Route Types: 5 Star, Training & Development

5 Star Routes

5 Star routes are our premier routes. They are the kind of route that you think, “Wow! That was cool.” So we invest a heck of a lot of time and energy to provide you all the nitty-gritty details of the route: Pictures, micro-videos, history, cool facts, and a detailed route description. We want you to be just as excited about this route as we are … but more importantly, we want you to have a good idea of what you are getting into before you go.  What is super fun for one person is dullsville for another.  Or what is easy for you might be really hard for someone else. We also include logistics like food, water, and parking.

 The really important point to remember is:

All Five Star routes have been ridden by a Dirty Freehub Team member and are verified to meet 5 Star route quality standards. In short, they offer a kick-ass experience!

What makes a great route …

Ron Lewis, a founder of Our Mother the Mountain, and one of the best, if not the best route creator we know, describes his process of design as:

“In terms of overall route design, each ride tends to kinda have its own character, but things I look for when building/creating routes tend to be aesthetically-driven a lot of the time…does this area have some killer anchor points I’d like to build a route around, what are the points/areas/destinations you are looking to connect?…a deep trail section w/ unbelievable views, a badass valley/drainage/perspective, crazy fog layers certain times of year…factoring that in it is also layers of reveal that we look for as well…a really nice steady climb emerging into a super rewarding vista or ridgeline or deep murky forest…like I say, it’s all different based on what/where/purpose, etc…but generally it kinda helps the experience to have a strong visual payoff. 

In terms of pacing, any one element that goes on too long starts to feel sloggy …generally, in the gravel-world, that nets out to too much of the same type of thing. Intermixing gravel with pavement, singletrack, and unexpected traverses through forest / primitive road / game trail tend to be pretty key to how we put routes together.”

Our criteria for 5 Star Routes …
  • Beauty / High visual value (i.e., rivers, streams, mountains, etc.)
  • Color!
  • Unique features (i.e., the Head of Metolius, a ghost town, a cemetery, Wizard Falls fish hatchery, etc.)
  • History (i.e., Meeks wagon cutoff, Old railways from the railway wars)
  • Texture. Winding, curvy roads. We don’t like long and straight!
  • Incorporate multiple climbs and descents versus one long climb and one long descent.
  • Builds to a climax, like a good story.
  • Take me places that I would not normally go. Places where there are no mountain bike trails or where a road bike cannot get to.
  • Sector breaks—a mix of pavement, gravel / dirt, double track, single track, bike path.
  • Uphill on gravel and downhill on pavement (or good gravel with gradients less than 6%).
  • Little traffic
  • No, or little, overlap with other routes.
  • If it is an out & back, it must have a great payoff at the turnaround point (a viewpoint, a cultural / historical site, etc.).

Training Routes

We also document a handful of routes called Training Routes. These are routes that locals will find useful for a quick after-work ride. They are not destination rides like our 5 Star routes; they may have a few segments that lack a bit in character. And they are not documented in the same depth and detail as 5 Star Routes.

Development Routes

Development routes have one of two origins: (a) They are routes forwarded to us by other riders using the “Share Your Route” page, or (b) they are routes that a member of the Dirty Freehub Team worked a bit but never got the chance to fully vet. (Captain ‘O’ is famous for this. When he works an area for a month or so, he normally goes away with 10 to 15 routes that he researched but never got to ride!)

The Route Guides for Development routes vary from a fully detailed guide to a guide with maybe a picture or two, a brief description, and a map. What we know, we try to include in the guide. When we post a Development Route, we are 75% sure that it “goes”. But … just in case, bring a sense of adventure. Sometimes it really doesn’t work out …

A route will stay as a Development Route until we either get sufficient community feedback that the route is of 5 Star quality; in that case, the route quality is verified by a member of the Dirty Freehub team with bike tires on terra, or in such a case that the route is not worthy of 5 Star status, it is dropped from the catalog.

How You Can Help Us

We really appreciate your feedback when you ride a route — 5 Star, Training or Development. Please leave a comment at the bottom of the Route Guide page. It helps to make gravel riding better for all. Thanks!

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