Oregon’s gravel riding season starts this weekend

Posted by on April 4th, 2019 at 1:18 pm

The Dalles will host the inaugural event of the 2019 season with the Gorge Gravel Grinder on Sunday.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

2019 is going to be a big year for gravel. And it starts in The Dalles this weekend.

Sponsored by:

These companies make our gravel coverage possible.

With promoters stepping up to meet demands of riders who increasingly want to leave cars and pavement behind, our calendar has filled up quite nicely with events that focus on unpaved roads.

Here’s a quick rundown of some local weekday rides and a few of the larger events happening in Portland and around the state…

Small Weeknight Rides

Wild West Gravel Ride Series – Hosted by our friends at Western Bike Works, this weeknight series happens every Wednesday at 6:00 pm. Meet at the shop on NW 17th and Lovejoy (1015 NW 17th) and roll up into Forest Park to get your local gravel fix.

OMTM’s East Buttes – Our Mother the Mountain (OMTM) just wrapped up their winter Snax Trax series today. After a week off they’ll fire up the spring season with the weekly East Buttes ride. Led by the experienced unpaved legend Ryan Francesconi, these rides tackle a different route around, over, and through the hills of southeast Portland and Gresham. Ride happens Thursdays at 6:00pm and meets at Gates Park (SE 136th and Holgate). For more on OMTM, check out their website.

Big Rides and Races

Gorge Gravel Grinder (4/7) – This much-anticipated ride is technically sold out; but you might be able to score an open registration slot by checking the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association email list.

Yamhill Gravel Fondo (4/20) – I’m looking forward to this one, as it’s a new entry on the calendar and the route goes through some beautiful Oregon Country that’s relatively close to home.

Dark Larch V3 (4/21) – This is an unsanctioned, self-supported OMTM ride that will explore the lush, secret netherworlds around Larch Mountain in east Multnonmah County. And yes, this is Easter Sunday.

Cascade Gravel Grinder (4/26) – Billed as a three-day omnium, this unique format blends recreation and competition in a choose-your-own adventure format. You can race or ride and choose any or all of the routes over three days.

Oregon Coast Gravel Epic (5/4) – The opening salvo of the Oregon Triple Crown, a three ride/race series that also includes the Sasquatch Duro (5/18) and the Oregon Gran Fondo (6/1). I’m doing all three of the events this year because I love visiting the small towns that host them: Waldport, Oakridge, and Cottage Grove respectively. It’s also a goal to ride well at all three since they present such varied and challenging routes. OTC, along with series sponsors Co-Motion Cycles and Rolf Prima Wheels is also a BikePortland sponsor so I’ll be riding Co-Motion’s newly redesign Klatch gravel bike!


A scene from last year’s Oregon Coast Gravel Epic.

Oregon Emerald Outback (5/4) – Another unsanctioned adventure that is not for the faint of heart. Check the official website for details on the 600-mile route.

Gravel (5/17) – Cycle Oregon’s contribution to the gravel revolution is based in Dufur this year. It’ll be three days and two nights of riding, eating, and camping.

Skull 120/60/30 (6/15) – After I did this last year it became an instant Father’s Day tradition. I’m going back to Burns this year and can only hope it’s as good as it was the first time.

Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder (6/19 – 6/23) – This is a new format: Five days and 400 miles of great riding in a loop west of Bend. You’ll ride and camp at pre-determined spots. Looks awesome!

Ochoco Gravel Roubaix (8/24) – Hosted by the excellent Good Bike Co. in Prineville, you should seriously consider putting this one on your list. In just a few years it has become a classic and attracts riders (and sponsors) from across the country.

Check out the gravel category on the BikePortland calendar for all the listings.

I hope this gets you excited about all the great gravel rides in the region. Next up I’ll share some of the best (relatively) local areas to find your unpaved paradise. Stay tuned.

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

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BradWagonAlex ReedinAlan LoveEric A.Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) Recent comment authors
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Don Arambula
Don Arambula

Appears the Gorge Gravel Grinder is sold out. No?

Donald Arambula
Donald Arambula

Oops. To excited to ride this. Clicked before reading.

Middle of The Road Guy
Middle of The Road Guy


if you are attending the CO Gravel ride I’ll be the guy pouring Old Fashioneds and Manhattans at his tent. Swing by for a drink!

Eric A.
Eric A.

Maybe it is just me….but when I rode my CX bike on a gravel trail, it was miserable. Harsh ride, difficult to maintain balance and sucked all my energy. Gravel (crushed rock) was maybe an inch thick or so. Are the “gravel” roads you mention actually just dirt roads with some small patches of gravel here and there?

Alan Love
Alan Love

“Gravel” comes in many flavors, from Luxury Gravel like you would find on non-paved multi-user paths, to gnarly chunky broken cinder block gravel. The former can be as or more comfortable than pavement, and the latter an unbearable torture-fest. Unmaintained roads can vary from one end of the extreme to the other within a few hundred yards, and can change in a day. Logging companies will lay down new (crappy) gravel as they see fit to get their trucks moving, as is their right. Fitting the widest tires you can adds some cushiness, and is often more efficient too. For some rides, a hardtail or rigid mountain bike is more appropriate. I think you may have found one of the less desirable spots on your outing, but the areas surrounding Portland have some amazing unpaved routes with little to no car traffic, so an occasional bit of chunder will usually be outweighed by tons of great stuff. Check out omtm.cc to get some great routes that are quite enjoyable even on skinnier CX bikes. They list recommended minimum tire widths, so you can choose a route that suits your goals.

Alex Reedin
Alex Reedin

I share your preference towards dirt and against gravel. Google Maps satellite view is not great, but in my experience the only way to get an idea of dirt/gravel. Brown = probably dirt, Grey = probably gravel. The unpaved roads in the Chehalem mountains (e.g. Holly Hill rd. near Laurel) are all smooth, luscious dirt if you want to get a nice taste nearby .


That’s kind of the point, never know what exactly your gonna get so racing is as much equipment, bike handling, and personal ability than it is pack riding like in road racing. This does make it more unpleasant and challenging physically but in race experience is open more enjoyable due to just general group atmosphere. Typically the front ends of races will attack and ride the gravel sections the hardest because of this.