DIY Adventure in the Oregon Outback
Want to get out there… really out there… on your bike this year? The Oregon Outback, a semi-organized, largely off-road bicycle adventure into some of Oregon’s wildest spaces, returns May 26-31, with a twist.
It’s a unique combination of group ride, self-supported bikepack trip and personal challenge. Maria Schur, who rode the inaugural event as a newbie to adventures like this and now is organizing this new version, calls it a “tough, fun, stunning beautiful exploratory adventure through our magnificent state.” On the other hand, she also warns that “it’s no joke.”
The original event was officially a race, which followed a 360-mile route from Klamath Falls to the Columbia River – essentially traversing the state, south to north, by mostly dirt and gravel roads. Portland bike builder Ira Ryan finished first, in just over 28 hours.
For Maria the trip was a breakthrough – a challenging but enjoyable ride that also forced her to learn some new skills and delve into her supplies of self-sufficiency. The route included a stretch of 80 miles with no water sources; when riders did find water, they sometimes had to sterilize it before drinking. They had to carry all their own supplies between periodic access to stores – and the amount of food and drink it takes to fuel someone riding all day in the backcountry can be staggering.
It’s that self-supported nature – and the sweeping vistas, tiny towns and amazingly friendly people she encountered along the way – that gave Maria the kind of buzz that keeps her coming back.
“It’s difficult to do justice to the beauty of the land we pass over,” she says. “It changes rapidly – every day, every mile.”
But the focus of this story is the 2017 edition. For this one, things are planned a little differently. The event will be a six-day, out-and-back tour, where participants ride as far as they want each day, and turn back after three days to return to Klamath Falls. It’s still completely self-supported – no cars allowed – and Maria recommends some pretty fat tires (at least 2”), plus you’ll need to have the capacity to carry a large volume of food and water with you.
If this all sounds a little vague but nonetheless intriguing, that’s because this is not a scripted event. Maria calls it a “create-your-own-adventure ride” – things will happen how they happen, obstacles will arise, and magic and awe will make unscheduled appearances.
And you’ll have the support and camaraderie of a small band of fellow explorers, who’ve been there and done that and are more than willing to help with logistics, advice and general cheering up.
So if you want to try something new and (likely) completely different this year, check out the event’s Facebook page. To get a personal account of the experience, check out Maria’s blog posts on the 2014 and 2015 events. And here’s a link to the basic 2017 route.
If you’re interested but maybe a little bit intimidated, too, that’s exactly why you should try it.
“Sure, you’ll need the right gear and preparations,” Maria says, “but this adventure is open to anyone.”