portland gravel rides

OMTM Dark Larch 2017

It’s 5pm and I am still in Seattle. I’ve been living out of the Silver Cloud Inn for the past 10 days. Hotel life is great at first but I am itching to get back down to Portland.

It’s 6pm and we’re still awaiting for approval. Our clients are making last minute changes on their big Monday pitch. The office is anxious, the whiskey bottle is already empty and I can’t stop thinking of tomorrow’s Our Mother the Mountain ride.

It’s 8pm,we’re on the road back to Portland and I am in good company. I guess I really am riding the Dark Larch tomorrow.

It’s 6am and I can hear the pouring rain bouncing off my rooftop. The water is boiling and I sip my coffee while watching the weather unfold through my front window. My phone buzzes and my first friend drops out of the ride. I don’t blame him.

It’s 9am and we’re in the Dabney parking lot. A solid crew of brave souls circle the parking lot waiting for the un-official roll out. Words are had and we pace line down the highway.

I loose track of time, I focus on the pedal stroke, my mind wanders amongst the green and the crunching sound of tires over earth. I am thankful I didn't bail, the Dark Larch delivers. 

Route info via OMTM. 

This year’s Dark Larch V2 packs the same condensed wallop of forest road, singletrack, gravel and faerie footpath as last year but with a couple of fantastic improvements to the original course. It will have the same Historic Highway rollout to Alex Barr and Palmer Mill singletrack climbs to the Larch Mountain gate on the front end, but will bypass the decommissioned forest road NF20 in favor of a quick drop down Larch Mountain Road to the elusive Dark Larch Wizard Trail at mile 26.4. This quiet slice of loamy bliss crosses Buck Creek in the way nature intended before dipping off down the Dark Larch Byway, a forgotten bit of forest road with a few punchy climbs which completely sidesteps the Bull Run watershed boundary. The Dark Larch Byway lets out at the legendary powerline gravel bomb to Gordon Creek. Take it easy on the Gordon Creek hairpin descent at mile 41.7, let’s keep the rubber side down this year.

At mile 42.6 we dive into the Jurassic singletrack of the North Oxbow Trail and the Sandy River Beach Club at mile 43.9 (look for the spur leading off to the left). After some rays and a few piña coladas, we’ll coax our bronzed bods up the herculean OXBERG climb and ease back down the Historic Highway to belly up for some burgers and brews at Shirley’s Tippy-Canoe.

Disclaimers, warnings, caveats and wisdoms:

* The ride will be rolling out of Dabney at 9am sharp, so plan accordingly or you’ll be playing catch up.

* This route requires GPS navigation. Please download the route to your Garmin, or use the fine RWGPS app on your phone.

* Tire sizes of 35c-45c recommended. While we suppose you could have feasibly #roadbikesoffroad-ed this on 28c’s last year, the severity of the rainfall and wetness in many areas of the course make it a really bad idea this go-round. Please please please, nothing smaller than 33c. The course is much, much wetter than the late summer run last year, rendering it very difficult for smaller tires.

* Be very considerate of any hikers or ghosts you might come across – though it’s frankly unlikely you’ll see any. We want to convey how nice cyclists are on trails that don’t often see them.

* You will need to be prepared to filter/treat water for refill. There are many ideal opportunities to do so.

* Dabney State Recreation area does require a day pass ($5)…another parking option w/ no fee would be Glen Otto park @ Historic Highway + the Sandy River, a couple of miles NW of Dabney on the Historic Highway. There are bathrooms and great water at both Dabney and Glen Otto.

* Since the route is close to Portland and not very long, we encourage you to ride to your ride. It’s a 15 mile warmup to Dabney from SE PDX.

Stay safe and enjoy!

Velo Cult Team Ride : Rocky Point Road


[sliderpro id="10"] Let’s face it. It’s been that kind of winter. The weather has been pretty rough. Even for the most hearty of cyclists who chant death before trainers…….. But what can usually coax anyone into the cold and onto the wet roads of the west hills? A great group of people who actually relish in the exact elements that will drive most folks to a spin class or a trainer (myself included). Thanks to Andy who was the organizer of Sunday’s ride and his choice was Rocky Pt. Road. Logistically we decided it best to car shuttle out of town as opposed to schlepping the sloppy dirty 30. Since it was a day where no amount of gear, no more how high tech or water proof, you were going to be soaked through.

This was a great choice, but it did mean we were in the ride the moment we shoved off and up the average 8% gradient for the first 5 or so miles, eventually reaching the gravel accompanied by steady rain with huge drops making visibility an issue. Everyone had their own pace and seemed to get out of the ride what they wanted. AS per usual with this group, there was no man or woman left behind. This is why I truly enjoy this group and everyone who rides for Velo Cult. It’s about being out there! Being on two wheels and just riding!

Finally at the top of our climbing, we stared down the barrel of a big descent. And once we did descend down the backside of Rocky Pont Rd, streaking by small piles of snow hanging for dear life, the rain cleared up and warmed up a bit making for a super-fast drop to the bottom…where we realized we had to now turnaround and climb up what we just bombed down. Well, some us didn’t realize it was an out and back. OOPS! So, with the same cheer and bravado we had at the start, we made the U-y and headed up.

At this point, I do think a bit of a “ok I’m super soaked and cold. Let’s get back to the cars” mentality set in. So the climb back up and over seemed to be at a quicker pace and we all found a pace that made the turn around feel a bit shorter in length. Maybe it was the cold and wet. Maybe it was a bit of suffering. Perhaps I was woozy from my own effort, but the return trip was a bit fuzzy….unmemorable even. And just like that another great ride was in the books. The hot shower lasted a bit longer than usual, my gigantic robe was oh so welcoming and the soup was steaming hot! SO! Thank you Andy, Adam, Jeremiah, Craig, Chris, Lee and (Bethany?). I cannot wait for the next ride!

Words : Matthew Barney Photos : Christopher San Agustin