groups such as
Backroads bring
out-of-state travelers
to Oregon
wine country for
both the vineyards
and cycling
experience. ## Backroads/Andrew Opila
Cyclists leave
Eola Hills Wine
Cellars in Rickreall
for an August
ride as part of
the winery’s Bike
Oregon Wine
Country series. ##Photo courtesy Eola Hills Wine Cellars
visiting wineries
near Mosier in the
Columbia Gorge
also can capture
panoramic views
from Rowena
Crest. ##Photo by Dan Shryock
participating in
the Bike Oregon
Wine Country
event stop for a
photo at Ritner
Creek Bridge in
the Kings Valley
area near the
county line. ##Photo by Dan Shryock
who gets on
a bicycle in wine
country is going to
see the world more
clearly. They’re going
to see more of
everything,” says
Yamhill County
Casey Kulla.  ## Backroads/Andrew Opila

Wine Country in Gear

Cycling ramps up on Oregon’s wine-dy roads

By Dan Shryock

Phil Amaya stops his bike along Bayley Road, a short, flat stretch of gravel a lengthy stone’s throw from the Chehalem Airport northwest of Newberg. He points to the west as he explains this unique angle.

“That’s the Dundee Hills AVA,” Amaya says, moving his hand from left to right. “Next to it is Yamhill-Carlton and over there is Ribbon Ridge (AVA).”

He explains how different soils and microclimates in each area affect the grapes his fellow riders plan to sample soon in the form of wine. He then remounts and the group once again pedals on.

Amaya and his wife, Lisa Gilbertson, lead wine country bike tours through their vineyard-populated corner of the Willamette Valley. This is a new business for the couple, one they believe fills a void in the regional wine tourism industry.

Discovering Wine Country

Tourist Allan Russell traveled from his Washington, D.C., home in the summer of 2019 to learn more about Oregon wines. While a self-described recreational cyclist, he had no intention of riding while here. Then he noticed a things-to-do suggestion from Wine de Roads.

Cyclist Katie Braun explores wine country in the Northern Willamette Valley.  ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

“It was an eye-opening experience,” Russell would say later. “Phil took us to some out-of-the-way wineries off the beaten path. We could sit and talk with the winemaker. And, the big difference was that on the bike you are part of the environment. The mountains, the vineyards, the whole setting. The smell of the air. It’s all totally different. You’re breathing wine country.”

Cyclists like Russell are making the journey to Oregon wine country each summer. Organized tours originating in Portland bring visitors to the Willamette Valley and the Columbia Gorge. Eola Hills Wine Cellars attracts hundreds of riders each August for its series of Sunday Bike Oregon Wine Country events.

But until recently, most wine country bike riders made their own plans, designing individual self-guided tours.

That may be changing. Wine de Roads, Gilbertson’s and Amaya’s tour company, now lead a few cyclists at a time across northern Yamhill County. Bike rentals were hard to find until Newberg Cycle & Skate recently started renting to anyone looking to explore the back roads.

To the south, the city of Independence and the Polk County Tourism Alliance are cultivating wine country cycling to attract visitors. The Independence, a new hotel there, features amenities specifically designed for cyclists, including a customized maintenance room equipped with two bike repair stands, tools, air pumps and a stainless-steel sink and counter for easy cleanup. A third repair station is available outside for public use.

“Cycling really stood out to us,” hotel spokesperson Sondra Storm told the Oregon Wine Press last fall. “The big thing was the in-room bike storage. We incorporated it into the architectural design and made the rooms wider. We love that aesthetic.”

The efforts have not gone unnoticed. Cycle Oregon, the organization best known for its weeklong rides across the state, brings its one-day women-only Joyride to Independence on June 20, the second for the event in Independence after a three-year run working with Stoller Family Estate near Dayton.

“Our goal is to provide a really great setting for the riders,” says Cycle Oregon executive director Steve Schulz. “It’s a win-win for us and the local communities. We’ve been able to showcase their areas.”

Economic Impact and Demand

Information defining cycle tourism’s economic impact in Oregon wine country is difficult to find. Research commissioned by Travel Oregon in 2012 showed overall bicycle tourism added $400 million to the state’s economy. Another study, released in January 2020 by the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, sheds additional light on the potential.

The study, “Profile of Wine Tourists to Willamette Valley,” was conducted for the association by Destination Analysts in 2018. More than 8,000 visitors were surveyed. While the survey did not specifically ask about cycling, it indicated outdoor recreation — including cycling — was important to a segment of Willamette Valley wine visitors.

The report showed 15.3% of people traveling to the region to learn about local wines were also likely to participate in a land-based outdoor recreational activity such as hiking or cycling. That number grew to 19.1% when asked of out-of-state visitors. International visitors? 30%.

And while day-trippers had no reason to look for outdoor recreation during their visit, 20.7% those who stayed overnight took time outdoors for some fun.

Phil Amaya and Lisa Gilbertson accelerated local bike tours in Willamette Valley wine country when they launched Wine de Roads. ##Photo courtesy of Wine de Roads

“Wine and active lifestyles go together,” says Jeff Knapp, executive director at Visit McMinnville, that city’s tourism development office. “People with active lifestyles are more likely to extend their stay in an area with rich, diverse experiences. Cycling not only adds to the likelihood that visitors may stay for an extra day or two, but it also connects them to a place in a very analog way. Wine is all about place.”

Safety on the Road

A long-standing concern for all bike riders is traffic safety. As a rule, rural roads designed for local traffic, trucks and farm equipment do not always prove the safest environment. The roads frequently lack sufficient pavement shoulders for riders to avoid approaching vehicles.

One option growing in popularity is the use of gravel roads, low-traffic right of ways for an increased level of comfort for people on bikes. It’s not unusual to find remote wineries along gravel and dirt roads.

“The fastest area of growth in the cycling world is in gravel cycling. Gravel cycling gets people off busy roads and into the exploration of smaller, less traveled bucolic spaces,” Knapp says.

He points to northern Willamette Valley’s location on the edge of the Oregon Coast Range with “some of the finest gravel riding in the world. This convergence of fertile wine country valley and epic, gravel, timber climbs has potential.”

Not everyone wants to ride into the hills, however, so safety remains a concern. Officials hope to make rural roads safer for bike riders and the public at large. Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla, himself a cyclist, says the county is investigating ways to improve public safety.

“I see cycling and outdoor recreation as having the ability to co-exist with all other things in Yamhill County,” Kulla says. “I see cycle tourism from the perspective of providing the opportunity for entrepreneurs to overlap their world with our existing infrastructure.”

To that end, the county is improving North Valley Road from Newberg north toward Gaston and Washington County. The busy route runs near several wineries in the area. Work, including shoulder expansion, is scheduled to take place in 2020, he says. “Cyclists are using it already.”

The county also will consider applying for federal money to upgrade Westside Road from McMinnville to the edge of Carlton, he says.

“There’s so much to do in the way of cycling safety,” Kulla says. “The county can also shine in other ways that are affordable. We can put up signs that caution drivers to cyclists on the road. We can publish maps. There are routes that are safer (than others).”

Self-Guided Tours

Cyclists like discovering new places to ride. Then they share their discoveries, often using a mapping app that records their routes for posting online. The Ride with GPS website and app, for example, features wine country routes in the Tualatin Valley, McMinnville, rural Eugene, the Columbia Gorge, the Umpqua Valley and many more. Each route includes personal descriptions, directions, mileage and hills along the way.

It’s a sound practice to research routes using map services such as Ride with GPS and contacting local cycling clubs for local insights.

Cyclists also appreciate their surroundings as they roll along.

“Everybody who gets on a bicycle in wine country is going to see the world more clearly. They’re going to see more of everything,” Commissioner Kulla says. “They’re going to see the little wildflowers that are blooming in the ditch. They’re going to wonder about that bird they just heard. I think that all your senses can be engaged when you’re out there on a road passing through wine country. You don’t really notice everything when you’re in a car.”

Wayne Bailey, owner, grower and winemaker at Youngberg Hill Inn & Winery, meets his share of cyclists. Expansive views of the valley floor make his inn and tasting room an attractive destination even if some decide to walk their bikes up the steep driveway for the final mile. 

“There are some great bike routes in the Willamette Valley that all go on Youngberg Hill Road (south of McMinnville),” Bailey says. “We encourage cyclists to bike up our hill and if they can make it all the way to the top without their feet touching the ground, they get a bottle of wine.”

Supported Tours

There’s far more to wine country touring than simply riding a bike. Travel companies assemble detailed itineraries featuring restaurants, upscale lodging and local attractions as well as wineries. They supply bikes and drive “SAG wagons” — support vehicles — that follow cyclists on the road.

Backroads, a California-based international outdoor travel company, tours through Mosier and Columbia Gorge wine country before transferring to McMinnville for exploration there. A one-week tour can lead riders from atop the iconic Rowena Crest overlooking the Gorge to the wineries of Amity south of McMinnville.

Bicycle Adventures, meanwhile, offers a four-day trip in and around Yamhill County with visits to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum and Lawrence Gallery art center before pedaling across the Willamette River at the Wheatland Ferry and ending in the Champoeg State Heritage Area.

“I think the best part of this trip is that it still has that untouched, magical feel,” says Backroads trip expert Melissa Peabody. “In both the Columbia Gorge and the Willamette Valley, we cycle to humble wineries with truly world-class wine and many without the glitz and glam of other wine countries around the world. You can still shake the winemaker’s hand; it’s probably still dirty from weeding in the vineyard. It’s an incredibly approachable place with great food, great wine and rugged adventure.”



Bike Oregon Wine Country 

For over 20 years, Eola Hills Wine Cellars has staged rides every Sunday in August across the Willamette Valley. Aptly called Bike Oregon Wine Country, the event attracts hundreds of cyclists who start at the Rickreall winery and ride 40 to 70 miles depending on their preferred routes.

The course leads north to Amity and southern Yamhill County one weekend and south across Polk County the next. Participating wineries along the way pour small samples. When riders buy bottles, Eola Hills staff collects the purchases and has them waiting at the winery for pickup at the end of the day.

“I’d like to think people keep coming back because we have such fantastic bike routes, but I think it’s because of the wine and the salmon barbecue at the end,” says Tom Huggins, cycling enthusiast and winery managing partner.

Cycle Oregon 

The Joyride from Independence’s riverfront on June 20 adds a variety of routes ranging from 18 to 64 miles. There are even some gravel routes. The shortest tour is a quick loop to Rogue brewery’s hop farm and tasting room. Longer distances lead west into wine country with wineries along the way.

The Vineyard Tour 

The Umpqua Velo Cycling Club stages its annual Vineyard Tour each Labor Day weekend. Nearly 200 cyclists pass by vineyards and wineries on routes ranging from 15 to 100 miles. Additional wineries are marked on maps should riders detour somewhat for additional tasting.

The rest stops are located at winery tasting rooms, stocked with wine and water, says event director Ron Hilbert. Volunteers will collect wine purchases for delivery at the post-ride dinner.


Where to Ride:

Northern Willamette Valley

Erratic Rock Loop  (Route: 29800821)

This is a comfortable 19-mile ride from downtown McMinnville south to the area’s famous Erratic Rock. Avoid the city traffic by cycling south and west across the Linfield College campus. After a very short stretch on Highway 99 (Baker Street), it’s an easy escape to the countryside. Follow Old Sheridan Road to Masonville, McCabe Chapel and Oldsville roads. These low-traffic country roads offer a comfortable path to Erratic Rock, a remnant from the prehistoric Missoula Floods.

Vineyards come into view when riding the Youngberg Hill Road section of this route. The only significant hill on the entire loop is here, but the effort is worth it. Walk the bike up the mile-long private road to Youngberg Hill Inn and Winery, take in the views and taste the wine.

Follow the Wine de Roads 

Phil Amaya has a strategy: He drives his Wine de Roads Bike Tours van with riders and bikes on board to Domaine Divio winery northwest of Newberg. From there, he leads a comfortable tour past a cluster of wineries eager to welcome everyone with open arms, and bottles.

This area north and east of North Valley Road is dotted with more than 10 wineries. With some planning, it’s easy to put together a route. Determine the distance and degree of difficulty (hills) for a group of friends and then plot an itinerary.

It’s wise to call ahead to be sure a winery is happy to have a vehicle parked for a few hours. And, it’s difficult to carry bottles of wine on a bike. Ask each tasting room if purchases can be held for pickup, then circle back for collection after the ride.

Try Tualatin Valley 

Ever ride along an official Oregon Scenic Bikeway? The state of Oregon designates 17 unique scenic routes throughout the state, each selected for its unique characteristics. The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway makes its way from Eugene to Champoeg State Heritage Area north of Salem, while passing a few wineries.

The Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway, meanwhile, starts in Hillsboro and follows a flat route for 14 miles to Forest Grove. Cyclists pass several wineries, some right along S.W. Burkhalter Road and others a short detour away. Forest Grove represents a perfect turn-around; the adventurous can continue to Vernonia.


It’s always wise to know where to fix a broken bike. Here are some bike shops to consider. Out-of-state travelers shipping their favorite rides via airlines can call ahead to schedule their bike re-assembly.

Newberg Cycle & Skate  (Bike rentals) 

Tommy’s Bicycle Shop  (McMinnville) 

Olson’s Bicycles  (Forest Grove) 



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