Tuesday, June 14, 2022 12:47 PM
Cyclists love Sisters – and they contribute significantly to the local economy. Photo by Bill Bartlett.
Cycling in Sisters is a big deal and getting bigger all the time. Brad Boyd should know. He owns Eurosports on East Hood, one of two Sisters cycling merchants. He started the business in 1993 and has seen it quadruple in size, estimating that the importance of cycling in Sisters has grown commensurately.
He attributes the growth to a variety of factors, citing Sisters Trail Alliance as being every bit as much a factor in Sisters’ tourism as the Rodeo or Quilt Show or Folk Festival. Down the street, Casey Meudt, who owns Blazin Saddles, has seen his business grow alongside the growth in the importance of cycling to Sisters’ economy and quality of life.
The number of events is impressive and disproportionate to a town our size. Recent events – four in a six-week period – draw nationally, with entrants from two dozen states, Canadian provinces, and foreign countries. The combined economic impact of cycling on Sisters, while unable to be verified, is generally thought to approach $5 million including sales and rentals.
Visiting cyclists spend freely on lodging, food, beverages, and souvenirs, as well as gear. Boyd also sees the word-of-mouth benefit to bicycle tourism.
“They come for a race and go back home and tell all their friends how cool Sisters is,” he said. “It’s a lot of people saying a lot of positive things. And the word spreads.”
Both Sisters bike shops have seen some improvement to their inventory, but basically they cannot keep up with the demand. Cycling took off like a rocket during the pandemic and collapsed supply. Ongoing supply chain issues continue to exacerbate difficulties maintaining a wide enough selection.
That is particularly true in gravel bikes and e-bikes, especially the step-through models. You can’t just walk in and get whatever size or color you want. If you are picky prepare to wait, maybe a year. possibly longer.
The bike rental market is not a big factor, as most cyclists coming to Sisters are experienced, traveling with their own bikes. The two shops in town have a fleet of around 50 varying bikes to rent daily or multi-day.
Biking is a major draw at Black Butte Ranch, where almost 100 bikes of all kinds are available for rent. Popular are bike buggies, which range from one to six seats to course the 18 miles of paved trails.
Sisters is bicycle friendly, a claim hundreds of small and large cities to make. Friendly and safe are two different things, according to Boyd. Having a bike lane on a busy street or a city with lots of traffic lights might be “friendly” in concept yet risky to riders contending with traffic.
You can get to any of Sisters trails or the iconic Highway 242, a cyclist’s dream road, without ever getting on Cascade Avenue, a US Highway. Kids often start riding here, on the street, as early as five or six. Most parents in Portland, Salem of Eugene — Bend in some cases — would never think of letting their tykes on a city street before age 10 or 12.
This is noted by touring cyclists a number of whom return often and eventually buy property. Realtors tell The Nugget that our cycling environment contributes to home values.
Martin and Evy Wessel just moved to Sisters from the Willamette Valley. They have eight bikes between them. Their new home has a three-car garage, one of which is a bike barn. They are not unique, realtors say. Some would like to see more marketing dollars put into extolling the outdoor attributes of Sisters led by cycling.
Biking is well suited to our demographics, as bikes are less taxing on joints as compared to skiing, tennis, pickleball or running.
Sisters, one of only 496 bicycle-friendly communities as designated by the League of American Bicyclists, has attained Silver Level. Oregon ranks number two of all 50 states, boasting five universities and 12 communities in its rankings, Sisters among them.
Denise and Lewis Cooley chose Sisters for retirement after 45 years in Sacramento primarily because of abundant biking opportunities.
“After our first ride from Sisters to Smith Rock we knew this is where we needed to be,” said Lewis, referring to the 42-mile scenic bikeway through farmland, ranches, and historic places.
Cycling is a growth industry. The number of golfers has declined by nearly a fourth in the last decade, in some cases losing enthusiasts to cycling, which in 2020 had 52.7 million riders in the US The Outdoor Industry Association says that bicycle tourism is an $83 billion business in the States and impacts 848,000 jobs.
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