“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.
Written by Tony Jordan. BikePortland is always open to sharing your guest articles. Please get in touch if you’d like to contribute!
On January 29th, Cycle Oregon will announce its 2020 routes at the annual Kickoff Party. According to their website we can expect some surprises such as, “short and long options, gravel options, multiple layover days, bonus activities, and more opportunities to really become part of the communities.” The new options and extra rest and recovery time should make the ride accessible to more people, but plenty of riders will spend some time following the announcements wringing their hands over the costs, training time, and logistics of committing to a wonderful-but-challenging week of epic rides.
I’m here to tell you that there’s a way to ride Cycle Oregon with a built-in group of new friends, a schedule of training rides, extensive additional in-camp support, and maybe even some financial assistance; all while supporting another worthy charitable organization. It’s kind of like a Cycle Oregon cheat code and it’s called Ride for a Child.
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.
The annual reveal party for the 31st annual Cycle Oregon routes was held at the Portland Art Museum tonight. Hundreds of fans of the rides gathered to hear which rural communities they’ll be sleeping in and riding through if they’re lucky enough to participate in the weeklong “Classic”, the two-day “Gravel”, or the one-day “Joyride”.
Beyond great rides, Cycle Oregon’s nonprofit mission is to “transform individuals and communities through bicycling.” Since their founding in 1988 the Cycle Oregon Fund (where ride proceeds are deposited) has awarded more than 300 grants worth $2.2 million to small towns throughout our state. And the support of rural towns doesn’t end there. Each year Cycle Oregon provides about $175,000 to host towns in exchange for fields to sleep in, volunteers to help set up tents, and so on. The organization also hires local event organizers and service providers, and buys food from local farmers. And the riders themselves spend, on average, $250 in local communities during the weeklong Classic ride.
And there’s something about doing this ride that you can’t put a price on: getting to know what rural life — and the people who live it — are like. A lot is said about the urban/rural divide in Oregon and this bike ride is a relatively small, yet powerful way to help build bridges.
I wasn’t at the kickoff event this year, but I’ve got all the details for the three big events.
Here’s what’s in store…
Classic (September 7-14)
For 2019, Cycle Oregon’s flagship, seven-day ride lives up to its ‘Classic’ name with its return to Central Oregon, where cyclists will be immersed in some of the state’s most iconic and stunning natural landscapes. The loop, which is 430 miles, plus an additional 60-mile option, includes the majestic Cascade Mountains, three of the country’s most scenic rivers and Crater Lake — the sapphire jewel of Oregon’s only national park.
Total distance: 490 miles (without Crater Lake option: 430.3 miles) Total elevation gain: 30,656 feet (without Crater Lake option: 24,186 feet
Gravel (May 17-19)
Now in its second year, Cycle Oregon’s GRAVEL ride lets cyclists experience the challenges and scenic beauty of gravel road riding while being fully supported, Cycle Oregonstyle. This year’s ride, which is limited to just 500 riders, is based out of the historic farming town of Dufur, Oregon, in the sunny eastern Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The route features a combination of gravel and paved roads to explore the stunning expanses of high prairie and the forested foothills of Mount Hood. Riders will get views of wildflowers, wheat fields, and Mount Hood and Mount Adams around nearly every corner.
Total distance day 1: Long: 65.3 miles (47% gravel, 53% pavement), 5,061 feet of elevation gain – Short: 31.8 miles (67% gravel, 33% pavement), 2,140 feet of elevation gain
Total distance day 2: Long: 63 miles (53% gravel, 47% pavement), 5,216 feet of elevation gain – Short: 33.2 miles (61% gravel, 39% pavement), 3,118 feet of elevation gain
Joyride (June 22)
Cycle Oregon’s one-day celebration of women and bikes is heading to Independence, Oregon, in the heart of the scenic Willamette Valley. Women cyclists of all ages and all ranges of experience can choose among three different fully supported rides (18, 40 and 64 miles) amongst rolling hills, orchards, vineyards and wide-open farmlands—and return to delicious, locally sourced food and libations, plus live bands. New for 2019 is the option to add a gravel road section to the medium and long rides.
Short: 17.8 miles (188 feet of elevation gain)
Medium: 39.9 miles (1,080 feet of elevation gain)
Medium with gravel option: 36.3 miles (1,013 feet of elevation gain), 6 miles of gravel road
Long: 63.6 miles (2,113 feet of elevation gain)
Long with gravel option: 63.0 miles (2,213 feet of elevation gain), 6.9 miles of gravel road
This looks like a great line-up. Fingers crossed that the government is open in September. If not, the riding around Crater Lake could really stink (it’s a National Park and it was closed earlier this year due in part to surplus human waste).
Is Cycle Oregon in your plans this year?
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*Photos of 2017 Weekender event in McMinnville by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland
2019 C.O. Dates
Mark your calendars, and start training!
- Kickoff Party – 1/30
- Gravel – 5/17 ~ 5/19
- Joyride – 6/22
- Classic – 9/7 ~ 9/14
In its 32nd year of existence, the venerable Cycle Oregon is evolving once again. In recent years, the nonprofit known for its week-long “Classic” ride, has added women-only and gravel events to broaden its appeal and accessibility.
Now Cycle Oregon has decided to put their popular Weekender event on hold. Here’s what CO Executive Director Steve Schulz shared with us about it in an email this morning:
This October, one of America’s best supported bike rides will do something they’ve never done in their 30-year history: Take the show off-road.
A few weekends ago I rode about 50 miles east of Portland to get a closer look at one of the routes that will be featured as part of Cycle Oregon’s ‘Gravel’ event coming October 5-7th. The two days of riding (or three if you choose to ride out there) will be based at Reeher’s Camp, a site built on a historic Civilian Conservation Corps camp a few miles west of Timber (population 130) at the eastern edge of the Tillamook State Forest.