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Meet Portland’s adventure riding ‘route master’ Ryan Francesconi

Posted by on April 16th, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Ryan Francesconi at the 2018 Hell of the North Plains ride.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

What makes a great cycling city?

We often think of bike-friendly policies and politicians, or bikeway miles and ridership statistics. But if you ask me, the most important part of what makes a place great for cycling is the people who live in it. Here in Portland, we’re lucky so many smart, dedicated, selfless, and inspiring bicycle lovers call this place home. Why? Because most of them share their passions with the rest of us.

Ryan Francesconi is one of the people I’m grateful for. He’s one of the leaders behind the local gravel riding revolution. He’s the chief moderator of the “Unpaved” Google Group and he (along with his friend Ron Lewis) is one of the main leaders and organizers behind the legendary Our Mother the Mountain (OMTM) rides. Beyond that, he’s always quick to share his vast knowledge of routes and riding tips with everyone who asks (we shared his winter riding tips in 2017).

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And when I say routes, I don’t just mean he knows how to get from point-A to point-B. Ryan knows about roads and tiny trails in areas very few people ever go. He’s ridden unpaved roads up, over, and around seemingly every range of mountains in the region. I often marvel at his collection of routes and the amount of riding he does to keep them updated.

Thankfully, another one of Portland’s amazing, bike-inspired residents Dustin Klein, has captured Ryan’s route insights in a way that more people can appreciate (Dustin is a talented artist, filmmaker, rider, and creator that you need to follow).

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The latest edition of Dustin’s excellent YouTube channel goes behind the scenes to explain how Ryan builds such fun and interesting routes (watch it above). When he’s not cycling or dreaming about his next adventure, Ryan is a multi-talented musician.

Ryan’s creativity comes through in his routes. Here’s one of my favorite parts of Dustin’s interview:

“The way I think about route making is essentially creating a piece of art that anyone who creates any sort of time-based art — film, music — would relate to. You’re creating a scene for somebody to journey through. There’s a certain amount of tension, reveal, flow and ebb, reward, suffering. You are in control of those factors. I like to think of the route as the composition… Bikes are the instruments we’re using. They’re something you play.”

Ryan shares much more about how he creates routes in the video.

If you’re looking for unpaved inspiration, check out his Instagram feed @wherethepavementends and peruse his amazing collection of routes via his Ride With GPS Ambassador page.

Ryan (and friend Ron Lewis on the left) emerge from fog onto Bacona Road in Washington County.

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

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6 Comments
  • Avatar
    dwk April 16, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    I live vicariously through OMTM..
    Thanks for highlighting them, their routes and the riding spirit they have is the best in the area.

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    Alan Love April 16, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Given the top picture of Ryan, a better first line for the article would have been “What makes a great cycling city and has two thumbs? THIS GUY.”

    But seriously, if you have the legs and a whole day and feel the need to experience something amazing, go to omtm.cc and put the Falls Creek Hinterland route on your GPS and ride it. Views, caves, trails, waterfalls, haunted forests.

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    Scott Kocher April 16, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    86 miles, 8am rollout they said. About 3pm Ryan starts asking around to make sure everyone has lights. Lights? I’m definitely doing that again.

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    I wear many hats April 17, 2019 at 9:16 am

    adventure riding at its best!

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    Middle of The Road Guy April 17, 2019 at 10:26 am

    The dude is a true gem for what he does.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

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    Sukho April 19, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    What Ryan and OMTM does is unprecedented IMO, and he’s inspiring more folks than he knows about. He’s laying the groundwork for so much bikey goodness. On top of that, just a great person to know.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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