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Southern Rogue Valley route offers good winter outing

Shorter rides are often the agenda for cyclists during the winter months when days are short, temperatures are cooler, and rain showers threaten.

The following 15-mile route offers variable terrain, roads with light traffic and numerous places to stop for a hot beverage if you are so inclined. This loop provides some quiet, scenic stretches through the farmlands and orchards in the southern end of the Rogue Valley and takes you through the cities of Phoenix and Talent.

After starting at 1,450 feet elevation, you encounter a few gradual rollers, summiting at 1,831 feet elevation at Mile 12. The ride finishes with a three-mile, 3 percent downhill run on smooth pavement.

The "South Valley Orchard Route" begins at The Shoppes at Exit 24, where there is ample parking. As you leave the parking lot, turn right and head west on Fern Valley Road traveling toward the town of Phoenix. Then turn left in front of Ray's Market and travel south on Highway 99. Turn right on First Street and continue to the intersection of First and Colver Road. Turn left.

Once on Colver Road you will be pedaling toward Talent, passing Colver Park on your left where there are restrooms. Continue on Colver Road heading south. After about three miles the road veers towards the east, passing the Phoenix baseball and soccer field complex.

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Just before to crossing the railroad tracks, turn right on North Front Street and follow it into the town of Talent. You will pass the Whistle Stop, a coffee shop in the replica depot building that also sells local artist's products. Continue across East Main and turn left on East Wagner Avenue. Traveling south towards Talent Avenue, you will pass the Talent Post Office and Tark's Market on your right (3.2 miles).

At the corner of Talent Avenue and Wagner Avenue, on your right, you will find another espresso stop, The Downtowne Coffee House. This is a second opportunity for warming cold fingers around a hot cup. If you need a bike repair, turn left and within a block, on your left, is the Flywheel bicycle shop. Proceed south on Talent Avenue, cross Rapp Road, and pass the Talent police station on your right as well as Chuck Roberts Park (five miles) which has restrooms.

Talent Avenue eventually takes you to Highway 99 where you turn right heading toward Ashland. In a short distance, and after looking carefully for oncoming traffic, you can cross the highway and continue south on the Bear Creek Greenway. For safety reasons, I prefer to stay on Highway 99. Either route takes you to the stoplight at the intersection of Highway 99 and South Valley View Road.

Another bike repair opportunity is just south of this intersection on Highway 99 going towards Ashland on the left. Look for Bear Creek Bicycles if you need assistance.

Turn left on South Valley View Road, crossing over Bear Creek and proceed uphill, crossing over I-5.

After crossing I-5 (7.7 miles), turn left on Valley View Road. Stay on Valley View Road for 1.5 miles. Just after a sweeping right hand turn, go straight on Suncrest Road as you start riding north through the pear orchards. Suncrest takes a sharp turn to the west (left), where in a quarter mile you turn right on Royal Crest (11 miles). Stay on Royal Crest for one mile. Turn left on Hughes road and then right on Payne Road. Look off to your right and you will see the beautiful sandstone Payne Cliffs.

Turn left on Fern Valley Road, heading west, and enjoy the nice straight downhill run. Be careful as there is a sharp right turn and then a left turn where you cross Fern Creek, before you flatten out and approach the stoplights at the intersection with North Phoenix Road (14.75 miles). Proceed with caution along this short but busy stretch of Fern Valley Road as it crosses I-5 and takes you back to The Shops at Exit 24.

There are several side routes along the way if you want to add miles, hills or spend more time traveling through the south end of the valley. Have a great ride.

Bicycling enthusiast Bob Korfhage of Phoenix is a former president of Siskiyou Velo bicycle club.