If you enjoy exploring backcountry roads by bike, you might be interested in checking out McMinnville, Oregon’s cycling scene. I recently participated in BikePOC’s PNW Adventure Celebration ride and was able to experience miles of their routes first hand. A cycling event presented in conjunction with BikePOC PNW, Visit McMinnville and Cycle Yamhill County, the event consisted of two gravel routes. Riders chose between an 18-mile route with 2300 of elevation and a 30-mile route with over 3900 feet.
The planning for this ride was born out of an on-the-bike conversation in the spring when folks from Cycle Yamhill County invited a few riders from BikePOC PNW for a ride. Jeff Knapp of Visit McMinnville joined the ride planning team (his org provided coffee & treats at the start in addition to running the aid station and media) with 45 riders gathering to experience the gravel route.
After gathering for coffee and snacks and a pre-ride announcement by Will Cortez, we funneled out on to the highway and made our way into the country side. Starting off from Ed Grenfell Park, we pedaled through winding backroads until we transitioned on to the first of many gravel roads.
Though the bulk of the group were astride drop bar gravel bikes, there were a number of flat bar setups as well a few cross country bikes under the riders in attendance. I personally prefer to ride my carbon cross country mountain bike for adventuring, (after all, MTBs were the OG adventure bikes) which I’ve set up with 2.1″ tires, inner bar ends for additional hand positions, and a 34T front chain ring for a bit more juice on the road sections.
I found it to be a good option for the day, and enjoyed having a dropper post on the full speed descents on the loose gravel.
The first 10 miles of riding primarily consisted of climbing. At around the 10 mile bike, the groups diverged. Looking to make the trek to McMinnville worth it, I headed out further for the extended mileage loop.
After a full day of pedaling gravel roads, we encountered Visit McMinnville’s aid station. Situated just before the final descent, and it was the perfect opportunity to refuel and get the 411 on the area, learn about the existing single track, and future trail plans on the BLM owned lands.
After I pounded two coffees, a bag of chips and an energy bar, I headed out on the final stretch.
Then I finally found the single track trails. After a full day pedaling on logging roads, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a distinct difference between gravel riding and adventure riding. While there is a lot of cross-over, my take on adventure rides means every piece of single track spotted must be experienced and explored. So, of course I had ride them.
The burst of energy from the coffee and the snack break was much appreciated at mile 28 as I explored the first of several entry points to single track trails I encountered.
The first trail headed back up the hill the way I came, so I doubled back after riding a bit of it to get a taste of the riding experience.
The next entrance point looked to be headed roughly in the direction of the original GPS route so I made my way, keeping the original route in mind. The narrow, twisty, single track put a shit-eating grin on my face that wouldn’t go away. In fact, I would have explored more of these amazing trails if I had the time. As it was, my mostly leisurely pace and all the stopping to take photos plus my single track detour had me coming in last – even cutting my happy detour a bit short.
Future MTB Plans: Panther Creek Mountain Bike Park
McMinnville could be your next mountain bike weekend destination when this project comes to fruition. The goal is to create a mountain bike park. I’m assuming this means flow trails of some kind and perhaps a dedicated trail system.
Hopefully these new trails will add to the existing underground trail network – it would be a shame to lose these fun twisty sections of pine-needle covered, rooty joy. After all, we already have plenty of machine built trails all over the state with the same type of trail experience.
Things to do in McMinnville
Yamhill County has some wineries that are worth a visit, and there is an array of places to eat and drink, as well as festivals and gatherings.
www.CycleYamhillCounty.com talks about the coming Panther Creek Mountain Bike area as well as various monthly updates on local goings on (rides, local legislation, Bike Bus, and so on). www.visitmcminnville.com features a full list of local features for riders looking to explore the area.