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Avoiding Gravel - Portland Area

Old 09-07-10, 04:24 PM
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Avoiding Gravel - Portland Area

Like many of you, I enjoy staring at Google maps and thinking of new routes I could ride. The problem I have is gravel roads. On more than one occasion Iíve been halfway through a ride only to find that the road I was planning on taking is loose gravel. So Iíve had to turn back or make a big detour on a much higher traffic road.

Anyone have any luck of identifying in advance which roads are gravel and which are not? Iíve tried Google Earth but it is really hard to tell. Iíve also done a search for a listing of gravel roads but didnít find anything. (I was hoping counties might maintain lists of gravel roads but if they do I havenít been able to find them.)

Thanks, Scott


P.S. Please donít suggest I get a bike made for gravel. While that is one solution that is not the solution I am seeking.
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Old 09-07-10, 05:18 PM
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I've had the same problem and had to resort to paper maps. I buy the best maps of the counties I usually ride in, they are the best for marking the road surface. Official county maps are best for this, but if there is a bicycle specific map it will give you much more information on shoulders, traffic volume and hills. Low tech? maybe, but it works.
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Old 09-07-10, 05:33 PM
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I ride the hills in the Vernonia / Scappoose / Hillsboro triangle. Most of those roads are old logging roads and a crap shoot. Road closures are very common in that area (due to wash outs, logging, etc.). I will either drive parts of the route ahead of time or "plan for adventure".
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Old 09-08-10, 08:50 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. Funny that I hadn't even thought of looking at a paper map. I'll see what I can find, it sounds like it will still take a sense of adventure but maybe I can find a few gems out there. I'd love to find some new routes in the Vernonia / Scappoose / Hillsboro triangle and around McMinnville.

-Scott
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Old 09-08-10, 05:04 PM
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Scott, check out my ridewithgps account, I've mapped out a few rides in those areas. PLEASE NOTE that some of these have not been ridden in awhile so it's rider beware! The Banks - Vernonia trail is very nice but not suitable to high speed riding (and there are some gravel patches). I ride a Long Haul Trucker with 700x37 tires so packed gravel and dirt is not an issue.

https://ridewithgps.com/users/771
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Old 09-08-10, 09:32 PM
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Thanks for the link Greg. Some of those routes look *very* intriguing. Other than the short section on Vernonia are the other routes on road (at least the last time you rode them)? I'm riding a specialized Tarmac with 700x23 tires and I don't like gravel.

Thanks, Scott
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Old 09-09-10, 09:51 AM
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My personal rule of thumb is that county supported roads are subject to being chip sealed when least expected. Hence, loose surface gravel. City maintained road probably should have been repaved last year, while state roads are being repaved this year, thus less than ideal surface conditions. Forest service, and BLM roads will likely become gravel at some point (without prior warning), even if they appear to be paved when you start on them. So, best be prepared with a spare tube (or two), patch kit and tire pump, otherwise, you will need them. And if prepared, you can enjoy the ride.

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Old 09-09-10, 02:01 PM
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Pom hit it on the head, there is a mix of chip seal & loose gravel on some of these roads (basically whatever will get a logging truck up and down the hills). Given my tire width and overall speed it's not a big issue for me (i.e. surface conditions are not as memorable). A rule of thumb I'd use is that anything -west- of Rt. 47 & Vernonia is more likely to be gravel or packed dirt (mainly used for logging only). However, Timber and Vernonia roads are definitely paved. To the east of Rt.47 there are a lot of homes so they try to keep the roads in "better" condition. Always know a way to the nearest large local road (which will be paved) that can be used to detour / adjust the route on the fly.
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Old 09-09-10, 02:02 PM
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By the way, if you ride a section of one of the routes please leave a comment on my ridewithgps page updating the road conditions. It will help others when I reference those routes, thanks!
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Old 09-10-10, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Greg_R
Pom hit it on the head, there is a mix of chip seal & loose gravel on some of these roads (basically whatever will get a logging truck up and down the hills). Given my tire width and overall speed it's not a big issue for me (i.e. surface conditions are not as memorable). A rule of thumb I'd use is that anything -west- of Rt. 47 & Vernonia is more likely to be gravel or packed dirt (mainly used for logging only). However, Timber and Vernonia roads are definitely paved. To the east of Rt.47 there are a lot of homes so they try to keep the roads in "better" condition. Always know a way to the nearest large local road (which will be paved) that can be used to detour / adjust the route on the fly.
Good observation. I live just East of 47 off Spring Hill and I routinely encounter gravel roads during my rides. You either know the road or take a chance. What I ended up doing is if I was planning on riding something I knew about, I took my carbon road bike. If it wasn't something I knew about and was just out to discover a new route, I take my cross bike with 700x32 semi-slick cross tires. Then dirt roads are not a concern. If it was a good route, I write it down for next time and take the road bike.
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