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Gravel biking popularity on the rise: Cascade Gravel Grinder set for this weekend near Sisters

(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.

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.



  1. The less bikes on the highway is a very good thing but the riders will need to understand that rigs on the dirt and gravel can not stop very fast when they meet you in a corner and that cars and trucks kick up dust as they travel down the roads – as the caption video shows very well – so do not blame the drivers when you get dusted out.

    1. Spoken like a know it all that’s never been off the couch. The bikes stop amazingly well, most these days running hydraulic disc brakes and gravel spec tires.. You know nothing. Do you really think a gravel rider hasn’t experienced dust before? Literally all gravel riders prepare themselves with face protection. Totally clueless boomer. Stay in your lane.

      1. I believe n8tive was talking about the cars/trucks not being able to stop very fast. Regardless, a vehicle or peddle bike will skid and slide on loose gravel when trying to stop quickly.

      2. Spoken like a true imbecile that doesn’t pay attention as usual. Read his post again and you’ll see they were talking about a “vehicle” braking NOT a bike. Lay off the weed and alcohol.

      3. @TrumpsTinyHands – try heading up to COCC this year and taking a class on reading comprehension, it will help you understand some of the things you read. I guess I will have to use little words for you and clear up some “misunderstanding”. When I said “rigs” I meant cars, pickups, logging trucks, crew wagons, water trucks, fire trucks, etc, all the different types of motorized vehicles one may encounter on a gravel logging road. I hope that helps clear that up. As for the rest of your rant, I do not have to defend myself to you but I have more time outside than you have or will ever have. Maybe you should consider an anger management class as well.

    2. Actually some drivers are good at taking full responsibility for driving too fast for conditions and not having control over their vehicle. Some even admit that their excessive speed is what causes unnecessary dust and erosion of road surfaces and washboard. You’d be amazed at how conscientious some drivers are of the damage, wear and tear, destruction and harm to wildlife that they cause. I’ve seen quite a few nice people out sharing the outdoors around here.

        1. Yes, some of them are so responsible that if they own guns, they actually know that they are ultimately responsible for where the bullets fired from the guns end up!

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