Sometimes all it takes to find a good adventure on two wheels is to just look a little harder.
Many of the best roads on Saturday’s Hell of the North Plains ride were in places I’ve ridden or driven near for many years. But somehow, someway, the routefinding raconteurs at Our Mother the Mountain (OMTM) manage to go deeper into (relatively) local backroads than most of us will ever venture on our own.
Over the course of several years, OMTM has garnered quite a following. Led by a few talented people (mostly local music industry creatives Ron Lewis and Ryan Francesconi), OMTM is an Instagram account full of inspirational imagery, a website with loads of tips and great route reports, and an email list where dozens (hundreds?) of people share tips and info about how to get the most out of unpaved road riding.
This was the third annual Hell of the North Plains (the name is a nod to the famously tough Paris-Roubaix road race). In typical fashion, Lewis spent the weeks leading up to Saturday’s ride by building anticipation with teaser messages and photos from recon rides (all their routes are highly vetted). Even with the build-up, I don’t think anyone came away disappointed. I missed the start in downtown North Plains, but I heard around 70-100 people showed up to tackle the 56-mile, 5,400 feet route on a rainy and foggy Saturday morning.
If you missed it, here’s a look at the roads, the people, and the bikes.
The roads (and trails!)
Ron, Ryan, and the OMTM crew really outdid themselves with the route. Even the paved sections at the start were spectacular. About 30 percent of the mileage was paved, the rest was varying types of dirt roads. We rode through everything: peanut-buttery, pine-needle-infested mud; embedded rock gardens; freshly laid gravel that was loose and sharp; fast and hard-packed dirt; double-track; singletrack; and even a bit of hiking at the summit of Wildcat Mountain. (Please note, this route included a short stretch on Sherman’s Mill Road (off of Bacona Road) that went across private property. Ride organizers received permission from the landowner ahead of time.)
The People and their bikes
One of the coolest things about unpaved riding is the wide variety of bikes and people that it attracts. I saw everything from fatbikes to a singlespeed cyclocross bike. As for riders, there was a very fast race group that went flying off the front and lots of other “crews” that did the ride at their own pace.
If you’re curious, the Hell of the North Plains route is a perfect century ride from north Portland. I rode from home and back afterwards and it was 100 miles on the nose (and 9,100 feet of climbing).
Got questions about the ride, the gear I used, or anything else? Ask me in the comments.
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