Editor's Note: This post is courtesy of Travel Oregon.
The Columbia River Gorge has been recognized by the U.S. Congress as a National Scenic Area. Dozens of scenic waterfalls cascade down its steep walls. The view from atop Crown Point is as good as it gets. Thanks to its unique geography, it boasts a wide variety of wine production. The area is world renown for hand-crafted beer, windsurfing, kiteboarding, parasailing - and cycling of course. The list of accolades goes on. Indeed, the Columbia River Gorge is a true wonder of Oregon.
It was also part inspiration, part canvas for the latest creation of Ben Farver and his Argonaut Cycles team. Located in Bend, Oregon, Argonaut was one of seven builders tasked with making a bike for Travel Oregon's 7 Bikes for 7 Wonders scavenger hunt. To celebrate the 7 Wonders of Oregon, each bike maker crafted a two-wheeled steed inspired by the state's most amazing places to ride, including the Columbia River Gorge. This summer, those bikes are being hidden at their Wonder for anyone to find, own, and ride.
Farver, who specializes in carbon fiber creations, built a veritable Swiss army knife on two wheels. "The Gorge has a huge variety of terrain, going from Hood River to the Dalles over the Rowena Curves," he explained. "There are a couple decent-sized climbs and a long swoopy descent. So I made a bike that can handle both paved and gravel road surfaces, as well as climbing and descending."
That meant starting with a lightweight climbing-friendly carbon fiber frame, then adorning it with top shelf parts. Gear changes are handled by Shimano's best-in-class Dura-Ace Di2 electronic shifting system. Brakes are ever-reliable hydraulic disc. Wheels are fast spinning ENVE carbon fiber wrapped around Portland-made Chris King hubs. Supple 28mm tires ensure comfort, grip and traction on any road surface.
But the bike's components and geometry are not fully slanted to ascending. Descending ability (and the experience itself) were also hugely important to Farver.
"Descending is equal parts meditative and exuberant," he explained. "It's like you're working really hard and your heartbeat is going pretty fast and you're exerting yourself, but at the same time it's calming and serene."
Farver and his team incorporated subtle nods to the Columbia River Gorge area's rich beer brewing culture. There's a bottle opener integrated into the headset, and the downtube-mounted bottle cage has an adjustable ratchet so you can securely transport your favorite adult beverage.
For paint, Farver choose a natural color palette designed to resemble the shift from the brownish green of the high desert to the deeper green of the forest. Accents of blue represent the sparkling water crashing down Multnomah Falls.
Through it all, Farver held to one primary driver: The bike had to be a thing of beauty and fully functional, not a precious piece of art to be admired from afar.
"There's no compromise in any one direction. I'm confident in my choices of design and geometry," he said. "It's not overbuilt for gravel so road riding isn't fun. And it's not too sketchy or unstable to take off pavement. It can take you to all the fantastic places in the Gorge in a fast and fun way. It's such a cool place to take inspiration from. There's so much beauty and diversity there."
This summer there will be one more beautiful thing, a truly stunning custom bike.
For full scavenger hunt details and rules, please visit traveloregon.com/7bikes7wonders. To learn more about the state and all it has to offer, check out TravelOregon.com.