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Bend's Bike Boom 

Forty years later, bike culture is still racking and rolling

The long list of 17 locally owned bike shops might be one of the best indicators of Bend's rise to one of the nation's most biketastic towns.

Speedy road racers, muddy cyclocross riders, hard-partying mountain bikers and high-flying downhill fanatics have claimed Bend as a home, because of its rolling and wide-open turf—perfect for any biking discipline.

Sunnyside Sports is Bend's longest pedaling bike shop, opened in 1972 during the first "bike boom," when cruisers were still being modified for the novel sport of "dirt bombing" and 10-speeds were the hot commodity. Co-owner Susan Bonacker said that during that boom, they couldn't get enough bikes in the shop. Through all the economic busts of the last four decades, biking is one industry that has remained consistent in Bend.

"Cycling has always been big in Bend. When the recession hit hard in 2004, everyone was hanging on to their hats. It was remarkable, we found that people would come in and say, 'I'm laid off, I'm going to go ride my bike,'" said Bonacker. "During the pre-recession boom people were buying $5,000 bikes just to have in their garage. Then the recession came and checked it, but it didn't stop it. The median price of the bike we sold went down and people maybe put more repair dollars into their bikes, but we are way more weather affected than economy affected. It's a priority, people care about it. They're going to find a way to ride a bike."

Case in point are the dozen bike shops that have opened after Sunnyside without fear of saturation—and many during the most recent lean economic years.

"We chose Bend to build community, and obviously it's a great bicycle destination," said TJ Jordan who opened HUB Cyclery last April with partner Matt Snow. "I'm from Southern California, where you're dealing with traffic, cost of living, quality of living. You're sitting in your car to get to the trails. Here, you can ride from the garage or the shop. The network of trails is well known and nationally published."

The level of freedom that comes with biking is akin to Bend's open range history. Instead of the silhouette of a cowboy riding a horse into the sunset, the iconic imagery Bend has is now a two-wheeled one, built on the backs of local bike shops and bike-based events, like the Pole Pedal Paddle, the Cascade Cycling Classic and even the renegade Freedom Ride on the Fourth of July.

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