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On a roll with Jim Moore, cycling travel writer
Jim Moore is a professional writer, author of cycling guidebooks, and promoter of cycle tourism. We recently spoke with Jim to discuss his work as a cycling author and the innovative approach to promoting cycle tourism with the State of Oregon.
Adrian: How did you first become involved in writing about cycling?
Jim: Well, people always say to do what your passion is and steer it toward your work. So I’ve always had the ability to write, and decided to start a business out of it. Then after a while I was writing about high-tech stuff and selling gizmos, and I thought, Why don’t I write about what I really love, and try to do more cycling-oriented stuff.
Adrian: I understand you’ve recently written a book called 75 Classic Rides Oregon. What led you to creating that book?
Jim: Well the editors of this publishing company called The Mountaineers, which had written books about hiking and mountain climbing all over the world, decided it was time to start doing some books on cycling, and they wanted one for Oregon. They literally just Googled ‘Oregon cycling author,’ and my name kept coming up. They called me and asked if I would like to write a guidebook. I said ‘sure.’ It was amazing; normally you have to pitch this stuff, but they just came straight to me. It was a total fluke that I ended up doing it. I told them I could give them 50 rides just off the top of my head, and so we signed the contact and I thought great, I’ve already ridden to all these places and I can write the book mostly from my office. Well, I ended up being away every weekend from May to October researching for the book – I had to go back to all those places, because they needed to know all the mileposts and shoulder conditions and other details. The book contains rides from all over the state, and varies from rides that you can take your kids on to an epic 300-mile ride down the coast. It was a fun experience. Conveying the flavor of a ride is hard to do; by the 75thride description, it can be hard to make the next one interesting. So you get more into the culture, the history and the geography of a place, not just the ride.
Adrian: Now you have an interest in promoting cycle touring; can you tell me more about this?
Jim: Yes, so there’s a travel organisation called Travel Oregon, which is basically the state’s tourism agency. They try to get people to travel here from all over the world to taste wine, climb mountains and see all the beautiful things you can do in Oregon. But they realized not too long ago that cycling is a huge draw, and they got very ambitious with the idea of making Oregon the best place for cycle tourism in America. One of the ideas they came up with is this unique program called Scenic Bikeways. One of the wonderful things about this is people from all around the state nominate routes where there are beautiful rides, great towns, and support for cycle tourism. They propose the route and a committee from Travel Oregon and Oregon State Parks then assesses if the route is good enough to become a Scenic Bikeway. If it is, the local proponents will then promote the bikeway to businesses. They might even create a cycling B&B or a place to stop for a shower if you’re camping. Each Scenic Bikeway has detailed maps with turn-by-turn directions, accommodation, places to camp, and there are route markers along the road. As of today there are 12 Scenic Bikeways in Oregon. The word has spread, and it has increased bike tourism.
Adrian: Why do you think the State of Oregon is so keen to promote cycle tourism?
Jim: Well, Oregon has a reputation among the states as being really forward-thinking in a lot of areas and cycling fits into that. But I think it’s really because Cycle Oregon has been around for 25 years and gone into every corner of the state. It’s not unusual now; rural towns don’t bat an eye when they see a group of people coming through on bikes. So the whole state is ripe for cycling. The tourism folks looked at Cycle Oregon, which draws thousands of people to the state, but that’s just one week a year. The state has great roads and towns that are welcoming to cyclists, so they decided to promote Oregon as a cycle touring destination.
What do you see as the main benefits of cycle tourism?
Jim: If you look at it from a cold-hearted business perspective, touring cyclists are a really good demographic. They tend to be well-educated, they tend to be fairly wealthy, they spend money wherever they go, and they really appreciate where they are. Are you familiar with the concept of geotourism? Well, geotourism is the idea that when you go someplace, you don’t just want to look at it and take pictures, you want to really experience it and make it a better place if you can. Cyclists are that type of people. They want to meet people along the way, they want to know the history and the geography of a place, so they’re more involved tourists. They’re the kind of people who’d never think to litter or trash anything along the way, because when you’re on a bike, you just see things differently from being in a car. Also I think cycle tourism is just a growing thing. The idea of soft-adventure travel has really lit up the travel industry. People want to do outdoor challenges, but they need to be in reach of the average person. Well, almost anybody can tour on a bike. It’s a good challenge. If you’re going over a mountain pass, you need to train for it, and when you get over that pass there’s a real sense of achievement, but you can also stay in a hotel that night and have a hot shower and a good meal. There’s a good combination of extremes. Oregon is really well set up for cycle tourism. Because of the logging industry there’s this huge network of paved roads that other states don’t have, so you can get off the main drag and be on this forest road with literally no cars all day. You can wind through beautiful forests, along a river, and up through a mountain pass, and it’s all yours.
Adrian: What are the benefits of cycle tourism for local communities?
Jim: We’ll, its pure economics. If you’re a local community and you’ve been there for 100 years, maybe the only reason you’re there is because you were originally on a waterway or you had a lumber mill. Well, the average tourist in a car is not going to stop there. But if it’s on the way to somewhere and your riding a bike, that small town may be a great place to get lunch, stop for groceries, or even stop for the night. So bike tourists, even if they don’t cover as much ground, probably hit more communities than other tourists, and they’ll go into the communities that aren’t always on the common tourist paths. These communities realise that if they’re friendly to bikers, more people will come, because they’ll have a reputation as a place that welcomes riders.
Adrian: Now out of the many thousands of bike rides that you’ve done, is there one that stands out as the most memorable?
Jim: When I do author talks about the book, people often ask, ‘What’s your favourite route?’, and it’s a bit like asking ‘What’s your favourite icecream?’ It depends on what you feel like that day. If I had to narrow it down, we did this Cycle Oregon ride in the northeastern corner of the state called the Wallowa Mountains. There’s a gorgeous lake up there, and the area is called Little Switzerland. There’s not really many through roads, and a lot of people haven’t been there. We did this fantastic 7-day ride but I was working on the Cycle Oregon newspaper during the ride, so I didn’t really get enough time to enjoy it. Anyway, I told some of my friends about it and we went back there the following summer, but this time I didn’t have to do any work. The beauty of bike touring is you get up, you have a big breakfast, you ride at whatever pace your want and you do around 75 miles each day, then check into a bed and breakfast. You then have a shower, go out somewhere great for dinner, drink wine and just hangout with friends. There’s just nothing you have to do but eat, sleep and ride. On this ride, we dropped into Hell’s Canyon, which is the deepest gorge in America. We rode over three mountain passes in one day, with a total of 7,000 feet of climbing, and we were totally isolated. We may have seen 5 cars all day. It was amazingly beautiful, pristine, and a real challenge. It was just the best to be riding in this beautiful place, to be with your friends, and have all the time you need to just ride and enjoy. We go somewhere now almost every year, but that first ride was when I really got it, just how fun it is to go out with friends and ride a tour.
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