May 26th, 2020

Getting Out: Bikes Are Popular Again

Always remember to wear a helmet, turn on a flashing taillight and use a mirror when riding on Yamhill County roads.
Photo credit: Carla Shryock

There are more bikes on McMinnville area roads these days.

The roads throughout McMinnville and Yamhill County are waiting to be explored and now that some businesses are reopening, it’s possible to stop along the way for a coffee, a cold drink or a bite to eat. Tasting rooms can again provide a sip of wine.

And there are more people ready to experience it all on bikes. Ask the staff at Tommy’s Bicycle Shop in downtown McMinnville and they will say what bike people across the country have been reporting for weeks. Bike sales and repairs are up. Way up. And that means more people will be riding on local streets.

“Business has been wild and crazy,” says Patrick Vala, Tommy’s owner since 1978. “Everything has boomed. We are seeing all ages. Our business has been more adult-focused in recent years, but yes, families are biking more and that’s a wonderful trend.”

Dusty old bikes are being pulled from storage for repairs and new bikes are being purchased as more and more people turn to this tried-and-true form of exercise. “I believe people need an outlet and cycling is one that can be enjoyed while practicing social distancing,” Patrick says.

There’s little chance McMinnville will become as bike-centric as cities in Belgium or Netherlands where bicycles are a primary means of everyday transportation. With the recent state decision allowing Yamhill County to reopen some businesses, however, more bikes will be on the road. It’s perhap wise to think about how to maintain proper social distance on bikes.

Recent research by universities in those two countries indicate 6 feet of social separation is not enough when riding a bike. Here’s a not-so-scientific explanation. Whether walking, running or biking, a swirl of air flows behind you as you move. The faster you go, the longer that “slipstream” extends. The research says it’s best to stay 12 feet behind someone who is walking fast. That distance extends to 30 feet behind runners and as much as 60 feet behind a fast-moving bike.

There are other safety measures that every bike rider should take at all times. Stop by Tommy’s Bike Shop at its new location (103 SE Baker St.) and hear from Patrick himself. He will be quick to tell you to always wear a helmet, always use a bright flashing taillight no matter the sunshine or time or day, and to ride defensively. Be ready and willing to yield to vehicles.

Here is some additional advice courtesy of The League of American Bicyclists:

  • Use hand signals when turning. It’s easy to do, just stick out your arm and point.
  • Install and use a rear-view mirror.
  • Ride single file on roads.
  • Think like a driver. Bicyclists most follow the same laws as motorists but remember that cars always win in a collision. Be ready to give up your road rights to vehicles.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Expect that a motorist doesn’t see you. Anticipate dangerous situations.
  • Leave the earbuds at home. Listen to the birds, the wind rushing by. Most importantly, listen for traffic.
Dan Shryock

Dan Shryock regularly writes about McMinnville and Yamhill County. He can’t wait to ride his bike to more McMinnville area wineries this summer.