It's that recurring dream again. There's an endless stretch of highway. The open road.O
r perhaps it's off-road. A remote trail maybe. Dirt? Pavement? Doesn't really matter and besides, I'm just deep into my fantasy biker life at the moment. As the wind buffets my securely helmeted head, I feel the engine's horsepower below. (Do they still measure power with horses?) Anyway, there I am, atop my motorcycle, effortlessly switching gears just at the right time, clutch and throttle in perfect sync. Heading into the dusk of another perfect evening. Sun on the horizon. The love of my life sitting right behind me, arms wrapped around my suddenly muscle-bound midsection.
Could it actually happen?
After a visit to one of Bend's recent Wednesday "Garage Nights," who knows? That decadent mixture of gas, oil and rubber permeating the air inside 6 Volt Cycles on the city's east side makes you want to grab a two-wheeler and start living that biker life in the real world.
Step aside skiers, kayakers and paddle-boarders. There's a new sport in town. Well, not exactly new—but certainly on the rise again in Central Oregon. Garage Night is an informal weekly gathering which takes place at a rotating list of bike shops around town. On this particular night, dozens of motorcycle (and car) enthusiasts are milling about, checking out the various models, chatting about things like equipment, parts, trails and future adventures.
"Garage Night is really just a community-based Wednesday evening," says 6 Volt owner Jason Koschnitzke. "We invite everybody to come out. People into motorcycles, cars, hands-on stuff. We share it. We're trying to jump start Bend to do something fun on the mechanical side of things."
- Riders and drivers gather weekly to share the joy of two-wheel and four-wheel travel.
Turns out it's a simple effort to bring like-minded people together to strengthen Bend's growing biker and vintage car community. "A night for motorcycle and car enthusiasts to meet up and just hang out," says Adam Huddart, co-owner of the adjacent VR Garage, which specializes in vintage cars. "A chance to see other people whom they haven't seen, or meet new people talking about the stuff they have or want to do. See new locations, allow other shops to expose themselves as well—so people can see what's going on in their shop."
A partial list of other locations hosting Garage Nights includes Giant Loop, TCS (Total Cycle Solutions), Spoken Moto and the blacksmith shop, Orion Forge.
Peter Grant stopped into 6 Volt on this night with his friend Julie Langou. "We would not have met each other if not for evenings like this," says Grant. "They just open up the garage and we can talk with each other and look at each other's bikes. There's a lot of information that can be shared. It's a neat motorcycle community." Langou then points out a growing trend in the Bend biking scene.
"We have a motorcycle riding group here just for women," she says. "Some women go with their husbands or boyfriends and they ride on the back, but most of the women you see at Garage Night have their own motorcycle."
ngrid Granlin, who works at Giant Loop, is one of them. "I meet more and more women every year buying motorcycles," she says. "There are more small bikes. For a long time it was hard to find a bike where, if you were under 5'7", you could really put your feet on the ground."
For her, motorcycles have opened up a whole new world. She recently purchased a dual-sport bike—basically an off-road motorcycle you can legally ride on the street. Bend, she says, provides the perfect backdrop. "There are endless amounts of places to access with a dual-sport. So you get on the pavement and go for a few minutes, then you get on a dirt road and just explore, and it's all about exploring here. We'll often take the bikes and go find a lake to go swim in, or go hike somewhere."
Grant also boasts about the number of scenic rides accessible from Bend. "We have the mountains, the high desert and plenty of twisty mountain roads," he says. "You can go out east and really enjoy some spirited riding and not worry too much about animals. We go out east to the Wallowa mountains. Oregon's just a great state for riding and the roads are in fairly good shape once you leave Bend."
Leaving 6 Volt, I head out into the chilly night wishing I had a cool dual-sport waiting for me in the parking lot. Something to handle all those twisty roads. Something with plenty of horsepower.
1st Wed at 6Volt Cycles, 2nd Wed at Spoken Moto, 3rd Wed at Giant Loop;
4th & 5th Weds., moves around