Podcast: ‘Gravel Girl’ Linda English of Dirty Freehub

Screenshot of DirtyFreehub.org. Inset photo: Linda English.

Linda English, a runner-turned-cyclist and tech industry retiree, has built something very special. Linda and her crew have uploaded about 300 gravel ride routes onto DirtyFreehub.org and the site has become a must-browse for anyone who seeks adventure on two wheels. I’ve watched the site’s impressive growth over the past decade — right along with the explosion of interest in riding drop-bar bikes on unpaved roads.

I talked to Linda a few days ago about the site, the rise of gravel riding in Oregon, the projects she’s working on, and more.

Based in Bend, Linda says about 200 of the routes she’s uploaded are in Oregon. In addition to being a resource for cyclists, Linda’s work has become recognized for its role in economic development in rural Oregon towns. Dirty Freehub (a nonprofit) has secured contracts with agencies like Travel Oregon and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association to develop routes specifically with tourism in mind.

“It’s what we call ‘drip tourism’,” Linda shared with BikePortland. “where instead of having two or three hundred people show up to an event, which is really stressful for a really small town, we can just sort of run people through there. It’s just been this explosion. We can go into tiny little places like Paisley, Oregon, and create ride guides out there. And the next thing you know, there’s people out there and they’re just loving it. And the town loves it too because it’s economic development.”

Linda’s goal isn’t just to inspire epic rides. She also wants people who use Dirty Freehub to gain a deeper understanding of the people and places they ride through. DF’s ride guides feature all the mapping and GPS details you need to have a successful ride, and they also include bits of local knowledge, like where to find the best food and local lore. The site also offers podcasts that feature interviews with locals — like a logger who shares their fear of riding on popular cycling roads, or a farmer who shares how their life is different than a city-dweller. “It’s really cool to get cyclists to be a little bit more compassionate. We’re really interested in how to break down that rural-urban divide,” Linda shared.

A recent project Linda has embarked on is a series of “All Access” routes that are geared toward entry-level riders. All routes in this category are less than 25 miles and perfect for folks with adaptive bikes, electric bikes, or those who aren’t able to deal with elevation gain or a tricky gate that’s hard to navigate around.

Asked her favorite place to ride in Oregon, Linda said, “That’s an impossible question!” But she mentioned Baker City and Joseph (eastern Oregon) and said one of the “secret places” she loves is Madras. “I’ve lived in Bend for a long time and we’d just drive right through Madras on the way to Portland. But you get out on some of those roads out there and it’s stunning. It’s just so quiet out there, it’s really, really fun.”

Do yourself a favor and check out DirtyFreehub.org. And get to know more about the site and woman behind it by listening to our conversation. You can hear it in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

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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Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 month ago

They have amazing rides on their website.

An incredible resource of more accessible rides than those on OMTM.

Andy Palmquist
Andy Palmquist
17 days ago

100% agree on that. I really want to do some of the routes OMTM highlights, but when your shortest options are in the 50 mile range, it really isn’t accessible to folks who don’t have a ton of experience.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
1 month ago

Be aware that this group has a very clear political orientation. If you are conservative politically, you are not welcome on their group rides. I went with them once, rode over with Linda’s husband. He asked many questions about my political beliefs. I thought it was kind of odd, but answered truthfully. I am a traditional Conservative (small government, no deficit spending, etc.). Nothing racist, homophobic or anything like that. The next time I showed up, they told me that I had to drive alone about 50 miles to the start of the ride from the meeting place. I e-mailed them the next day and asked them what’s up and their reply was ‘ you are a very strong rider, and we’re sure you can find other people to ride with, just not us’. I talked to another couple who had the exact same experience and no longer went on their rides.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago

Fun fact: the federal deficit has increased under every Republican president for the last 40 years.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Who said anything about Republicans? Please don’t confuse Donald Trump with William F. Buckley, Jr. You have fallen for the most common mis-characterization of Conservatism as propagated by the drive-by (and lazy) media.

Steven
Steven
15 days ago

Buckley, who loved to complain about the “hundred-billion-dollar deficit”, was a strong supporter of Ronald Reagan. The deficit would increase to $175 billion under the Reagan administration.

Pete
Pete
11 days ago

I’ll give this a listen. I did one of Linda’s routes to Lost Lake last summer and it was pretty epic.