“It’s not much, but it’s better than pavement,” I thought to myself while looking down at the ribbon of dirt next to the busy paved rail trail. “It’s technically single track.”
That strip of dirt next to the Springwater Corridor along the Willamette River in Portland sparked an idea — or really, an adaptation of an amalgamation of ideas rolling around in my head for a long time. Sometimes it’s taking the long way with a loop through a park on the way to somewhere else, maybe it’s an informal foot path behind a guardrail or an unpaved alley.
Can running errands around town be an adventure? Hell yea, if you do it right (or wrong), but a cruise around town, or any bike ride, doesn’t have to be an egregious attempt to reap Instagram likes or a double-truck spread in Bikepacking Journal. So, taking a dirt path on your way to a park or anywhere else is a damn fine time and an excellent reason to go out of your way and add glorious “junk miles” to any “training ride.”
A local, close-to-home adventure can be as diverse as something more in the life-changing realm of adventure. Think of the stretches of pavement or highway shoulders that connect one section of an off-pavement route with another? Well, this is the opposite: it’s the off-pavement route that connects between over-abundant pavement and concrete. Or, a 20-mile pavement connector between two sections of ¼ mile single track sections. It’s wonderfully ridiculous.
I noticed one day that I could start stringing these often overlooked paths together into routes around town. I opened Ride With GPS and additional mapping software and started tracing my routes around Portland, making notes (on paper, in a notebook!) and directions.
Head south here, turn there, cross the swirly pedestrian bridge, ride over the path … loop trough the park because it has nice trees.
My notes looked like old school directions, long before Mapquest and later Apple Maps. They suggested an informal route through a small city that has a solid bike culture but a dearth of singletrack or close-enough non-paved roads, other than Forest Park. Portland has wonderful (for the US) bike infrastructure, but this is about getting off the damn pavement and on the ground.
For the most part these routes and paths aren’t the most challenging riding, they’re not through lost worlds or distant lands. They’re the unpaved alleys a few blocks away, they’re the worn path next to the street that’s often jammed full of dog walkers and people on bikes, but that’s not the point. The point is to get off the pavement and take a slightly more circuitous path that rolls next to those train tracks that used to and will again be for the trolley.
Really it’s not that much different from piecing together bikepacking routes, just smaller.
I would love to see people all over piece together technically singletrack routes where they live; maybe when we can safely do events and social gatherings, make it a group thing, go shred some gnarly technically singletrack.