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Cycle Oregon goes ‘Gravel’ and heads to eastern Oregon in 2018

Posted by on January 31st, 2018 at 7:36 pm

The Hells Canyon Overlook will be one of many highlights in Cycle Oregon’s 2018 Classic ride.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Like a phoenix from the ashes of forest fires that caused the cancellation of last year’s ride, Cycle Oregon announced their 2018 season to much fanfare in front of hundreds of fans at the Portland Art Museum tonight.

Big crowd at tonight’s kickoff party at the Portland Art Museum seemed eager to get riding after a year off.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Before the meat of the presentation began, Executive Director Steve Schulz addressed the controversy around last year’s abrupt cancellation. Schulz humbly and fully apologized. “We learned we can always make improvements on how we do things and how we say things,” he said.

Then, as he appeared to choke up with emotion, he thanked the Cycle Oregon community for their support. Last year alone, in large part through riders who opted to donate $500 (half) of their entry fee, over $128,000 was donated to the Cycle Oregon Fund. “The money went back to those communities who suffered — not just from Cycle Oregon not being there, but from an entire season of wildfires.” “It reinforced to us,” he continued, “That you care about your fellow riders, you care about this state, you care about the communities, you care that we can continue to explore this state every year from the seat of a bicycle. This is your brand; and this brand is strong.”

With that taken care of, it was time to find out where we’ll be riding this year.

The two biggest reveals were the route of the “Classic” week-long ride and the details of a new ride coming in October.

From September 8th through the 15th, about 2,500 people will form a moving city and traverse a loop starting in Baker City in eastern Oregon. Then from October 5th through 7th they’ll host a base camp for unpaved riding on logging roads through the Tillamook State Forest at their first-ever “Gravel” ride.

We’ve got all the details…

Classic route offers best of eastern Oregon’s nature and culture

Classic ride map.

The 2018 “Classic” route ($999 per rider) will go through Halfway, Wallowa Lake, Elgin, Pendleton, and La Grande before returning to ever-so-charming Baker City. The route will cover similar ground to the 2015 event that had to forego its climactic ascent to Wallowa Lake and reverse course due to a wildfire.

“The route takes riders past stoic peaks, through historic frontier towns, and past wide-open farmland,” says the brochure; but that doesn’t come close to relaying the majesty of this route. Check out our “5 Days in Eastern Oregon” photos and stories for a sampling from the roads, places, and faces of towns like Halfway, Joseph, La Grande, and Baker City.

As a bonus, riders will get a day off in Pendleton when the famous Pendleton Round-Up will be in full swing.

The seven-day event covers 383 miles and 23,600 feet of elevation gain — or 451 miles and 28,800 feet of elevation gain if you take all the options. Among the optional routes are sections of unpaved, gravel roads that will give riders a different perspective on the jaw-dropping vistas and an even greater sense of adventure.


Here’s the day-by-day breakdown…

Day 1: Baker City to Halfway
Miles: 54.5 (57.3 w/ gravel option) | Elevation: 2,881’ (4,742’ w/ gravel option)

Day 2: Halfway to Wallowa Lake
Miles: 78 (83.8 w/ option) | Elevation: 6,682’ (7,412’ w/ option)

Day 3: Wallowa Lake to Elgin
Miles: 60.6 (65 w/ gravel option) | Elevation: 1,859’ (2,603’ w/ gravel option)

Day 4: Elgin to Pendleton
Miles: 75.3 | Elevation: 5,220’

Day 5: Pendleton – Layover Day
Miles: 54.7 | Elevation: 2,300’

Day 6: Pendleton to La Grande
Miles: 56.5 | Elevation: 4,720’

Day 7: La Grande to Baker City
Miles: 58.4 | Elevation: 1,800’

Finally. Cycle Oregon goes ‘Gravel’

Cycle Oregon isn’t only adding unpaved options to their Classic ride, they’ve unveiled a brand new three-day “Gravel” event as well. Yes, America’s best road ride is going off-road.

It’s new!
(Photo: Cycle Oregon)

After years of debate and discussion, Cycle Oregon has finally responded to the growing interest in unpaved riding. The much-anticipated new “Gravel” ride ($265 per person) will be based in the Tillamook State Forest near the small town of Timber, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland. Similar to their Weekender event, Cycle Oregon will set up a base camp and offer selection of supported routes that participants can do each day. After riding, camp will be full of food, live music, beverages, and camaraderie.

“Feel the calm of the forest as you crank through the firs and ferns, spruce and salal,” reads the Gravel brochure. “See the abandoned rails and trestles that will someday be the Salmonberry Trail, connecting the Valley to the Coast. Come out, test your grit and enjoy the challenges and rewards of this first-of-its-kind backwoods biking experience.”

Here are the route details:

If you want more miles, there will be a group ride from Portland to the Gravel base camp. Cycle Oregon will offer a gear drop so riders can pedal the 30 miles without their bags. “We’ll meet you in the beer garden on Friday night,” Schulz said.

But wait, there’s more!

In addition the the Classic and the new Gravel, Cycle Oregon will bring back their one-day women’s ride, Joyride (June 9th, $100 per person) and the Weekender (July 13-15). This year’s Weekender ($225 per adult and $99 per child (age 7-17; kids 6 and under are free)) will be based on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Online registration for all rides starts tomorrow (2/1) at 12:00 pm at

[*Disclaimer: Cycle Oregon is a promotional partner of BikePortland.]

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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  • Middle of the Road Guy February 1, 2018 at 8:04 am

    I’m glad they are looking into gravel. I understand that the pilot effort probably needs to be closer to town but I hope it expands to the wonderful stuff in Eastern Oregon some day.

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  • Patrick February 1, 2018 at 9:41 am

    Why would anyone want to ride those roads in that area is beyond me – I’ve ridden the ones near Timber and highway 6 summit a number of times, but only as part of riding single track MTB trails there, or because the trails were impassable.

    The “gravel” roads are mainly built as logging roads, mainly dirt with gravel on steeper areas or portions with poor drainage. Any bikes that are well suited to such conditions are better off just riding the single track.

    Generally not fun riding 🙁

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 1, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Such a downer Patrick.

      I for one (and I know lots of other people who agree with me) looove riding these roads on drop-bar “road” bikes (singletrack too! I love riding the Stub Stewart MTB trails on my ‘cross bike). There are many unpaved roads out there and conditions vary, but this is Cycle Oregon and you can rest assured they will pick nice ones and will very likely invest time and/or money to make sure the roads they use are in a condition (mostly hard-packed dirt with minimal gravel) suitable for a wide range of riders.

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    • Alan Love February 1, 2018 at 10:44 am

      I completely disagree. I’ve been riding around the Timber area a bunch these last few months. Generally good quality, smooth “Cadillac” gravel, endless variations of loops, almost no traffic, beautiful views, leg busting climbs, flowing chicanes of high speed downhill. Check out OMTM’s Coast Range Rambler route if you have doubts. To each his/her own.

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    • Brian February 1, 2018 at 10:52 am

      Why would anyone want to ride those muddy, rocky, uneven trails when you can ride all day long on nice, smooth pavement? The road is so much better.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy February 1, 2018 at 1:41 pm

        They are dry in the summer.

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    • abomb February 1, 2018 at 11:14 am

      I’ve been thinking the same way as Patrick. I see why people want to get off the busy roads and into nature but there’s nothing like good singletrack. I remember when I use to race and ride off road the gravel road bits were just a necessary evil to get to the single track. Not saying I don’t do it on Parrett Mt or Bald peak while on a road ride but if I’m going to take the time to drive somewhere and get muddy I’d rater it be on single track. Just my worthless opinion.

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    • Jason H February 1, 2018 at 1:01 pm

      Just the opposite, most single tracks are nearly always in “closed loop” trail systems that can be explored out in a day and then just a rehash afterwards. Gravel riding opens up long loop and destination rides between the valley and coast, with many permutations to make the exploring continually interesting. I can ride from out my door in Hillsboro to Tillamook on mostly beautiful, quiet rural and forest roads. Can’t do that on a single track! Plus, MTB trails have evolved along with MTB technology and gotten much more technical. Rigid drop-bar gravel bikes on forest roads feels MUCH more akin to how exploring on my rigid ’91 MB-1 was a quarter century ago and I unapologetically love it.

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      • Patrick February 1, 2018 at 1:53 pm

        Gale’s Creek into Brown’s camp back to Gale’s is an awesome and longer single track that can be done as a full loop.

        “MTB trails have evolved along with MTB technology and gotten much more technical.”

        I generally don’t agree with that, and especially not for the MTB trails by Brown’s Camp, Gale’s Creek and Reehers – they’ve actually gotten less technical over the years as sections have been re-routed and “fixed” up. You can ride a rigid bike on some of the trails with few issues.

        And, if you haven’t you should ride Hagg Lake to Brown’s camp – I haven’t ridden it in years, and only did it during the winter months. But if you like riding the roads out there it’s an interesting ride, quite a bit shorter than you’d think it might be.

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        • I wear many hats February 1, 2018 at 4:26 pm

          I would love to see the OTMT, NWTA, and OTT link up multiple “ride to ride” routes in and out of our local communities. It would take special people, like those in the aforementioned groups, to speak with landowners, specifically timberland owners, to allow recreation in working forests. There is no reason that one couldn’t ride trail from the Thurman Gate in Forest Park all the way to the coast.

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  • Chris February 1, 2018 at 9:56 am

    I can’t yet forgive the handling of last years cancellation. I hope they look into the fabulous product known as ‘insurance’ for this and future events. The small cost increment would probably have saved more than it cost, once soft costs, like brand damage is accounted for.

    That’s all this post is; a still-open wound called brand damage.

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    • Chris I February 1, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Are they sold out yet?

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    • abomb February 1, 2018 at 11:03 am

      They did have an insurance option last year but only 4% of people took advantage of it. I didn’t so I got burned. If I sign up again I’m getting the insurance.

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  • Dave February 1, 2018 at 10:00 am

    I haven’t been involved with CO since years ago when I worked at Bike Gallery but would like to say this: The Cycle Oregon organization owes NOBODY ANY APOLOGY.
    There are forces of nature that bring us to heel and some things just have to be accepted. I’d tell the whiners to try Ride Around WA instead, but then I might have to ride with them.

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  • Rain Panther February 1, 2018 at 10:01 am

    MEDUIM? Oh, come on you guys!

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  • Jon February 1, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    I think the gravel riding around Timber is very good and fun. But I also think they are doing that gravel ride far too late in the season for a coast range ride. Odds are very good that there will be rain. Summer is absolutely fantastic in the coast range. October is at best a 50/50 proposition for good weather. I enjoy single track riding more than gravel but I enjoy gravel over pure road just because of the lack of traffic.

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    • BradWagon February 1, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      Tell that to the dozens (maybe a hundred even?) folks that just did 55 miles of gravel/trailblazing out that way in mid January. Suppose it’s preference but I tend to see many off-pavement folks enjoy the adventure that foul weather brings… and lately even October has been very mild. Sunshine is for road riding or single track, save the gravel for when it’s already poor conditions I say.

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  • BTB February 2, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Cycle Oregon is the best and most well organized ride in the U.S. With the reversal of the 2015 ride due to wildfires, I was grateful they offered the option of buying insurance for the 2017 Classic. Allianz paid me for the ride and for separate insurance I bought when I booked round trip airfare. If you are flying, I recommend buying both. Cycle Oregon is a community of riders, not a corporate entity that operates in its own self interest. It serves us, not the other way around. Nobody does it better, and I can’t wait until September rolls around!

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