Central Oregon cyclists who think they’ve ridden it all better think again.
Visit Bend has teamed up with a local online guide to the region’s best gravel cycling routes to create the Cascades Gravel Scenic Bikeway, Oregon’s first.
The collection of six routes curated by Visit Bend and Dirty Freehub utilize forest service roads and more rural gravel roads, but includes quiet paved roads, bike paths and even singletrack
“Gravel cycling has exploded because people are looking to get away from the crowds and out into nature,” said Linda English, (aka, Gravel Girl), Co-Founder of Dirty Freehub. “Deschutes County alone has more than 5,000 miles of gravel and forest service roads, so it’s the perfect place to establish Oregon’s first Gravel Scenic Bikeway.”
While many dedicated gravel cyclists own bikes made specifically for this type of riding, many gravel routes can be ridden on a mountain bike.
Some of the routes on the Cascades Gravel Scenic Bikeway even permit eBikes.
The sport has gained popularity for two reasons: changes in bike technology allowing cyclists to better handle a large range of surfaces, and cyclists are looking to escape from stressful busy roads.
“Mountain biking on singletrack is a challenge in the era of COVID and social distancing, where riders find themselves going off-trail to avoid contact with other riders,” said Visit Bend CEO Kevney Dugan. “The result is widened trails, damaged plants, and harm to our fragile forest ecosystem. But gravel cycling takes place on wide, existing roadways with plenty of open space, making it a much more environmentally-friendly choice.”
The routes range from flatter, beginner-level rides to steeper and longer mixed-surface rides.
Dirty Freehub has created online maps, cue sheets, and ride descriptions for each of the routes.
Scenery and topography varies widely between the routes.
The Water & Lava Cascades Gravel Scenic Bikeway spans 31 miles along the Deschutes River just off the Cascade Lakes Highway, while the whimsically named Poke the Bear route spans 33 miles of rolling hills on the northeastern edge of Madras and includes stunning views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
“We’ve designed these routes so you visit places you probably haven’t been before,” English said. “They each offer up big views of mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and the natural beauty of Central Oregon.”
To learn more or view detailed information about the routes, visit www.cascadesgravelbikeway.com