Returning to the Oregon OutbackJan Heine
Over the last seven years, the Oregon Outback has evolved from a crazy adventure (and race) to one of the
most popular bikepacking routes. Back in 2014, when Donnie Kolb first mooted the idea of this ride, gravel bikes were still in their infancy. I rode the first Outback on my randonneur bike with 42 mm tires – considered huge by all but the mountain bikers in the inaugural running of the event. And yet, on the soft volcanic ash of southern Oregon, I realized that 42 mm wasn’t wide enough… which inspired Rene Herse Cycles to create tires that were 48 and 55 mm wide. Amazing that, seven years ago, a 48 mm tire on an all-road bike was almost unthinkable.
When Lael Wilcox suggested doing a long ride together, I immediately thought of the 360-mile (580 km) Outback. It’s a wonderful course that spans an entire state. The simplicity of traversing the entire length of Oregon, through wide-open country, riding among sagebrush and sparse pine trees, has a unique appeal to me. And to be honest, I feel I’ve got unfinished business in eastern Oregon. How much faster, how much more fun, would the Outback be with wider tires?
Right now, Lael and Rue are touring the course. It’s a great way to see the country and enjoy every mile of it. Next week, Lael and I will ride it non-stop. Rue will document our ride.
What’s our plan? I want to experience the Oregon Outback again and see what difference really wide tires make. Last time, I completed the ride in 29:58 hours – it would be nice to go faster. Lael, on the other hand, thinks we should go for an FKT (Fastest Known Time). That would mean 27:27. Whether that’s possible depends on many factors… but we already know it’ll be a great ride.
We’ll put trackers on our bikes, and you’ll be able to follow our progress. Right now, we plan to start on Tuesday, May 25, but we’ll watch the weather. We’ll update with a link to the Trackleaders web site for our ride and the actual start time as soon as we’ve determined it.
• Journal entry after the original Oregon Outback in 2014.
Photos: Rugile Kaladyte