Roads Less Traveled

Sherman County hosts 500 riders for Cycle Oregon Gravel

By Drew Myron

500 cyclists are coming to Sherman County this month for Cycle Oregon Gravel. Photo courtesy of Cycle Oregon

Hundreds of people from across the nation are traveling thousands of miles to spend a weekend bicycling through Sherman County.


“We’ve got good gravel,” says Brittany Dark, who lives near Wasco and serves as Sherman County ambassador for Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce. “Cycle Oregon says we have gravel roads to die for.”

The tiny town of Moro welcomes 500 cyclists and 100 volunteers May 19-21 for Cycle Oregon Gravel, a 2-day ride through Sherman County’s back roads and open vistas.

Cycle Oregon is a nonprofit organization building connection and community through cycling since 1988. Each year, the group hosts 4 bike rides through Oregon landscapes. The Classic is a weeklong journey showcasing vistas and pristine waters. Weekender is a two-day event featuring routes for all rider levels. Joyride is a women-only ride through wine country. Gravel is a 2-day adventure across roads less traveled.

Proceeds from the rides are funneled back into community development projects. The funds support projects and programs related to conservation and historic preservation, bicycle safety and tourism, and community projects. Since 1996, Cycle Oregon has awarded 355 grants totaling $2.76 million.

Moro is homebase for Cycle Oregon Gravel, a 2-day ride through Sherman County. Photos courtesy of Cycle Oregon

In an era of specialization, cycling has moved into niche groups. Gravel bikes combine the knobby tires and off-road capabilities of mountain bikes with the speed and long-distance agility of road bikes. They are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the cycling industry. From 2019 to 2021, gravel bike sales rose 109%, according to Dirk Sorenson, sports industry analyst for NPD Group.

Capped at 500 cyclists, Cycle Oregon Gravel has attracted riders from throughout the United States and British Columbia.

“Sherman County has a ton of gravel roads,” says Ann Marie Redente, events director for Cycle Oregon. “We’re bringing people to areas they wouldn’t normally know about and showing them something so unexpected and beautiful.”

The cost for the 2-day event is $400. The fee includes all meals, bike and rider support, entertainment and lodging. Cyclists will camp in tents and a limited number of RVs and campers at the Sherman County fairgrounds in Moro.

Traversing both gravel and paved roads, cyclists will experience the high plateau of the Columbia River Gorge. The ride offers 2 route options: a short route of 60 miles or a long route of 121 miles over 2 days.

Riders camp in tents during Cycle Oregon events.

On day 1, cyclists travel northeast through the Wasco area, pedaling over rolling hills and next to giant wind turbines. On day 2, cyclists travel southwest through the Grass Valley area where they will experience wide-open landscapes and views of the Deschutes River.

Unlike many bike events, Cycle Oregon is not a race. Riders range from fast-paced cyclists to relaxed leisure cruisers. The emphasis, Ann Marie says, is on encouragement.

“We’re transforming individuals and communities through bicycling,” she says. “We seek out unexplored beautiful places of Oregon. We’re excited to share this area with people who don’t know about it. We’d love to have the community be a part of this.”

Along with 100 Cycle Oregon volunteers, more than 100 local folks will serve as volunteers too, according to Brittany. Community organizations, such the Sherman County Garden Club and the Sherman County School football team, will assist with meal preparation, rest stop support and trash removal. For their work, Cycle Oregon provides stipends to the community organizations.

Cycle Oregon events attract the silly and the serious.

Local residents are encouraged to take part in activities throughout the weekend. There is a meet-and-greet from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 19, and from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 20, at the Sherman County fairgrounds. Locals are encouraged to meet and chat with visiting cyclists. The community is invited to enjoy live music Friday and Saturday at the fairgrounds. The events are free and open to the public.

“Cycle Oregon has a great reputation of supporting communities before, during and after events,” Brittany says. “This is a great opportunity for community pride.”

For more information, visit the Cycle Oregon website.