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Cycle Oregon cancels all 2020 events, furloughs staff amid virus concerns

Posted by on May 5th, 2020 at 3:15 pm

“We’re facing challenges unlike any we’ve ever felt before.”
— Steve Schulz, Cycle Oregon executive director

Photo: Cycle Oregon riders near Farewell Bend State Park in 2015. (J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you were holding out hope that Cycle Oregon would somehow be the savior of your 2020 riding season, I have some bad news.


Today the nonprofit announced that all four of their events have been shelved, “Due to ongoing uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We did not come to this decision easily or lightly,” said Executive Director Steve Schulz in a statement. “We know the widespread impact and ripple effect these cancellations have: on event participants; on the Oregon communities who receive an economic boost for helping us execute our events; on the vendors who support our rides by providing food, drinks, showers, mechanical support and more; and, of course, on Cycle Oregon itself.”

Their Gravel event was slated for May 15-17th and was postponed to October. Now that and their three other events, the Classic, Joyride and Weekender, won’t happen at all this year.

Adding to health concerns is that many of the small rural towns Cycle Oregon ventures into are relatively virus-free and have very limited medical response capacity.

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Riders on the 2019 Gravel ride in wide-open Wasco County.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

In their statement today Cycle Oregon said their decision was also a result of cost savings. Their events require vendor contracts with nonrefundable deposits that must be paid well in advance of any ride, not to mention staffing costs and other expenses. The organization has already had to furlough staff to 60% time and will move out of their north Portland office in July as all employees now work remotely.

Cycle Oregon received a federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, which will allow them to operate through June and process all the details associated with these cancellations. At that time, the focus of the organization will turn to how they can carry Cycle Oregon into 2021 and beyond.

“We are a nonprofit organization that relies solely on the income from these events to fulfill our mission,” said Schulz. “We’re facing challenges unlike any we’ve ever felt before, and we are doing our best to preserve our organization.”

Cycle Oregon event is much more than just a ride, it’s a close-knit, mobile city of around 3,000 riders, volunteers, staff, and vendors. Many aspects of the event will have to be reconsidered even after things get back to normal — or if normal ever returns.

If you’re one of the 1,600 people who’ve already registered, Cycle Oregon will refund 70% of entry fees (and 100% of any “add-on” purchases like jerseys or other merchandise/services). “This refund will allow us to pay all the expenses incurred to date, while also returning as much money to registered riders as possible,” said Board President Chad Davis.

If you were looking forward to a week exploring the great eastern Oregon towns of Fossil, Dayville, Mitchell on the Classic ride; or exploring unpaved roads of Tygh Valley on Gravel, you’ll be happy to know the same events and routes will be on deck for 2021 that were planned for 2020.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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GlowBoyToddMiddle of the Road GuyMike Quigleydwk Recent comment authors
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Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

Very sad news. It’s such a good event and incredibly well run.

Toby Keith
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Toby Keith

It’s the right call. Those small communities can’t afford to have hundreds of COVID sprayers pedaling though.

Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

I wonder how much longer Cycle Oregon will go on after stopping by one of their camps last year to visit with a couple friends who were participating. Nobody appeared to be having a good time. Everybody was grumpy. The friends said never again would they do it.

Pat Lowell
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Pat Lowell

What were your friends unhappy about? Just curious as I would love to do Cycle Oregon someday but am wary about camping with that big of a crowd (even pre-COVID!).

dwk
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dwk

There are 2000 people in a Cycle Oregon camp. I am sure you spoke to all….
Everyone their hated it. That is why 2000 people sign up every year.
Because they like being grumpy.
Someone told me that on Bike Portland, has to be true.

Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

It was the constant crowds. And long days in the saddle to get to the next camp. They could never really enjoy riding their bikes.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

Quite an extrapolation to wonder about CO’s viability based on a group of friends who weren’t enjoying riding their bikes in a large group all day. That’s been CO’s model for some 30 years, and it still fills up nearly every time.

I rode CO in 2001. Long days in the saddle, constant crowds? You could have found a group of friends there to complain about those things, for sure (although most of the time we were more inclined to be positive since the 9/11 attacks happened during our tour).

Crowds and long days are the nature of organized tours, which occur in nearly every state in the country, near as I can tell (personally, I’ve got my eye on South Dakota’s RASDak ride for 2021). Some of these tours are smaller, with lower crowds, sure, but there are also much larger ones including RAGBRAI. And many are tougher, with more miles in the saddle and/or more climbing than CO.

Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

DWK,

I have to say I really appreciate your recent cynicism.

Todd
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Todd

I did last years ride, it was amazing. I had never done it before and even though it rained the first few days it was a fantastic experience.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

Sad news, but not surprising. No way are large crowds going to be viable by September, even if things have generally opened up. I don’t think we’ll be seeing large gatherings of any kind during any part of 2020.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

… and I say this having spent quite a bit of time on those Wasco County gravel (and paved) roads. Fantastic network of farm roads on the slopes south of The Dalles.