If cycling through Oregon isn’t already considered an extreme sport, riding its gravel roads should be. With the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic gaining popularity each year, many of us are curious why anyone in their right mind would want to engage in a sport called an “abomination” by even its most avid proponents. Well, why not? Sure, it’s grueling, dirty and possibly tire-destroying… but there are many reasons to give gravel riding a spin — and just as many riding tips to keep in mind for the adventure.
Remember being a kid, taking off on an inherited 10-speed down the back roads you thought no one else knew about? No contraptions — just you, a bike, a helmet and the open road? You can reclaim that experience with gravel riding as an adult.
What about equipment? For the non-racer, many different types of bikes and wheels can transition from pavement to pebbles. You’ll probably have the best luck with fat tires, which provide a sturdy foundation on inescapably shifty gravel paths. Like its back-to-nature setting implies, gravel riding can be surprisingly simple or as high-tech as you want to make it. Strap on some sturdy shoes, prepare to blow a tire and pack a snack before heading out. And by out, we mean out.
So where do you find these gravel roads, anyway? In the beautiful countryside of Oregon, of course.
The rural setting means navigating heavy motor traffic is a less imminent concern for gravel riders, but beware those backcountry one-lane switchbacks.
If you’re in the greater Portland or Willamette Valley area and looking for a mixed pavement and gravel trail to get started, the Silver Falls Bike Path is a 4-mile trail with gravel offshoots throughout. From the high deserts of Southern Oregon to the damp, winding, vineyard-lined climbs of the Willamette Valley, to Eastern Oregon’s dusty expanses, there’s a route or event awaiting those willing to get off their asphalt.