Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Portland to the Coast- Winter Planning

The planning continues for an all off-road bike ride from Portland to the coast. This includes acquiring the right equipment, mapping the mazes through the forest, plotting potential food stops and trying to figure out who is going to join me. Again, it's not simply about getting to the coast, as tons of people do that via pavement. The goal is to do it off-road, where the wild things are. Since there is no record of anybody doing this, planning is key.


The bike-
I just got my new Surly Karate Monkey built up last week and it's still lacking a coat of mud. Fat tires, disc brakes and room for Revelate frame bags, it should be a perfect choice for all conditions. After finding 700c x 42mm tires were puncturing on the rocks with a loaded bike, the need for fat was evident. There is also rumor that some of the abandoned roads out there simply become washed out and overgrown within a few years, so having this type of go-anywhere bike seems appropriate.

After a summer of trying to coax a company rep to let me BUY some Northwave Mission shoes, they finally just sent me a pair for free. The thing with these Northwave shoes that I haven't seen on many other brands is that they understand they need to walk/hike through the woods. So they use a Vibram sole for great traction on wet and loose terrain. The shoe isn't quite as stiff as a "race" shoe, but it certainly feels better walking around and the grippy bottoms have proven to be quite good on wet rocks. They will certainly come in handy if I'm pushing the bike up gravel roads for an hour at a time.

Navigation Devices-
Knowing it'd be dumb to attempt this ride without a GPS, I have my eye on the new Garmin Edge 800 GPS, as you can download routes into it and it'll tell you where you're at in the woods. Another sweet feature is simple, a built-in rechargeable li-ion battery. Being remote in the woods, carrying spare batteries isn't my first choice. So I plan to recharge it while riding with a dyno hub (Shimano or Schmidt) combined with this sweet little recharging device from Dahon, appropriately named ReeCharge.

Another plan is to make fan blades that fit into the spokes of the wheel. That way, I can flip the bike upside down at night and let the wheel become a windmill, spinning electric current back into the GPS and ReeCharge. Not sure how well it will work, but it sounds like a fun experiment.


Countless hours have been spent on Google Earth lately. It's pretty much like completing a maze puzzle, only with geographic obstacles to zoom in towards, trying to decipher whether there is a stream to cross or a rock scree field to avoid. One mile at a time and lots of backtracking is how this goes. Here is a screenshot example.

Once I've plotted a basic outline of dots in Google Earth, I'll trace a line along the same route in my National Geographic TOPO! mapping software. This is based on partially to severely outdated USGS surveys. While the lay of the land doesn't really change, the roads definitely do. I've noticed several roads that don't exist here in the TOPO maps and my paper maps, but you can visibly see on the recent aerial photographs showing up on Google Earth.

This is further proof that trial and error is going to happen. Back tracking, doubting ourselves, finding temporary shelters for the night, eating the remains of beef jerky for dinner and spectacular views are inevitable.

Once it's in the TOPO software, the routes can be downloaded onto the GPS. Sweet.


I have a new favorite blog called Velodirt. These folks are thinking along the same lines as I am, only they've actually done a ton more reconnaissance rides than I have. They have even found a route heading West-Southwest from Portland that, according to locals, goes all the way to the coast at Tillamook. I plan on joining them for some drier rides on the other side of the Cascades this winter, and when the snow clears in spring for their route to the coast.

Oh, Mr. Bama is joining me too. He was a boy scout, so we're guaranteed to get lost and burn the forest down.


  1. I started planning my off-pavement tour to the coast when I first read this: http://readytoride.biz/?p=720

    I got hooked on this kind of riding after being tricked into entering California and cycling on a place called Usal Road. Only traffic was one motorcycle, and some elk.

    Lets compare notes ! N

  2. hi there, just stumbled on your blog. dirt riding/bike packing is where it is at! i did my first bikepacking trip over the summer on my pugsley and it was tits! can't wait for the next one. digging your setup and will be taking some cues for sure. i am trying to get my cross check as dirt worthy as it is going to be. also built up a dyno wheel, did a diy dyno light and am looking into a circuit to charge aa batts. check out my pugs trip here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/40010668@N06/sets/72157624566016935/
    and my diy dyno here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/40010668@N06/sets/72157625702160192/
    still making some refinements on my dyno system, but it will be awesome.
    i live in portland too, think i met you once or talked to you at sunday parkways. i had the big dummy + sound system, blasting funk and i think you had a soundsystem on a cycle truck, right? we should kick it some time. i am planning on being at 'the rapture' but would love to maybe get in on some of that recon. word. alan