With its network of trails, well-paved roads and scenic views, the Camas and Washougal areas are fast becoming home to an emerging cycling culture.
Much of this started four years ago when Ed and Katina Fischer opened Camas Bike and Sport on Northeast Third Avenue.
“I opened the store out of a need in this area,” Fischer said. “We thought this community could support it.”
The couple, who have two children, had always talked about opening a shop, but wanted it to be strongly community oriented.
After moving to Camas in 2008, they found what they were looking for. Fischer quit his graveyard shift job with the city of Portland, and opened the bike shop with Katina in 2009. His dog Sierra is the shop mascot.
“We’ve supported the community and the community has been very supportive in kind,” he said. “The people who support us really want to see our shop stay in existence.”
To encourage beginners, the shop hosts a free skills clinic during First Fridays in Camas. It includes information such as how to fix a flat tire, properly lube a chain, inspect a bike for wear and other important cycling tips. There is also a three-hour, beginner mountain bike skills clinic held periodically, which includes fundamentals such as body position, braking, shifting, climbing, cornering, navigating switchbacks and more.
The shop hosts group rides periodically, ranging from beginner to advanced levels, listed on their website, www.camasbikes.com. These are mostly trail rides, due to the number of road rides offered in the area by other cycling organizations.
Those who are looking to expand their skills can join the Coldcreek Mountain Bike Club or Team Camas.
The CMBC is comprised of local cyclists with an overall goal to establish an up to date, downhill/free-ride specific trail on Larch Mountain. The group has “adopted” the Cold Creek trail, also located on Larch Mountain, which has been the traditional route for bikers, hikers and horse traffic. The organization’s goal is to limit user conflicts with the creation of a specific trail.
Team Camas, sponsored by the bike shop, has 50 to 60 members.
“We are a ride group that races,” Fischer said. “We all have jobs, kids and other commitments so our top goal isn’t getting up on a podium.”
Another aspect of the emerging biking culture is the existence of middle and high school mountain bike teams. Up until recently, teams were mainly centered in California until the league founder, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, decided to expand their reach to make it truly nationwide. Washington was one of the first states to get a league started.
The locally-based Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s middle school team won the state championship last month at the Washougal MX Park.
The team is a good option for those who are interested in a low stress, no-pressure sport, he added. If participants are willing to ride, they get to race.
Tony Bacon of Washougal has two boys, Nick and John, who participated on the team. He expects that both his sons will continue biking long after they are finished with high school.
After watching Nick race on the team his junior year of high school, John, who was in eighth-grade at the time, began saving up his money to buy a mountain bike.
“He was very caught up in the sport and soon connected with classmates who were into riding downhill,” Bacon said. “Over the next six months or so, John saved money from allowance, birthday and Christmas gifts and money he earned doing yard work for his grandmother and then purchased a very nice full suspension bike.”
The boys and their father also began racing with Team Camas during the summer and participated a six-hour race at Mt. Hood.
“We really into it as a family,” Bacon said. “For me this was a really big deal because it was the first sport I could really get involved in with the kids.”
Fischer refers to biking as a “lifestyle sport,” something people of all ages can enjoy.
“You have a lot of opportunities to ride and race as long as you are able to,” he said. “Also, the demographics here are very family-oriented, so getting kids involved in biking is huge.”A ‘developing’ cultureJoseph Blanco, an avid cyclist who leads several group road rides for the Vancouver Bicycle Club, refers to the bike culture in Camas and Washougal as “developing.”
He moved to the area eight months ago and said that while many people enjoy cycling for leisure, it is still developing as a lifestyle.
“The area has a ways to go to achieve the status of a Seattle, Portland or Madison, Wis. Bike education and laws are rudimentary, especially in the Camas and Washougal communities.”
Washington state ranks first as a cycling state, but that seems to center more around the Seattle area, both in terms of cycling teams, groups and commuters.
“Few cyclists in the greater Vancouver areas use their bikes outside of leisure,” Blanco noted. “This is in contrast to Portland, Seattle, and other platinum rated cities where cycling is more of a lifestyle.”
He also noted that as a League of American Bicyclists trained instructor, many cyclists are in need of safety education on the roads.
Blanco’s group events include a safety component at the beginning of each ride, then cyclists are off to enjoy local history or a tour down the Old Evergreen Highway. His rides are listed on the calendar at www.vbc-usa.com.
“I primarily have two groups attached to my rides,” Blanco said. “Seasoned cyclists who enjoy history-oriented rides, and seniors and less experienced riders who enjoy history. Both groups appreciate my approach to ensuring no one is left behind and all can ride together and enjoy learning and companionship.”