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Gravel Bike Adventures: Credit Card Tours

Bike adventuring without all the gear

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Hot showers and a comfortable bed. That’s my idea of camping—so the idea of bikepacking has never been my thing. I see those bikepackers loaded down with all their gear and I wonder how they do it. I figure the first hill above a 4% grade and I would turn around.

But what if I could bike from spot to spot but stay at hotels and eat at restaurants instead? Now that sounds more my style.

Oregon is packed full of gravel credit card tours. That just means instead of carrying a tent, bedding and all the cooking stuff, you are planning on staying at a hotel and eating out.

Where to go? I recommend you start with a two-day adventure: You bike to a destination, stay the night and then bike back the next day. Here are two options:

Kevin English rides the Mitch and Walt route. - LINDA ENGLISH
  • Linda English
  • Kevin English rides the Mitch and Walt route.

Route: The Bishop
Starts: Tumalo Reservoir
Stay over: Suttle Lodge and Boathouse (east of Sisters)
Details: 97 miles and 6,600 feet of climbing (Day 1 is 60 miles)

This route is named after the Bend local bike legend Serena Gordon Bishop, who can easily polish this off in a day. But don’t kid yourself; taking two days still requires serious effort. It starts at Tumalo Reservoir and takes you to Suttle Lodge where you can glamp in one of the cabins or splurge and stay at the hotel. The hotel offers up lakeside dining which is magical on a sunny evening.

The route is dreamy and remote and includes the Skyline Forest, Suttle Lake and Camp Sherman. You’ll be amazed by the booming views of the surrounding mountains. If you didn’t do the math, the second day is shorter, but we sure haven’t had anyone complain about that!

All the details are in the route guide from Dirty Freehub:
dirtyfreehub.org/adventure/oregon-x/bishop/

Andrew Murray cruises on the Bishop Route. - LINDA ENGLISH
  • Linda English
  • Andrew Murray cruises on the Bishop Route.
Route: Mitch and Walt
Starts: Ochoco Ranger Station east of Prineville
Stay over: The town of Mitchell at the Spok’n Hostel
Details: 63 miles and 5,500 feet of gain (day 1 is 28 miles)

This route includes two days of scenic riding through the Ochocos. You’ll overnight at the Spok’n Hostel, a place that pampers tired cyclists—many who stop in while they are crossing the U.S. on the TransAmerica Trail bike route. And for a fun and easy way to refuel, head over to the Tiger Town Brewery in downtown Mitchell. All the details are in the route guide from Dirty Freehub: dirtyfreehub.org/adventure/oregon-x/mitch-walt/


Stopping off in Mitchell for a bite: Always a fun bikey pitstop. - LINDA ENGLISH
  • Linda English
  • Stopping off in Mitchell for a bite: Always a fun bikey pitstop.

Couple of things to consider:

  • Pack really light. Just enough clothes to hang out at camp at night and a spare pair of bike shorts for day two.
  • Think through power cords to re-juice devices.
  • Call the hotel so you are clear on the food they can provide for dinner, breakfast and for riding the next day.
  • Figure out how to carry your gear or consider mailing a package to the hotel with clothes and good bike food. For bike bags, you’ll find a million creative solutions and opinions on any bikepacking forum.
  • Do a practice day ride with all your gear. You’ll quickly figure out what you like and don't like.
  • Consider where you park your car. Are you OK with leaving it there?
  • Study your route: Look closely at the elevation profiles so you know how much climbing you have each day. And look at logical places to punch out should you want to cut your distance.
  • Check on cell coverage and consider carrying an emergency device.
  • Buddy up: ride with other people and give the folks back home all your details.
  • Check and recheck your bike; consider hauling it into your favorite bike shop for a quick once over.

Once you have mastered the two-day routes, consider longer variations. At Dirty Freehub, we have provided all the details for bikepacking routes in the Wallowas, Steens Mountains, Owyhees and Siskiyou Mountains, which can be found at dirtyfreehub.org/bikepacking/.

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