” Henderson said about Prineville’s recent plunge into the cycling community. “You’ve got to have a good relationship with land managers. You’ve got to have public officials like (County Commissioner) Seth (Crawford) get behind these things. You’ve got to have people willing to organize and people like Stephen (Henderson, Darlene’s husband) do the trail work. And you have to have a meeting place like Good Bike Co.”
“Projects like this,” Darlene Henderson added, “you’ve got to have all the pieces in play.”
Lower 66 and the Prineville Bike Park could be just the beginning of a wave of bike-related projects in Crook County.
COTA has submitted a multiphase trail proposal with the U.S. Forest Service for a 270-mile trail network within the Ochoco National Forest. Phase 1 would create a 75.2-mile trail network based around the current Lookout Mountain Trail northeast of Prineville.
Crook County bike enthusiasts are also looking at more rides within the city limits, similar to the Lower 66 trails, to enhance the cycling opportunities in the area.
“The Lookout Mountain trails, those will attract tourists,” said Crawford, who is also a Central Oregon Trail Alliance member. “But projects like Lower 66 and the bike park, those are about quality of life for residents of Crook County. We’ve got an amazing quality of life here, but if you don’t get ahead of the curve, you fall behind. This is an opportunity to improve our quality of life.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0305,