Railroad Spikes and Shotgun Shells: AWOL on the Oregon Outback – Day 01

With the success and failure of Erik and my last AWOL ride on the Diablo range, we started looking for another mission to continue the story. This couldn’t be just any camping trip, it had to be hard. Like, really, really tough and big and stuff.

Then it dawned on Erik (I was too busy to actually look for anything) – we’d do Velo Dirt’s Oregon Outback. Erik contacted me in his Swedish voice “ok mannn, we’re going to do this really fucking tough ride, called the Oregon Outback, are you in?”. Me: “Of course!” – not wanting to sound like a sissy. At the time, I was probably traveling for something and I didn’t even know what the Outback was. I just assumed it was a chill weekend getaway…

Little did I know it was a route that started at the California / Oregon border and went straight up to the Oregon / Washington border. 360 miles, over 15,000′ elevation and 80-90% dirt trails, tracks and roads. I knew there would be a lot of headwind – trade winds go south to north – we were going into it the whole way.

Initially, I was planning on doing the ride on a hardtail MTB, with bikepacking bags, but ended up scoring a stock AWOL Comp. Erik painted up a Outback-themed AWOL Comp and we made our gear selections. Coming off the ATOC, I had done some big rides. I was 185 pounds, lean, fit and ready.

Erik just completed the Brevet series in SF and came fresh off a 600k. If anyone was capable of tackling this ride in three days, it was us. That’s three big days. Fully loaded. Pfffft. We got this! Team AWOL was ready. I flew into SF, got my bike, packed up and headed out the door.

After a 10-hour train ride from Oakland to Klamath Falls, we checked into a hotel and got some rest… It was going to be a big, bad, day. Neither of us were prepared for what awaited in the morning.

Finish reading in the Gallery captions!

  • stateofnonreturn

    I thought the window shot was incredible, like a classic western cinematography.

    • rmdub

      John Prol-Leone. Gotta grow a big grey beard now, John.

  • tanner

    Brilliant documentation! Thank you for sharing!

  • Chris Valente

    Damn Ira doing the look back right out of the gate. That should have been a sign he meant business….

  • Sam Appelbaum

    These are the rides we all dream of. Solid work and photographs! Though maybe it was the Mt. Mazama eruption you’re speaking of in relation to the red dirt?

  • Goog Smells

    Man, seeing stuff like this makes me think I shouldn’t go to med school. I want to conquer rides like this one. I want to have sick adventures. How am I supposed to find time to do that? How does anyone find time to do that? I just wanna ride my bike.

    • Take one day off from work and make it a long weekend!

  • Simon Schnyder

    Great pictures!
    What front racks are you using?

  • Ian Stone

    Those Sin Dawgs are sweet. Although they’re only 1600 calories, not 2000.

  • Russell Stout


  • Jamie McKeon

    Hey Ira if you’re reading this, can I ask what your setup was? How did you survive with just one barbag? Cheers in advance.

    • He didn’t stop for sleep, only to refuel. 28 hours straight.

      • Jamie McKeon

        that is so so so so impressive.

    • AttackCowboy

      This photo from @breadwinnercycles gives an idea of what he was carrying as well:

      • Jamie McKeon


      • Roger Dudek

        Drugs and dope. But what flavor?

  • Tyler Shannon

    Photo sets like this have inspired me to go out. Next weekend, a friend and I are headed out. 95ish miles, 65 on gravel and dirt, 3,000 feet of climbing. So thanks!

    • That’s all I ever want – to inspire people – you don’t need an “event” or a “fondo” or a “race” to have fun. You’ll have more fun riding with your best friends, on your own route and your own time… Cheers man!

  • Gordon Watt

    Truly inspirational trip. Another dumbass spec Q for you – are they the stock Specialized Trigger Sports? It’s a struggle to get >40-45mm tyres here in the UK but these seem more widely available than most.

  • Harry

    How are those AWOL’s to ride? They seem like pretty good fun and decent value.

    • I’ve done two rides now and I actually like it a lot.

  • Oh man I have that thousand-yard-stare going on.

  • Zach Kahl

    Velo Dirt creator had words on the event and everything else…


  • Keith Gibson

    want to do this ride

  • Giovanni Jimenez

    What an adventure! Beautiful photos. I cant even imagine what it feels like to complete such an epic/scenic ride like this. Would you even want it to stop?

    • Considering I could barely walk because my knee was in pain, yes, I wanted it to stop. ;-)

  • Harley Raylor

    Hi John, what size relevate tangle bag did you use on the AWOL? Looks like you had decent clearance for h2o bottles. And something about that one h2o cage that’s holding the Nalgene I can’t quite tell what it is. what is the functionality of that? Thanks!

    • That’s the Arundel Looney Bin cage and I’m not sure what size Revelate.

      • darcycle

        How’d the Nalgene bottle go? I’m considering the same setup.

    • darcycle

      Looks like a medium.