klamathbendstart Mark Waters: I just returned from 4 1/2 days riding the portion of the Oregon Outback route from Klamath Falls back to Bend. Here is a link to a route description posted by the rider who planned the route and first rode it: http://velodirt.com/portfolio/the-or…utback-part-i/ . The whole route goes from Klamath Falls to the Columbia Gorge, 363 miles. I plan on completing the rest of the tour later in the summer but didn’t want to be away from the shop for too many days.

cogwild1The total distance I cycled was 235 miles, with 7000 feet of elevation; 95% of the  tour was dirt. I averaged 10.5 mph, and was surprised I ended up doing it that fast because it was probably the hardest, most grueling off road tour I’ve ever done. Not because of the miles or elevation, but because so much of the surface we were riding on was soft sand, cinders or gravel. Plus, trying to keep up with a bunch of bike racers who were mostly all half my age was challenging. I shuttled down to Klamath Falls with 9 other riders in a local mountain bike shuttle company van. I was the only recumbent rider, having chosen the Azub Max recumbent bike for the trip. There were 3 fatbike riders, and most everyone else was on regular mountain bikes set up bikepacking style with frame bags; one rider was on a cross bike pulling a Burley Nomad trailer.

trippic1It’s recommended that at least 2.1″ tires are used on the route but having ridden it now with 2.1 Kenda Small Block 8 tires on the Azub (the max size it will take) I can tell you it would be MUCH easier with at least 3″ ones.
I’m always interested to see how different machines compare with each other in terms of efficiency in various riding conditions, so this tour was a great opportunity with such a diversity of rides and riders.  I ran one set of Ortlieb bags on the under seat rack and one small duffle with shelter and sleep system on the rear rack. Most everyone else had lighter-weight bikes and gear but were carrying light backpacks as well.

trippic Generally, I was slower (but not the slowest) on the climbs, but much faster on the downhills, and usually faster on the flats. Once the speed hit over 14 mph or with headwinds, I had the advantage. The fatbikes, all of which were running 29×3 Surly Knards, ruled the many really soft sections on the first 75 miles. The route starts on the OC&E rail trail in KF but this is nothing like rail trails such as the Katy trail. It’s wild, remote and un-maintained, as in barely passable in some sections. Riding up to 70 miles plus a day was challenging to say the least. For a good portion of the route, the surface was rough enough to really appreciate the full suspension on the Max. No one else had full suspension, and by the end of the tour, even the seasoned bike racers were dealing with major butt pain. At no time did I have any discomfort other than being really tired and having somewhat sore legs. Several riders bailed out on the second to last day and took a shorter route back to Bend due to knee and butt issues.

trippic2The Max is set up with underseat steering so all day comfort was wonderful, but I might have preferred above seat steering because of the increased confidence with my hands in front for some of the 45 mph descents on loose gravel. Also on the very loosest section where I had to drop my tire pressure to 25 psi to even continue riding, the OSS might have made steering control a bit easier.

trippic3I took way too much food, and carried some items I should have left home, so overall I could have dropped at least 8 lbs, making the climbs faster and easier. After all my years of bike touring I should know better. When I first loaded the Max up, I was going to do the ride with my Ortliebs on the rear rack, but the handling proved way too squirrelly. I put the expedition underseat rack extension on and with the weight now under my seat, the handling was superb.

zend2Overall, the Max performed admirably. It is the perfect recumbent in my opinion for remote off road tours like the Great Divide Route, but the softer riding surface on a good portion of this trip ideally calls for more tire flotation and fatter tires. There were very few sections on the Great Divide Route that had anything nearly as deep sandy and gravel as this route has so for most applications (if you can leave the un-needed crap out of your bags) the Azub Max is a fast, comfortable, rugged, and capable touring bike for getting off the beaten path.