Brooke Stehley of Rolf Prima recaps the Oregon Outback 360 -
A few months back Velodirt released the info of a new ride (or race if you wished to race it) – The Oregon Outback 360. A mostly gravel road ride that consisted of 360 miles through some of the most challenging and remote areas in Oregon. The course started in Klamath Falls, near the boarder of California and ended at the Deschutes River Park in the Columbia River Gorge.
They recommended nothing smaller than a 2” tire and warned over and over again it would be a completely unsupported event with little to no services along the way. This meant not only would the terrain be demanding, but that you’d have to carry everything you need for those 360 miles and some 17,000+ feet of climbing.
I, along with my husband Zach, my co-worker Adam and teammate Heather thought it sounded like a fun challenge; and so the planning began. We spent months working out the best setup to carry the gear we’d need to survive and what gear we really could go without. It was a real challenge to minimize the amount of gear we were carrying without exposing ourselves to danger from the elements.
We put in a lot of training miles and traded ideas on how to accomplish this epic adventure. Then we’d worry, we’d fret and we’d worry some more. But the day finally came when all we could do was box the bikes, get on the train to Klamath Falls and get ready for the early morning start line.
The four of us decided that we’d split the course into three 120 mile segments. This was based on availability of water and camping sites. We all knew they would be grueling days; 120 miles alone are long, but our bikes would be loaded down and this was a mostly off-pavement course. The terrain varied from loose gravel, crushed lava rock, sand, washboard and packed dirt. We hoped for three days, but had a fourth planned as a buffer just in case.
In short the days were long, really really really long, we spent 12+ hr days in the saddle to accomplish our goal each day. But the route was beautiful, we saw parts of Oregon we had never seen and you would really see no other way. The views just can’t be captured in pictures and the stories are ours forever. We rode our bikes through countless miles of pea sized lava rock on the Oc&E trail, we trudged our way through mile after mile of loose red sand, we slogged our way over the never ending gravel rollers with brutal washboard sections and we fought through the 30+ mph head winds in the final 30miles to the finish.
The Oregon Outback gave us everything it had and it punished us like no other ride ever has. The legs begged to stop and the hands wanted to give out from the beating of the gravel, the saddle sores grew larger and oh did we smell, but our spirit - it simply could not break. Would we do it again… ask me in a few days, when the body is healed and the mind forgets how much it hurt. Then I’ll just remember the gorgeous views and the fun times of laughing with each other and encouraging one another when you thought you just couldn’t make one more pedal stroke.
Some of the nuts and bolts:
Bike choice: Rocky Mountain Vertex 29” hardtail
Wheel choice: Rolf Prima Ralos 29”
Tire choice: Geax Aka 29x2.0”, Tubeless (no flats)
Bags: Revelate Designs Viscacha seat pack, dry bag strapped to the bars, top tube lunch box and handle bar feedbag.
Hydration: We each carried two bottles and a Camelback. There was two long stretches of 60+ miles with no water refuel options. (we also packed a fair amount of salt tabs)
Food: I stayed away from prepackaged energy bars and ate real food throughout. I spent some time making my own energy bars and rice bars that included things like black beans, sweet potatoes, bacon and cooked egg. We also packed lots of nuts, dried fruit, hard salami and string cheese.
- A good group to ride with – I know some did this ride solo, but I need the encouragement a group brings. Besides, who is going to see your epic fall during an aborted creek crossing if you’re all by yourself.
- Lots and lots of chamois cream - find one you love and pack the big tube.
- Navigation backup – our GPS unit crashed on mile 275, but we had detailed cue sheets and maps as backup to guide us to the finish.