Editor’s Note: This post is courtesy of Travel Oregon.
Pedaling along the winding roads that traverse Oregon’s Painted Hills is like riding back in time. You can see millions of years of history in these colorful layers of earth, where stratified soil is brushed with soft hues of yellow, gold, black, and red, melding together to form an enchanting landscape.
It’s these hills and those colors that were primary influence for Christopher Igleheart of Igleheart Custom Frames and Forks, who was tasked with building a custom bike for Travel Oregon’s 7 Bikes for 7 Wonders scavenger hunt. To celebrate the 7 Wonders of Oregon, seven of the state’s best bike makers created hand-built bikes inspired by the state’s most amazing places to ride, including the Painted Hills. This summer, those bikes will be hidden at their Wonders for anyone to find, own, and ride.
Igleheart is a pioneer in the mountain bike world, having crafted some of the very first purpose-built “off-road” steeds while part of Fat City Cycles (click to enlarge).
Based in Portland, Oregon, Igleheart has a lifetime of bike-building experience. He’s run shops and built frames and forks from Maine to Oregon. He’s also a pioneer in the mountain bike world, having crafted some of the very first purpose-built “off-road” steeds while part of Fat City Cycles. But it’s his time in college that most influenced this latest creation.
“I studied geology,” Igleheart said. “So the ancient processes that made the Painted Hills are what really inspired me.”
That inspiration spawned a bike with a highly unusual paint scheme. Horizontal stripes of earth tones mimic the vibrant rock that lends the Painted Hills their name. But this bike is much more than a proverbial pretty picture. Igleheart also infused his creation with a host of utilitarian functionality.
“In Oregon, bicycling is a whole other attitude than the rest of the country,” he said about the diversity of terrain and riding the state offers. “I’ve always had a philosophy of any bike, anywhere.”
Igleheart calls his Wonder bike “a straight-ahead touring bike” but there are myriad details that open it up for exploring the more distant road less traveled. Indeed, this bike can handle all the adventure the Painted Hills area has to offer. It’s equipped with racks and expedition-quality storage bags from Portland maker Black Star to carry camping gear. Disc brakes assure reliable stopping power. Wide 42mm tires enhance comfort on rough terrain. Fenders front and rear keep road spray at bay. And there’s a fishing rod case under the top tube should its rider need to find sustenance on an extended trip.
The frame itself is made of steel, Igleheart’s preferred building material, which he praises for its strength, light weight and durability. A built-in hub generator powers a headlight in case you stay out after dark.
But best to ride the Painted Hills by daylight, when the color appears to change due to ever-changing light conditions and moisture levels in the soil itself. No doubt that once you see them, it’s easy to understand why they are one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. This summer they’ll also be the temporary home to one very special bicycle.