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'Bullshit 100' and the allure of off-pavement road riding - UPDATED

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 20th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

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The beautiful roads near North Plains
were a cakewalk compared to what was to come.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Riding "road" bikes on gravel and dirt roads is experiencing a major boom in popularity here in Oregon. On Sunday, I joined a dozen other intrepid riders for the "Women's Bullshit 100" ride to found out why.

The BS 100 is one of a growing number of events on the annual calendar that lives in a hybrid space between official event and just a bunch of friends getting together for a ride. Thanks to a region full of bike adventure lovers, these type of rides are growing like weeds. A pioneer in this style is the Ronde PDX, an unsanctioned ride through Portland's West Hills that attracts thousands of eager participants each year. Another prime example is VeloDirt, whose founder Donnie Kolb has become something of a legend for his epic annual events such as The Dalles Mountain 60 and the Oregon Stampede.

Speaking of Kolb, he was one of the dozen folks — five women and seven men — who turned up in the parking lot of New Seasons Market at Orenco Station in Hillsboro on Sunday morning for the BS 100.

I had no idea what to expect out of this ride. The name itself gave me pause. Was the entire thing a joke? After all, our local bike riding and racing scene is known to be full of creative pranksters. Thankfully, it was real. All 71 miles and 5,600 feet of elevation gain of it. Even though most of the route was bullshit (I'll explain later), Gould and her riding buddies led an unforgettable ride.

From Orenco Station we made our way northwest to Banks where we hopped on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. "This is the last stop for water," I heard someone say at the trailhead. Over at the water station was a big pack of Reeses peanut butter cups with an orange ribbon tied around it. A ride fairy had placed them there just for us. This was the first of several pleasant surprises of support we'd find throughout the day.

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Matt D'Elia and Sarah Tisdale at the old Dairy Creek General Store.
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Our fearless leader Courtney Gould.
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Harth Huffman's Rivendell Long and Low was by far the most stout bike on our ride.

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Treats at the Banks-Vernonia trailhead in Banks.
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Was nice to see the new Scenic Bikeway signs on the Banks-Vernonia Trail.
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About six miles up the Banks-Vernonia we hung a right at Bacona Road. Then the fun began. The next 32 miles (or so) were all on dirt and gravel roads. We rode northeast (in the direction of St. Helens) on rural farming and logging roads with names like Hershey, Jeppeson, Pisgah, and Gunners Lakes. I only know those names because of the map downloaded into my GPS unit (thanks Portland Bicycle Studio!). Due to a complete absence of signage or civilization of any kind we had no idea what roads we were actually riding on.

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Shetha Nolke powering up NW Bacona Rd.
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Harth Huffman modeling some of his Wabi Woolens.
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Oregon is beautiful isn't it?
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Regroup after a tough climb.
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Chris and Shetha Nolke somewhere out there.

No one on the ride, except for Gould and her friends who helped her scout the route, had ever ridden these roads. And that's the appeal. Unknowns. Adventure. Exploration. Possibilities. To someone who loves to ride, there's nothing like discovering new roads — especially when they take you to such amazing places.

The riding was excellent, or terrible, depending on your appreciation for riding (relatively) skinny-tired bikes over dirt, rocks, bumps, and loose gravel. There was a mix of tough climbs (much of them over 10%, with a few pitches nearly 20%!), exhilarating descents, and windy carving through shaded timber forests. Along the way we were treated to expansive views, a few small lakes, and like I mentioned above, some nice surprises from our ride leaders.

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Endurance racing veteran Joe Partridge leads the group.
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At one stop along the route, a friend of Gould's, Jen Leonard was waiting for us. She'd driven to Banks and got a head-start so she could serve up fresh bacon at about the half-way point. Then, at about mile 50-something (I think), we found a stash of eight gallons of water right when many of us were running low. But the best treat of the day came just a few miles from the end — "dairy treats" on NW Dairy Creek Road (by the old general store). Nothing like a mouthful of sweet creamy caramel after a tough day in the saddle.

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Donnie Kolb of VeloDirt would later refer to this as "The best ride ever!"
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An example of the many different types of terrain we encountered.
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Double-track delight.
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Kolben Preble (L) and Joe Partridge working on two of many flats the group had.
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You can't get to places like this if you only ride on pavement.
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A frenzy at the water stop.
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There were some screaming descents!
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Intersection of Dairy Creek and Murphy Roads after the best descent of the day.
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Treats!

We all made it back to the New Seasons parking lot by about 5:00 pm and it was time for some proper refreshments.

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When I asked Gould why she planned this route, her answer was simple: "Because I saw all these cool roads on a map." That reminded me of the famous quote from mountaineering legend George Mallory. When asked why he climbed Mt. Everest, he said, "Because it's there."

Getting off the pavement is about opening up more places to ride. Doing it on road or cyclocross bikes means you can cover a lot of ground. I'm starting to think that gravel roads are to road biking what singletrack is to mountain biking.

What about the bullshit? Where did that come from? Gould said she and her Squadra riding mates had gotten into randoneurring and had planned out a series of 100-plus mile routes. In randoneurring, the 124 mile (or so) distance is called a "brevet". So brevet series was shortened to "BS". They also found that many of the far-flung, off-the-beaten-path roads they're attracted to tend to turn into gravel or other forms of disrepair. "The roads would all turn into bullshit," Gould explained.

After one of the best rides I've had in years, I'd put up with more of Gould's bullshit anytime.

UPDATE:
Several people have asked about what types of bikes were on the ride and the nature of the terrain. The dirt roads came in every imaginable form on this ride. There was loose gravel, hard-packed gravel, lots of washboarded bumpy sections, sections with larger rocks embedded in the ground, and so on and so forth. There were a lot of flats and a wide range of speeds on the downhill sections. From a bike standpoint, most people had cyclocross bikes with disc, cantilever, or V-brakes. My Cielo/Chris Kingwas the only bike with traditional, road caliper style brakes. I ran 32c tires and didn't have any flats. I have to say, my bike handled everything I threw at it on this ride; I bombed down the descents full-tilt, I climbed some very steep and loose roads, and I stayed in the fast paceline on the paved roads down in the valley. My Cielo continues to impress me more every time I get on it!

Below are a few of the bikes on the ride:

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Harth's Rivendell was the biggest bike in the group. It had MTB-sized tires but it has the geometry and look of a road bike.
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Shetha's Sweetpea is a standard cyclocross bike set up for racing.
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Donnie's DeSalvo was custom made for adventure road riding.
My Cielo. The bike that has re-kindled my riding romance this summer. Fun and well-mannered in both dirt/rocks and on paved roads.

— Special thanks goes to Molly and Joe at Portland Bicycle Studio for getting me all set up with Garmin GPS unit for this ride. Not knowing what to expect out there, it gave me a lot of confidence knowing I could track the route as I rode along.

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Comments
  • Cary August 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    heck of an accomplishment

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michael Wolfe August 20, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    "In randoneurring, the 100 mile distance is called a brevet."

    Close, but not quite. The shortest brevet in the series is actually 200k (about 125 miles.) "Brevet" is "certificate" in French, and the word refers to the fact that people who successfully complete the ride get their accomplishment recorded and certified by the Audax Club Parisien.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Lynne August 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    clarification - the minimum distance for a Randonneuring Brevet is 200km/124.3 mi

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Donald Newlands August 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Sounds like a great ride! Can you post the track file from your shiny new GPS or link us to the route?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Dimitrios August 20, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3102331

      You can link up with the crown-zellerbach trail easily using Pisgah Lookout road too. The roads can be very steep, but nothing is that high in the Tualatins. If you decide to do some exploring, beware of the roads without names on the map. They may no longer exist as this region is actively logged.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Carey August 21, 2013 at 11:09 am

        can you make this route "public?" Thanks.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Dimitrios August 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm

          The user who published the route made it private after I posted the link to it. I just googled "Bullshit 100 ridewithgps" to find the route. This is a great way to find routes for unpublished mountain bike trails as well. People love to record and share...except in this case :)

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Alex Reed December 3, 2013 at 6:49 am

            I am a little bit sad that this went private. What harm would there be in sharing? I would love to do this ride myself or something similar. I guess I'll have to explore... except I'll share what I find! On roads as quiet as these, I think it would be fun to see other cyclists out there rather than annoying!

            Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Taras August 20, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Would be cool to have bikeportland annouce rides like this before they happen. Where is this stuff generally announced?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Hi Taras,

      I wish we had a better event announcement system. There are so many events we can't put all of them on Front Page or even Page Two. Right now the best thing to do is follow us on Twitter @bikeportland. I linked to it last week.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Zaphod August 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    awesome!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Suburban August 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    This ride would be lovely, epic and special without the gender over-lay. The roads don't care about your identity, pride, vanities or insecurities..lets hop over that barrier together! yes! http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3102495

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • matt f August 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      what are you talking about?

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Schrauf August 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

        Did you see the ride flyer? It is advertised as a women-only event. I'm still confused why there were more men than women per Jonathan's account. Maybe it's an inside joke, a play on the overuse of "man" being used to refer to "people" in general, or simply BS.

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  • Joe Partridge August 20, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks to Courtney Gould and friends for putting together an amazing route.

    Cycling events can sometimes feel a bit "brodeo"; this ride lacked that aspect while still being interesting and challenging. I really liked the theme and feel of the event and assume it's a play on the "Gentleman's Ride" hosted by a certain clothing company.

    I'm happy to say that I was "woman enough" to ride the entire thing!

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • gabriel August 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I would have expected an editor/publisher to use the term "stoutest" rather than "most stout".

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Harth Huffman August 20, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I want to thank Courtney again for all her efforts to put this together. I truly felt like I was invited to a party she hosted with a lot of help from her friends. While I thought there would be more people there, it turned out to be a fun group and I loved that we stayed together and made it a true group ride. Thanks Courtney, for a great day on a bike. What a way to close out the summer!

    I'll add that I'm with Joe - this ride had a feminine touch that made it special but still tough as hell, and I'm stoked I was up to the task (barely).

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Matt D'Elia August 21, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Also want to thank Courtney for putting this together! Traci and I had a great time. We rolled on 28c Conti 4 Seasons and while we only got one flat between the two of us (I tagged a hole with the rear wheel ), I think having a larger tire would have made the ride a bit more enjoyable as there were a lot of fun twisty roads that we both felt we had to be just a bit more cautious on. Best day on the bike ever! :)

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Jim F. August 21, 2013 at 9:04 am

    LOVE gravel road riding. I enjoy it more than any other form of cycling. Thank goodness we have VeloDirt here to plan, map and organize so many fine rides. The Oregon Stampede is the greatest day of cycling you will ever do.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Mike August 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Jonathan, can you make your ridewithgps route public?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BurleyR15 August 21, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Jonathan,

    Glad you got a local goody of a bike! I hope it serves you well!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Alane August 21, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    Sounds like a really fun ride. Here in the midwest we are organizing more and more "gravel grinders". Great alternative to on the road!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Barbara Kilts November 24, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Great fun! Did a little "rough stuff" (as the Brits like to call it) back in Montana, first on my Schwinn Varsity ;-)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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