: Cycle Oregon

The Epic History of Cycle Oregon

Central Oregon gravel and road rides set for September 2021 after 2020 cancellations.
March 17, 2020 (Updated June 24, 2021)
Two cyclists ride down a gravel road
Tygh Valley Rally

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Since 1988 Cycle Oregon has led thousands of cyclists through verdant valleys, remote countryside and Scenic Bikeways of the Beaver State, often showcasing the landscapes to riders for the first time so they might return with friends and family. Cycle Oregon’s rides are among dozens of annual bike events in Oregon ranging from short to long, quirky to hard-core and everything in between. 

In 2021 cyclists have a chance to enjoy the remote, less-traveled roads of Central Oregon at the Tygh Valley Rally in the eastern foothills of Mt. Hood, featuring two prized cycling routes to choose from over two weekends. (Book early, since spots will fill up soon.) 

The Gravel Forward ride (Sept. 10-12, 2021) includes a mix of gravel and paved roads between 35 and 53 miles and 2,900 to 4,500 feet of elevation gain on Day 1, with 36 to 48 miles and 2,800 to 4,700 feet of elevation gain on Day 2. The route includes challenging hills as well as plateau grasslands and rolling hills. 

The Road Forward ride (Sept. 17-19, 2021) showcases the wheat fields and forested roads along the Wild and Scenic Deschutes River, with stops at historic sites and in the friendly town of Dufur. Day 1 includes between 47 and 69 miles with 4,000 to 6,600 feet of elevation gain. Day 2 features between 37 and 56 miles with 1,900 to 4,400 feet of elevation gain along the Sherar’s Falls Scenic Bikeway, including two hill-challenge segments for extra bragging rights. 

Both rides include camping under the stars at the Wasco County Fairgrounds, where warm showers, local craft beer and wine, celebratory activities, live music, and a fully catered meal will be waiting in classic Cycle Oregon fashion. 

“We are excited to reunite on bikes in the Tygh Valley — with its wide-open roads, high-desert landscapes, and epic views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams,” says Steve Schulz, Cycle Oregon’s executive director. “The Tygh Valley Rally was built for this moment in time. Now more than ever, people are looking for ways to travel and reconnect with family and friends while doing something active, and these two events are the perfect way to do both.”

The Tygh Valley Rally is unique for 2021. In 2022 Cycle Oregon anticipates a return to its usual lineup of epic, all-inclusive rides: the weeklong fall Classic ride; a two-day, all-ages summer Weekender; a single-day, women-only Joyride; and a rugged and remote Gravel ride, with varying lengths for each. Each of these rides are on hold for 2021; check back for announcements about the 2022 dates. 

What sets Cycle Oregon apart from other events is the sheer breadth of ground covered — nearly every corner of the state — as well as the amount of support they give to local communities. 

Riders typically have the chance to customize their routes. They may choose to join an organized excursion, tackle a more challenging route or opt for a shorter route to leave time to relax (and recover) at camp. Each event is powered by hundreds of volunteers who sign on for the route or come from the hosting community to make the event a seamless one — from food service to moving baggage, organizing recycling stations and setting up the finish line. 

Whether or not you consider yourself a cyclist, here are a few reasons to support Cycle Oregon’s mission.

Tents set up in the woods
Each event is powered by hundreds of volunteers who sign on for the route or come from the hosting community to make the event a seamless one.  (Photo by Cycle Oregon)
Cyclists riding through valleys
Cycle Oregon has led thousands of cyclists through verdant valleys, remote countryside and Scenic Bikeways of the Beaver State. (Photo by Cycle Oregon)

Giving Back to Communities

Since 1996 the nonprofit has earmarked proceeds from its rides to distribute hundreds of community grants throughout Oregon. To date Cycle Oregon has awarded $2.3 million to 325 groups for projects to better their communities. 

Recent grants have been awarded to the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture for Native American arts programming; to the city of Seneca for a new fire station; and to the Creswell Heritage Foundation to repair a historic schoolhouse and to build a bike-repair station in the town of McKenzie Bridge at the entry to the Aufderheide Scenic Drive, among many other projects. Cycle Oregon also gives direct grants to the hosting communities’ school districts and chambers of commerce to use as they see fit. 

“At a time when we need to come together as a community, in my opinion, it’s the perfect opportunity to do something that’s good for someone else,” says Schulz. 

In addition to supporting local communities, Cycle Oregon invests in major statewide projects as well. One project that recently came to fruition is the public purchase of a nearly 1,800-acre parcel of land at Wallowa Lake’s east moraine — the glacial crest of land framing the iconic lake on its eastern edge. Cycle Oregon has contributed $98,000 over the past decade toward the $6.5 million purchase of this property, which will now be owned and managed by Wallowa County and barred from development. It will be preserved as a working community forest, protecting native plants, wildlife habitat and cultural resources. For thousands of years, the moraine has been a refuge for wildlife and is sacred to the Nez Perce Tribe. Find more information on the project at the Wallowa Land Trust

“It’s such an iconic landmark,” Schulz says about the Wallowa Lake site, which Cycle Oregon has traveled to a handful of times over the years. “The growth of the state is exponential. Our lands are being gobbled up. To be able to preserve that and work with the Nez Perce in management principles is just amazing.” 

Two people holding beer and drinks at a Cycle Oregon event
Cycle Oregon has awarded $2.3 million to 325 groups for projects to better their communities. (Photo by Cycle Oregon)
People posing for a photo on they bikes at Cycle Oregon event
For all Classic riders there is the option to choose shorter routes — 270 miles as opposed to 430 miles over seven days. (Photo by Cycle Oregon)

Looking to the Future

Over the decades, Cycle Oregon has had the opportunity to constantly evolve, adapt and innovate. When wildfires caused smoke in Oregon in fall 2017, Cycle Oregon was forced to cancel their weeklong ride for the first time in the event’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic forced a cancellation of the 2020 rides. Most years, however, Cycle Oregon’s contingency plans have allowed them to move forward without cancellation. 

When it comes to adapting its policies, Cycle Oregon is evolving its events to be inclusive of electric-assist bikes. Class 1 and Class 3 pedal-assist e-bikes are welcome on all courses at the Tygh Valley Rally. For those who worry that e-bikes give an unfair advantage, Schulz notes that it’s not a race, so that shouldn’t be a factor. Allowing pedal-assist e-bikes will let more riders of all skill levels participate.

More women are participating in Cycle Oregon rides than ever. Nearly a third of the riders on the weeklong Classic ride are now women, Schulz says, and women make up more than half of the participants on the Weekender ride. In addition, the Joyride was added in 2016 as a ladies-only event, with 1,000 women of all ages riding through Willamette Valley wine country on routes of varying distances. As with all Cycle Oregon events, each ride ends in a party with food, live entertainment, massage therapists and physical therapists available for appointments. 

“We’re building community through bikes,” Schulz says. “You just come and ride, and we do everything else. And we get to do good and have fun along the way.”

About The

Jen Anderson
Jen Anderson is a longtime journalist and travel writer/editor who is now Travel Oregon’s Content & Community Manager, helping to align content for visitors via social media, print and web. She’s called Oregon home for 25 years and loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

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