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The Oregon Outback – Guest Post by Maria

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We’re doing a series of guest posts by riders planning to tackle the Oregon Outback in May.  Look for a new post about every week or so as long as we keep getting them.  Note – don’t let Maria’s wit and pink front basket fool you – she’s ridden the Rapture and Stampede and is tough as nails.  While I expect to be cursed out afterwards for how hard the route was, I have no doubts she’ll crush it.  Enjoy!

-Words and photos by Maria.


Preparing for a 360 mile, mostly off-road, totally self-supported, two-wheeled adventure called The Oregon Outback may be as hard as the ride itself will be.  My method has been to chip away at it slowly, ask for advice, spend money, and, think.  Yes, just thinking about what to expect may help.

My goal is to finish the race, I mean ride, alive.  To have fun.  And avoid getting too cold or too hungry.  I believe in suffering but I’m totally against freezing starvation.  It seems reasonable, here from the safety of my chair anyway, to ride 70 miles a day.  My calculator tells me that’s five days.

Almost all of my off-road experience has been with the Velodirt folks, and this ride will likely double my lifetime off-road bike miles. All of my touring experience has been on paved roads.  The Outback is where these two skills will intersect.

So with my lofty goals and limited experience in mind, here’s my laundry list of what’s what:

BIKE: I will be taking the mountain bike.  Or, rather, it will be taking me.  It’s a good ol’ fashioned fully rigid 26″ wheeled aluminum GT Backwoods, equipped with Kenda Small Block 8 fatty tires.  OP (Outback Preparation) ergo grips.  And I’ve been commuting on it so that should help.  The bike will be equipped with two smallish rear panniers, a trunk rack, a small top tube bag and, of course, my front basket with homemade vinyl basket bag.

GEAR:  It’s a funny coincidence that bivouac is pronounced bivvy, just like a chamois is often called a chammy.  In any case, I invested in a waterproof bivouac sack.  I already own a nice small thermarest and camp pillow.  Other new purchases include a teensy weensy zipper pull flashlight, a pair of small white panniers, and one microfiber camp towel – purple.  Eventually, I’ll buy a water-resistant down sleeping bag.  My current bike-camping gear is too big and heavy for so-called bikepacking.

WEAR:  As mentioned before, I hate being cold.  So I hope to bring a down jacket, which is warm and very bunchable.  My dream pack list includes two pairs of shorts, one pair tights, one short sleeve shirt, one long sleeve shirt, two hats, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves.  And a dress. And chess.

FOOD:  So far, I’ve made a long list of food.  It seems logical to bring high-calorie low-density foods, which is the opposite of how I normally eat.  For example, dried fruit instead of fresh fruit.  Matt just gave me some great advice, including that I will be miserable without hot food, so I’ll bring my camp stove and boullion and noodles and coffee and oatmeal.  Plus, there’s that steak house.

WATER:  Apparently, there’s an 80 mile stretch with no water at all.  My plan is to carry a 24 ounce standard bike water bottle and deal with thirst.  Just kidding.  I’ll also carry a 32 ounce water bottle (on the bike) and a 100 ounce bladder (in a pannier), for a total of 156 ounces.  And the little chemical kit that makes river water potable.

BOOZE:  To booze, or not to booze.  That’s not a question.  I prefer a nice pint of IPA after a ride, but beer is big and heavy and hard to keep cold.  Wine’s not much better.  Liquor seems to be the smartest choice but it gives me a hangover.   Advice includes anything from whiskey to wine in a bladder to rum with koolaid.  This is the sort of training I need to take seriously.

TRAINING:  No time to train, I’m busy riding.

LUXURY ITEM:  This is my vacation and I want to have fun.  Therefore I will be bringing a small camp pillow to sit upon.

WAYFINDING:  I bought a Benchmark map of Oregon and taped it on my wall.  And I have a tiny compass I originally purchased for the Rapture.  Also I just watched Ride the Divide.  So, I’m pretty much set.

SHAKEDOWN:  My ideal load will come in at 30 pounds or less, not including water.  I need to go camping at least once with my new set up in the next two months.  Or at least on a ride.


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