(Update: Adding video, comments from Gravel Grinder organizer, pro bike racer)
'It's nice to literally unplug and just go out in the woods and just be pedaling,'
SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Cascade Gravel Grinder is this Friday through Sunday, and is organized by race director Chad Sperry.
“Gravel is the fastest growing sector in the cycling world right now,” Sperry said Wednesday.
The Cascade Gravel Grinder is a three-day, 140-mile race on old logging roads through the Cascade mountains.
“People come from all over to be able to ride here, because the level of scenery and beauty and isolation is really hard to find just about anywhere in the country,” Sperry said.
The late-season snowstorms have altered some of the course.
“We’ve had to go up and actually clear some snow off the course, and also reroute some courses where it’s just too deep,” Sperry said.
But the race, where riders can compete in one, two or all three days of competition, includes 7,000 feet of elevation change, passing sights like Three Creeks Lake, Pole Creek and Black Butte.
Gravel riding features many former road cyclists who have altered their bikes for the slightly rougher terrain.
One key reason why people enjoy riding on these dirt and gravel paths is: There's fewer people.
The gravel roads are not as congested as a hiking trail, or as dangerous as riding on the street.
“Literally thousands of miles and old logging roads and fire roads that you can go all day and maybe see one or two people on them,” Sperry said.
Serena Gordon, a professional bike racer who’s competing this weekend, agrees.
“Its accessible to so many different people," she said, "and we get off the roads -- and we get off the roads with cars, and its a sense of adventure, always.”
Gordon has raced in China, South Africa and Europe.
She lives in Bend, and is happy to have a gravel race in her own backyard.
“We have such a network of awesome Forest Service roads, and also the roads that go through Skyline Forest, that you can leave here and spend the whole day just adventuring,” Gordon said.
Gordon and Sperry are expecting a big turnout this weekend, and for the sport's rapid growth to continue.
“In our society, we're so plugged in, and sometimes it’s nice to literally unplug and just go out in the woods and just be pedaling,” Sperry said.
The 'Oregon Trail' Gravel Grinder starts in June and is a five-day race based in Sisters.