We think there are some things you need to know in order to get the most out the information contained on this site. We strongly recommend reading all of the following information if you’re planning on riding any of our routes.
We understand that whether something is “difficult” is purely subjective. What is hard for some may be easy for others, or downright impossible for someone else. We’ve tried our best to give a “difficulty” grade to each route that is consistent across our full lineup of routes.
Bikepacking is hard. Do not underestimate how difficult it is to ride fully loaded on dirt and gravel roads. Depending on where you are riding, 35 miles can be a long, crushing day. We generally average in the range of 40 to 60 miles a day, but each trip is different and it depends in large part on road conditions, elevation gain, and how much cool shit there is to do along the way.
The “difficulty” rating included with each route takes all of these factors into account, along with navigation, remoteness, and the availability of services and water. For example, the riding itself on the Hart-Sheldon Hot Springs route is not particularly hard, but there are no services on the entire route, water is scarce, and any problems en route could very quickly put you in a life-threatening situation. Therefore it rates relatively high in “difficulty” despite the fact that the riding is not particularly difficult.
While this is also a subjective rating and somewhat related to our “difficulty” rating, some of our routes really require you to hang it out there. Routes with a high “commitment” factor require you to have everything fully dialed: you are super fit, you have extensive bikepacking experience, you know how to navigate with a map and compass, and you can fix any mechanical problems.
The higher the rating, the less likely there are services, easy access to water, and less likely you will run into another living person on your ride. The rating also takes into account the availability of cell service on the most remote sections of the route. Generally you can expect there to be no cell service on most or all of the more committing routes.
An example of one of our less committing routes, the Barlow Trail, there are consistent opportunities to bail from the route onto relatively high trafficked, paved roads. The route also has cell service in most places. Therefore this route gets a very low commitment grade.
For our most committing routes we recommend traveling with a SPOT or similar emergency device. While a bit on the spendy side, the SPOT is a cheap life insurance policy if something goes seriously wrong. No one ever died in the wilderness content with the thought that they saved a couple bucks… SPOTs can also be rented online.
For each route we provide the GPS tracks and discuss how necessary GPS navigation is. Some routes can easily be done without a GPS if you have good maps and competent skills – these routes score a relatively low “navigation” grade. Other routes involve difficult route finding and we note when a GPS is highly recommended. Obviously you can ride all of these routes without one, but following the GPS tracks will in some cases save you the time we spent messing around trying to figure out the right way to go. However, we understand that GPSes don’t grow on trees so we also provide the best recommendations we can on available maps.
Special Note #1: DO NOT use the cue sheets generated through Ride With GPS. Google cannot create accurate cue sheets for off-road routes.
Special Note #2: It would be foolish to rely solely on a GPS when riding any of our routes. Take paper maps and know how to use them even if you primarily intend to rely on a GPS for navigation.
I’m sure some of you are wondering what the “best” system is for navigating with a GPS over multiple days of riding. We strongly discourage using the standard Garmin bike models, e.g. Edge 510 and 810. Neither are much use beyond following a line on a computer screen and battery life is poor. Generally you want real, interactive maps on your GPS. We think this is the gold standard for GPS navigation for bikepacking. Most of the folks I ride with use this or something similar. My own personal setup flip-flops this system: I rely primarily on paper maps and use an iphone with the Oregon Benchmark app as a backup when necessary.
BIKE & TIRE SELECTION
What kind of tires do you recommend? We constantly get this question. As someone who spends very little time thinking about tire selection, I question why people get so worked up about it. Perhaps it’s because it’s one of the few things people have a lot of control over.
Here’s what I’ll say about bikes and tires. I think the “standard” bikepacking bike for Oregon is a rigid 29er (or similar) with ~2” tires with some tread. If you’re looking to buy a new bikepacking bike or wondering which bike to use on any of our routes, unless otherwise noted in the route description, you simply cannot go wrong with this type of bike. Yes, there will be times when you’ll be wishing for something skinnier and other times when you’ll want some big fat 29+ tires, but we think the rigid 29er with ~2” tires is the best overall bike & tire setup for bikepacking in Oregon.
My standard setup is a Surly Ogre with 2.2” Continental X-King ProTection tires. I love this bike and I love these tires – both are solid and reliable. As a result, I put almost no thought into bike and tire selection when planning trips.
In general, you can expect services to be limited or non-existent on most of our bikepacking routes. Remoteness is part of what makes for a good route and a great experience. This requires a lot more advance planning on your part and will often necessitate carrying food for several days at a time while restocking at small convenience stores where options are typically very limited.
We’ve done our best to provide what we know about services en route. However, please be advised that these small establishments open and close at the drop of a hat, keep inconsistent hours, and are not guaranteed to have what you’re looking for. Because it would be impossible to keep this information up-to-date, we expect you to do your own independent research. We help ease this process by providing an online forum for each route for folks to post updates.
We added POIs (points of interest) to each GPS route, including the general location of services. You will need to click through to RidewithGPS on each route to see the POIs. They added this feature just for us because we thought it made the site look prettier. Yes, the folks at RidewithGPS are that awesome.
Every route requires you to obtain water from natural sources – rivers, streams, ponds, etc. You have two general options for making whatever water you find safe to drink: treat or filter. Treatment is generally accomplished with iodine (or similar) drops or a Steripen. Filtering with a water filter is your other option. Folks generally do not like to carry water filters because they are bulky and heavier than other options. However, if available water sources are muddy or silty, filtering is your only viable option (e.g. the Barlow Trail route follows the White River, which in high summer is literally white with glacial silt and undrinkable without a water filter).
Unless otherwise noted for each route, you can assume you will find enough viable water sources to use any method.
Similar to “Services”, you need to click through to RidewithGPS on each GPS route to see the POIs indicating the location of water sources.
The content of this website is purely for informational purposes and is intended as a reference guide. The authors and everyone involved in the creation of this website make no warranty of correctness or thoroughness and disclaim any and all liability from its use.