Cycle Oregon’s famous weeklong ride will end after this year

“It’s an emotional time letting the Classic go, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

– Steve Schulz, Cycle Oregon

The ride that started almost by accident in 1988 and turned into one of the best organized bike rides in America, will take its final bow later this summer. Cycle Oregon announced today that this year will be the final time they set off on a seven-day “Classic” ride.

Changing rider preferences, rising costs, and difficulty finding vendors and volunteers, were all named as reasons to pull the plug. Without their main event on the marquee, Cycle Oregon says they’ll be more able to focus on smaller offerings and programs.

The weeklong Classic was the brainchild of a southern Oregon innkeeper who hoped a group bike ride would boost his business. The inaugural ride from Salem to Brookings was an instant success and became a cherished annual tradition that treated the rural towns riders pedaled through as more than just scenery. Cycle Oregon has forged innumerable ties between urban and rural Oregonians and their fund has raised millions for small towns across the state.

But this massive, traveling cycling city is a bear to put on. During it’s heyday, there would be over 2,000 riders plus 500 or so volunteers, vendors, staff, and supporters along for the ride. The event would stop in a different town each night and leave its mark with live music backed by a professional sound stage, a vast tent city, a full catering operation, beer garden, warm showers in the middle of nowhere, a pop-up retail bike shop, yoga classes, and more. In many instances, the Cycle Oregon basecamp would be much larger than the town it was situated in.

Steve Schulz.

After the 33rd and final Classic rolls out this coming September, the organization that puts it on will continue to focus on its advocacy programs and other — smaller and shorter — rides and events.

“The Classic has just presented some challenges and I think we can better serve our community by doing a myriad of smaller events,” Cycle Oregon Executive Director Steve Schulz shared in an interview on Friday.

Schulz added that while the popularity of the Classic had ebbed even before the pandemic, the lingering impact of Covid on rural communities played a big role on the decision. “A lot of the service providers that used to do this king of work aren’t in business anymore. And those that are, the prices are super expensive and keep escalating, which starts to put it to a point where we’re going to price out people.”

“I don’t want to alienate ridership in order to accommodate the costs I have to pay for showers and sanitation and that kind of stuff.” After taking a two-year hiatus for Covid in 2020 and 2021, Schulz said they were forced to bring about 90% of their service providers (for things like showers, sanitation, medical) in-house just to pull off the event.

Schulz also said that many of the social groups in small communities Cycle Oregon relies on for volunteers either weakened or flared out due to Covid. “The number of people required to do a large, seven-day event is astronomical. We want to impact the communities in a positive way and not put stressors on the communities to help us put on something that’s so big.”

An increasingly severe wildfire season has also added to the complexity and risk of putting on the weeklong event. In 2015 a fire forced Cycle Oregon to reroute mid-event and in 2017 a fire led to the first-ever cancellation of the ride.

Cycle Oregon has also seen a huge swing in interest away from all-paved road riding toward gravel and mixed-surface routes. What began as a handful of people opting for a gravel route option in 2018 (the first time an unpaved route was offered), has turned into a standalone, multi-day Gravel Ride with over 500 people (and several dozen on the waiting list).

You can expect more, smaller events like Gravel in the years to come. And with a portfolio that now includes the Oregon Scenic Bikeway program and a rural version of Safe Routes to School, Cycle Oregon isn’t going anywhere.

“We’re still here, just evolving,” Schulz said. “It’s a heartfelt and emotional time as far as letting the Classic go, but I think it’s the right thing to do. And we’re excited to see what’s next.”

And if you’ve never done the Classic and/or want to make sure you are on the last one, the early registration pricing has been extended to June 13th. Learn more at CycleOregon.com.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
1 year ago

Time for it to go for many reasons. Overcrowding, long days in hilly terrain, dangerous roads…

Ryan Linville
Ryan Linville
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

Long days in hilly terrain is exactly the reason many of us ride.

SD
SD
1 year ago

I hope they find a way to keep connecting biking people with rural communities.

SD
SD
1 year ago

Great to hear. I’ve often thought about how much I learned traveling through rural Oregon and connecting with local people on Cycle Oregon. Especially as the urban rural divide has potentially grown wider and more contentious over the last decade. We really need more positive human interactions to connect Oregonians to each other.

Middle o the Road Guy
Middle o the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  SD

I can’t say enough good things about the Gravel weekend. It’s been fun every time I’ve done it.

stumpjumper
stumpjumper
1 year ago

They’ll be able to do single-site weekend / multiple day events no problem. The logistics of that traveling chautauqua course was nuts. :^) But it is was sure fun for volunteers! The weeklong ride had too great of a carbon footprint in my opinion. I predict another, community-based model will evolve. – JM

TF
TF
1 year ago

As a multi CO rider and supporter, I’m surprised that nothing about Bike Gallery’s support or the origin of the ride in the Oregon Economic Development division has been mentioned. Since the BG moved away from support, the event has struggled. I saw from the ground level how expensive it was to support. Sad but understandable.

Jillian
Jillian
11 months ago
Reply to  TF

I do know that the BG was bought by Trek, and many of the employees stayed on (like Sterling). Trek continued to support Cycle Oregon – so Bike Gallery didn’t go away! It just transitioned to something new, like it sounds like CO is doing.

steve scarich
steve scarich
1 year ago

I see the reduction in road-riding every day on my rides in the Bend area. I see many fewer people out on their bikes recreating. An example is the State certified route north of town. I used to see 30-40 other riders on the 40 mile loop. Many were clearly from out of town, judging by the logos on their jerseys. I now commonly see less than 10 riders on that same loop. Anecdotally, I hear that many people have given up road riding due to the bad behavior of drivers. Another data point is the ridiculous asking prices for high end used road bikes on Craigslist. I see original $2500 bikes listed for less than $300; people just have no use for them.

Ben G
Ben G
1 year ago

In my youth Cycle Oregon was too expensive when you’re trying to make rent. Figured there would be time to Cycle Oregon 7-day when I got older and stopped racing. Sad it is going away now. =/

Jeff S
Jeff S
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben G

Ben, there’s still Bike Rides Northwest (BRNW) offering week long Oregon tours. I did one with them about 15 years ago in the Wallowas, and thought they did a great job. Was priced similar to CO at the time, and had about 300 riders.

Jillian
Jillian
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeff S

I’ve heard great things about BRNW, and imagine they are going to get a lot of the Classic riders….

ChrisP
ChrisP
1 year ago

I feel management made significant missteps that led to this.

The 2017 Classic ran naked and uninsured against fire risk and got burned. As Johnathan mentions in the article, the event was canceled for fire smoke. CO offered no refunds to the would-be riders, who trained all season and paid for an event that was never held. The fine print of their cancellation policy basically said “you can’t cancel, but we can, with no refunds.”

Would you pay $1,2000 for nothing?

.The disaster wasn’t handled great, and this compounded the problem in my opinion. Many questioned how an event with thousands of participants could run without fairly standard insurance. The CO response was to shift blame to the riders and victim shame them as being ‘greedy’.

Many of us said “never again…”. And here we are.

Ruben
Ruben
1 year ago
Reply to  ChrisP

Cycle Oregon refunded 1/2 the cost of the ride:

From their website about 2017 ride:

Cycle Oregon was founded as a non-profit to both transform individuals and communities through bicycling and to help preserve and protect the special places of Oregon. These special places, and the people who live there, now stand in crisis. And so, we’re asking for your help. We are able to return $500 of your registration fee. In lieu of a refund, you can elect to make a gift of $500 to the Cycle Oregon Fund – held at the Oregon Community Foundation – through Cycle Oregon. These funds will go directly back to the rural communities that are dealing with forest fires throughout Oregon. If you elect not to contribute, you will receive a registration refund of $500. For those of you that purchased tent and porter, bus tickets, parking, CPAP and rider guest registrations, we will refund 100% of your purchases. In addition, everyone registered for 2017’s The Classic, will receive the opportunity of an early registration for the 2018 event.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 year ago

Cycle Oregon has become like Hood-to-Coast. Both started out as a cool way to show off the state to physically fit people and became immensely popular with long waiting lists to get in. Then, they started producing smaller ancillary events to capture those that didn’t make it into the main event. Eventually, both succumbed to greed as they started actively marketing watered down events to beginners, families, walkers, etc. The entertainment, the amenities, and the feed become more important than the riding or running. Inclusivity (and charging big money for seven-year-olds to pedal 10 miles) became the driving force over a high-quality bucket list ride for the committed. The business overtook the passion that originally fueled its beginnings.

Perhaps I am becoming too much of a curmudgeon but, I miss events that required passionate people to show up both fit and skilled. I don’t mind the family-oriented weekend events but, it’s a shame to see the big challenge events die in favor of catering to beginners and those more interested in flexing on Instagram.