PORTLAND, Ore. — After more than three decades of taking cyclists around the state on a week-long ride, Cycle Oregon's flagship cycling ride, called the Classic, will ride off into the sunset after the organization's September ride.
"The Classic is the ultimate way to see a part of the state you would never get to. To smell the blackberries, to smell the vineyards, to experience the creeks of all of those wonderful, amazing geographical features that we have in Oregon that we never get to when we're going up and down the I-5 corridor," said Sarah Gates, the vice president on the board of directors for Cycle Oregon.
Gates said she has ridden in the Classic around 20 times.
"I've been to every corner of the state and at the speed of two wheels. It's just a magical time when I don't have to do anything else," Gates said.
The Classic is a 7-day ride covering hundreds of miles and climbing thousands of feet in elevation. Each year's ride is different from the last. The route each year takes place in a different part of the state, the scenery is different and the towns that the several thousand riders enter benefit from the temporary visitors.
"That's the beauty of the Classic, is to show off the beauty of Oregon. Most of the towns that all of our rides go through, not just the Classic. We're going into towns that double and triple the population," said Ryan Barrett, the marketing manager for Cycle Oregon.
On average, about 2,000 take part in each ride. At its height, that number was closer to 2,500 and registration filled up fast.
"If you didn't sign up for the Classic on the day we announced the route, you may not get in," Gates said.
As the years have gone on, they say it has become more expensive to produce and cyclists want different types of rides. Ridership has also fallen in recent years to closer to 1,500. This year, they hope to get around 1,300 to sign up, but say there are just over 800 registered.
"Ever since about the 25th (year), we've seen a change in rider preferences and there's a lot more competition for people's ride time. In addition to inflation, we're realizing our riders are looking for different kinds of rides," Gates said.
The final farewell will cover more than 350 miles with cyclists visiting five different towns in the Willamette valley and along the Oregon coast.
"It's going to be a celebration no matter how many show up. It's going to be an iconic ride going through an iconic area of Oregon. So really, no matter the numbers it's an individual experience," Barrett said.
Cycle Oregon said even though the Classic is ending, the organization is not. It will continue to create new routes that showcase the Beaver State with different rides giving cyclists a different experience.
The last Classic will start on Sept. 9 in Albany, traveling south and heading west through Alsea, the circling up towards Toledo and Cloverdale near the coast and heading east towards Carlton before heading south to end at the starting point, 7 days later, on the Sept. 16.
Registration costs $1,450 until Aug. 28 and if you register day of the ride, it's $1,500 with limited availability.