Order Rev Nat's Cider Today

Cycle Oregon’s ‘Gravel’ goes east into wide open Wasco County

Posted by on May 21st, 2019 at 7:24 am

Once home to the Molalla Tribe before white immigrants forced them out, this area east of Dufur is now dotted by large farms and ranches — and perfectly groomed gravel roads. This view is from Roberts Market Road looking northwest toward the Columbia Hills that rise above the Columbia River in Washington.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Dufur City Park was our host.

With its second year in the books, it feels like the Gravel event has found a home with Cycle Oregon. After three decades of their signature, 7-day “Classic” event, the nonprofit has found a sweet spot around one of cycling biggest trends: riding unpaved backroads, a.k.a. gravel grinding.

The tiny eastern Oregon town of Dufur (est. 1893, pop. 604) was home base for two full days of riding. The routes traversed land where the Molalla Tribe lived for generations before being banished to a reservation by the U.S. government in 1851. Today the land around Dufur is wide open country dotted by farms that raise livestock, wheat, and other crops.

After riding the Sasquatch Duro in Oakridge on Saturday, I opted to come home via Dufur so I could check out day two of the Gravel event. I showed up Saturday night just when the excellent band Greater Kind (brought in from Portland) fired up their instruments.

The vibe was classic Cycle Oregon, only on a much smaller, more intimate scale. The week-long ride is like a small city with about 2,500 people buzzing around in every direction. You could know someone on that ride and not see them for the entire week. But at Gravel, the crowd is much smaller. You could almost see everyone with a quick glance around.

When I got there, the free beer and wine were flowing and a big crowd had formed around the “Whiskey Wagon,” a booze cart wheeled in from north Portland. This mobile bar was serving two very popular items: distilled beverages and a live feed of the Portland Trail Blazers playoff game.

Advertisement

Sponsored by:

These companies make our gravel coverage possible.

While tempted to party all night, tired legs from day one (everyone talked about how tough it was) encouraged most campers to their tents at a sensible hour. There was another big day of riding just a few hours away.

The land between Highway 197 and the Deschutes River was made for cycling on. The roads, paved or unpaved, follow the organic undulations of the round hills and valleys. And the views go for miles. When it comes to the gravel rating, this area falls squarely into the luxury category. But on Sunday, a smattering of rain showers downgraded that rating — or upgraded it if you like getting dirty.

About half way through the 63-mile long course, Roberts Market Road turned into a mix of wet sand and slick peanut-butter mud. It lasted for only a mile or two, just long enough to completely cover the bottom half of bodies and bikes (unless you had fenders of course). But no one was looking down because the sun eventually punched through the clouds and the views were magnificent. Crop colors popped as the wide and empty roads unfolded in front of us.


This rider said he came to Gravel because he was just curious what it would be like. He had this old Surly he’d bought for commuting and figured it’d work out. He was having a great time!

It was a great day in the saddle. With their gentle grades, rewarding vistas, and nearly carfree solitude, the roads around Dufur offer quintessential Oregon conditions, whether you’re a gravel connoisseur or just trying it for the first time. And many Gravel participants were doing just that. Several people I talked to were yet to buy a “gravel bike”, they simply grabbed something with tough tires and decided to see what all the fuss was about. I’m pretty sure they’re hooked.

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

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.

BikePortland needs your support.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

53
Leave a Reply

avatar
7 Comment threads
46 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
22 Comment authors
GlowBoyJason HJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)Mike QuigleyCharley Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Jude
Guest
Jude

Are road bike tires a good choice for this type of riding, or were people going with a wider mountain bike tire?

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

Cycling journalist Caley Fretz just wrote a pretty good article on basic rules of thumb for selecting tires depending on pavement/dirt ratio, rider comfort and toughness of the off-road terrain.

https://cyclingtips.com/2019/05/the-basics-of-gravel-racing-choosing-the-right-tires/

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

The CyclingTips tire-width “advice” referenced by Jason H is useful only if you’re one of the folks (and I know from past experience on gravel rides there are many) who treat a ride like this as a race.

To his credit he at least acknowledges that the large number of people who ride gravel for the fun of the ride exist, but then he goes on to offer absolutely no advice on tire-width selection for those people.

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

In the video, Caley specifically says he did the Wild Horse Gravel ride at the back at a leisurely pace, and the notes do give specific advice on how to adjust the “formula” for things like intended speed and experience on loose terrain(he suggests an extra 2-3mm for novice or easier going riders). Not to mention his coinage of gravel events as “mullet rides – business at the front, party at the back” is great and really captures that UNLIKE serious roadie event, there is room at these events for a large range of participant types. You could boil the article down to these two paragraphs and get 90% of the gist of it

Riders with below-average off-road handling skills (this is most pure roadies, or anyone who hasn’t spent much time on loose surfaces) may want to increase tire size by 2-3mm. So if an event has a 50% pavement/dirt split, you’re looking at a 36mm-38mm tire, instead of one in the 32-36mm range…

…The third assumption is that you’re trying to go as fast as you can. But a lot of these gravel events are mullet races — business at the front, party at the back. If you’re in the long, flowing locks of the party mullet, go a bit bigger with your tires. You’ll be more comfortable, less likely to flat, and will therefore have more fun.

This generally lines up with my own experience riding 50/50 getting to and from nearby farm and rural hills gravel roads from downtown Hillsboro and not being either super quick or confident. 38mm Gravel King SKs setup tubeless have served me well and are neither sketchy off road or too slow on road. I take a mini pump always and find adjusting pressure for surface during the ride can make a bigger difference than actual width.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Extra 2-3mm. Hahahaha.

My minimum is 50mm (at 80 psi), even on pavement. Depending on the gravel, anywhere from 50-56mm for me.

Jon
Guest
Jon

My wife has done a lot of cyclocross in the past but chose to ride her 29er mountain bike since she was not in a hurry. The 29×2.2 tires and front suspension was very comfortable. She really enjoyed the ride.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Not too hard to find tires in the 2″ range that are plenty fast for a ride like this. Not to mention less puncture-prone on the rougher gravel, and also more comfort. I can actually do a 50 mile gravel ride in less time on 50mm (2″ tires) than on 32mm tires, because on the latter I’m feeling beat-up by the end, and that makes me slower.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Panaracer Gravel Kings!

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Really wish I could have made it to this one. I’ve done a fair bit of riding out in Wasco County, including some of the same roads. Beautiful country, and one of my favorite places to ride. I love me them big rolling hills.

And pro tip for anyone doing solo or small-group rides out there: eventually you WILL get chased by a dog or two. Has happened to me several times. Be prepared, but also know that Wasco has a leash law and you can report the miscreant owner. On the only occasion I bothered reporting, I had a showdown with a pit bull. By some miracle I met upon a Sheriff’s deputy a few minutes later, and it was edifying to see that (as you might not always expect in a rural county) he took my report quite seriously.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

A lot more people attended than I thought would – but it never felt crowded. I’d certainly do that event again. CO always has those “little details” figured out for just about everything – an incredbly well run enterprise. And you always meet some interesting folks.

Bradley Hawkins
Guest
Bradley Hawkins

I’m curious to know why every ride report in Portland is not also prefaced with white colonizing back story. Might add important context to Ladd’s Circle or protected bike lane advocacy.

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

Can’t tell if that is sarcasm or not.

If it isn’t…I would say maybe some people just want to ride their bikes for fun and don’t really care.

BradWagon
Subscriber

Assuming you are from Portland shouldn’t you already be educated about the history of where you live? It’s reasonable to include some additional background like this when profiling an area many people may not know much about.

was carless
Guest
was carless

I think its great to learn a little bit of the history of the area you visit. Stop projecting FUD, please.

Just relax and enjoy the post.

Amy Hunter
Guest
Amy Hunter

The fun band in your photos is greaterkind (https://www.facebook.com/greaterkind/) out of Portland! And yes- they were awesome!

chris
Guest
chris

Jude
Are road bike tires a good choice for this type of riding, or were people going with a wider mountain bike tire?Recommended 0

I’ve been on so many chundery fire roads full of babyheads that I’d always go with an XC hardtail as my gravel bike over a designated “gravel bike”. “Gravel” isn’t all pea gravel.

Glenn II
Guest
Glenn II

Wow, somehow I’ve managed never to see that country in springtime. It comes in colors everywhere. It’s like a rainbow. By summer everything’s either cultivated and therefore green, or else it’s tan.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Goatheads (puncturevine) are becoming more common along these roads. Google the plant and watch out for them. They spread out along road edges. I’ve even noticed a few along some roads in the Willamette Valley. Used to see them only in far eastern parts of the state.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

In my experience you can encounter goat heads anywhere in Oregon east of the Cascades and below 2000-3000′. Admittedly I’ve never seen them on the westside though.