Now entering its 28th year, the weeklong bicycle ride Cycle Oregon bills itself as “summer camp for adults.” The epic ride tackles a different part of Oregon each year, offering roughly 2,000 riders unprecedented challenges, rewarding viewpoints, and a connection to rural Oregon that just can’t be appreciated from behind the windshield at 60 mph. At the end of each day, riders are treated to showers, food, beer, and live entertainment.
To this point, Cycle Oregon organizers have been tight-lipped about this year’s location, which will be announced at the event’s kickoff party on Feb. 4 at the Portland Art Museum. (Registration for the race itself—which happens in September—will open to the general public on Feb. 5.)
But if the locations of past rides are any indication, cyclists have plenty to look forward to this year. Past years' routes have explored the Columbia River Gorge, Steens Mountain, Central Oregon’s unforgiving high desert, rustic Klamath Falls, and the scenic coastal communities of Bandon and Reedsport.
No matter where the ride takes cyclists in 2015, here are four things prospective cyclists should know about the statewide tradition.
1. Expect an outdoor adventure
Over the course of nearly three decades, Cycle Oregon has visited every corner of the state, with trips through the coast range, valleys, canyons, forests, and deserts along the way. “We really want to expose people from Oregon and beyond to what’s really special about this state,” says Cycle Oregon Executive Director Alison Graves. “It’s one thing to drive somewhere; it’s another thing to really feel the hill, to smell the September grains drying in the fields, or to feel that wind at your back or in your face.”
2. It won’t be easy
When choosing each year’s region, organizers look for a variety of landscapes to interest and challenge cyclists. “We’ll climb some hills, see some water (to the degree that we can), try to have forests and rivers, and see some open spaces,” Graves says. Each day’s leg ranges from about 40 to 100 miles, with most legs averaging about 65 miles.
Organizers also try to schedule at least one tough ascent each day for good measure. “We structure it so everyone will have at least one moment where they’re really challenged, and we want people to overcome those challenges,” Graves says.
3. Cyclists will connect with rural communities
Thirteen-acre campsites are set up outside small, rural communities each night. In addition to food and showers, cyclists are treated to entertainment emblematic of that region. One year, a local geologist explained the natural wonders of the region cyclists rode through that day; in 2014, a handful of elementary school-aged children from the Steens Mountain area performed live music and read cowboy poetry to the 2,000 cyclists.
4. A weekend ride is also offered
A challenging weeklong ride through unforgiving terrain can be a tall order for all but the most devoted cyclists. So Cycle Oregon added a separate weekend ride about 10 years ago.
The weekend ride’s route has yet to be announced, but it typically traverses the Willamette Valley and Oregon’s famous wine country. Each leg of the three-day ride offers a few route options for cyclists of all interests and skill levels.