Oakridge might be one of the premiere mountain biking destinations in the country; but did you know that there’s also lots of fun to be had on a road bike in that neck of the woods?
On Saturday, I joined about 100 other lucky riders for the first-ever Tour of Aufderheide, an event that took full advantage of one of the most spectacular roads in Oregon – Aufderheide Forest Drive.
Tour of Auderheide is the work of Eugene-based event promoter and owner of dark30 Sports, Steve Cash. After 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Cash’s new focus is on using bicycle events to give an economic energy boost to small Oregon towns. “This is about economic development in these small towns,” he shared with me after Saturday’s ride which started and ended at the quaint Westfir Lodge, “They have great attributes for cycling and a lot of potential to bring cyclists in.”
Westfir (population 253) is just a few miles outside of Oakridge, and while many readers of this site might know it simply as the gateway to the Alpine Trail (a very popular mountain bike route), it’s also the southernmost point on the West Cascades National Scenic Byway. While byways (not be be confused with scenic bikeways) were created for driving on, this one happens to be spectacular for cycling. The Aufderheide Forest Drive portion of the route (named after former US Forest Service Supervisor Robert Aufderheide) is especially memorable.
On Saturday, we rode about 48 miles north on the byway, then turned around and headed back to Westfir. Our route followed the North Fork of the Willamette River, under a canopy of trees and timber the entire time. There’s a fair bit of climbing (5,800 feet elevation for our 96-mile route), but if you ever overheat, you can take your pick of perfect swimming holes bubbling mere feet from the road.
A mix of riders showed up to tackle the 10, 40, 64, or 100-mile route options. Portlander Brian Zeck showed up on his tandem with his 10-year-old daughter Sam on the back. Jeff Althouse, the owner of Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, put in his miles and then made it back to the lodge to serve the free beer each rider got at the finish (thanks Jeff!). Some riders were doing the event for placings (and glory), while those of us toward the back were just soaking in the scenery and forest solitude.
Speaking of scenery, check out a few more shots from the ride…
Rumor has it that the route we rode Saturday will be a future State Scenic Bikeway, which would solidify its place as one of Oregon’s best roads to ride on. But don’t wait for an official decree. Next time you roll through Oakridge, pack your road bike, stop in at the Westfir Lodge for a meal and some hospitality, and then enjoy this excellent ride.
Special thanks to our esteemed advertiser Western Bike Works (NW 17th & Lovejoy) for their support of this ride (and more, stay tuned!). If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out their monthly shop rides. Everyone’s welcome. See their event calendar for details.