If you picture Salem as a town that sits on the “floor” of the valley you don’t have the complete picture. Do a mental tour to downtown Salem, somewhere near the capitol building with the golden statue guy (does anybody else see an uncanny resemblance to Phil Knight?). Now that you’re in the middle of town, start out in any direction except maybe North. In minutes, you’ll find out you’re not in Kansas anymore! If you’ve made the effort to come and ride in the Salem area, you owe it to yourself to try some of these golden little hills that surround town. The climbs will not only reward you with the satisfaction of a good effort, but also provide some beautiful views across the valley. And the downhills...pure adrenaline!
Before we start out on our hilly adventures, let’s do a reality check...we all know about hills, right?
They can hurt you.
If you’re on a fast bike on a steep drop, you will be up over 35 mph in a blink. Steering and braking become much more limited the faster you go. Remember that you’re not in a car! Tight curves can sneak up on you, and can easily kick you out into the oncoming lane if your approach is too fast. Lots of folks find out too late that they can’t turn at all, and their rides usually end badly with that realization. Do us all a favor and judiciously squeeze that little lever next to the handlebar. It’s the brake, and it could save you an ambulance ride. Anticipate the contours of the road and give yourself room to make a turn. Bottom line, after a good descent you still want to have all your teeth.
Following are a few routes well known to the Salem crowd, some of whom were kind enough to share some of their favorite hilly routes. Now, onto our pedals, folks. It's climb time.
Start at Sprague High School, on Kuebler Road. Turn right on Kuebler Road and enjoy 2 miles of gentle, uninterrupted, easy riding. You’ll end up on River Road; turn right and head toward town. Stop in at Minto-Brown Island Park and drink in a little shot of environmental happiness. Here’s a little movie I made holding a camera while I rode my bike down Croisan Creek. Kinda goofy, but I enjoyed putting it together.
After an 800-foot elevation gain over four miles up Orchard Heights and Eagle Crest, enjoy the fast descent down Gibson. For the next two miles you’ll be a kid again. Why? Because you just wet your pants!
For an ill-advised variation on this ride, with a death-wish steep descent, go straight on Eagle Crest down to Zena Road. Good luck with that one!
Want a little longer West Salem ride? Here’s a 40-miler that expands on the Gibson ride. Bring an energy bar.
Speaking of Orchard Heights, here’s a fun one. Starting out from Wallace Marine Park you’ll head out west on Salem-Dallas Highway to North Oak Grove Road. From there, get up onto Orchard Heights. It’s the unofficial home of orchards...and heights.
Nice rollers. Unfortunately the steep drops end with abrupt, major intersections. Still worth the effort, however!
This combination of hills and flat sections is...enchanting. :)
I’ve not ridden in this part of the valley yet, but I’ve driven this road a few times and I see why it’s such a popular route. The views are breathtaking. And the hills will take your breath, too!