The popularity of bicycling on gravel roads is on the rise, and a couple who founded a website dedicated to the topic plan to add 35 new routes around Baker County and Northeastern Oregon to their list.
Linda and Kevin English of Bend started Dirty Freehub — dirtyfreehub.com — six years ago.
After their first visit to Baker City the couple knew they needed to map routes in the region. They were especially taken with the Anthony Lakes area, naming a ride in that area “Tony” and adding it to their bucket list.
The route isn’t on their website yet.
“It’s such a beautiful ride,” Linda English said. “It’s a ride where people will go, ‘Oh my gosh, that was incredible.’ ”
English said she and her husband started the online guide after riding on a road near traffic one day and seeing a gravel road, running beside the crowded paved road, and realizing they could have been riding on the gravel instead.
“We realized the biggest problem is people had no idea where to ride,” Linda said.
The ideal conditions for gravel cyclists are good roads, variety in the route and gorgeous scenery. Each new section of a route is called an anchor point. Dirty Freehub has plenty of long and short routes, and experienced bicyclists can string multiple routes together to create one long ride perfectly suited to their needs.
There are training routes for a “quick after-work ride” and “five star” routes that showcase the best of the best gravel roads. Each route is mapped out and tested by the Dirty Freehub team to ensure that it is up to the website’s standards and does not go over any private land. People can also submit routes in their hometowns that they think would make a good gravel ride.
The Englishes’ website has more than 8,000 miles of routes mapped in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, Montana and Tasmania, Australia.
A top priority for the couple is that riders become engaged in the communities they bike through, whether as tourists who contribute to the local economy, or simply learning more about the town.
“One of the reasons why we did this is to give back to our community,” English said. “We also wanted cyclists to have a safe place to ride. We looked at Baker City and thought this could be a huge tourist opportunity for them.”
Baker City, which has the Baker City Cycling Classic each year, is already a bicycle-friendly community. This is part of what drew the Englishes to the area and what made them decide to map out and test so many routes in the area.
Anywhere from 300 to 400 people visit the Dirty Freehub website every day, with thousands of followers on social media platforms looking for their next ride. Linda said she is excited to see how the new routes will contribute to Baker City’s economy and increase the number of gravel cyclists in the area.
“I can’t even tell you how many times we’re driving out to a route and then wondering, ‘Oh, where does that go to?’ ” English said. “The roads up here are perfect for us.”
Once published, the Northeastern Oregon routes will be available at www.dirtyfreehub.com.