For a ride such as the Oregon Outback you’re gonna want a bike that can take a beating (and not pass the beating back to you), brakes that will give you control through the rough stuff, and fat tires. Like really fat tires. But you don’t want a mountain bike, ’cause you wanna go fast (they don’t call it a race, but let’s face it, it’s a race). So this means something with drop bars. And as any alpine climber worth his salt will tell you ‘speed is safety,’ so forget the fully loaded bike with front and rear racks and panniers. For portage, a handlebar bag, seat pack (something like this or this) and maybe a frame bag. Maybe. Enough room for a jacket, an extra layer, chain lube, food, etc.
The bike which I am describing is of course, the Lynskey Cooper with disc brakes and 650b tires (the Compass Babyshoe Pass 42c’s, to be exact). The ti frame and Whiskey carbon fork lightens things up a bit, while also providing a balance of comfort and stiffness ideal for covering a lot of ground in a little time while not doling out extra wear and tear on your body. The chainstay clearance on the Cooper allows for fat tires, or slightly less-fat tires with fenders. Which brings me to my next gear choice: no fenders. I’m sure there are those who would lament my decision to forgo the ol’ mudflaps on such a ride, to whom I would reply simply, “Ira Ryan“.
Disc brakes for a gravel/dirt road ride (read: race) seem like a no-brainer and the Lynskey Cooper is specced just so. Jerry (the bike’s owner) built his up with the TRP HyRd’s. There were issues in the past with the HyRd which TRP has since resolved in a later model of the brake. The pull is a little long with Campagnolo levers but when it bites, it really bites. If you can get used to the feel of the brake, it’s a great option for drop bar levers. Their reliability and increased strength as compared to a linear-pull or cantilever brake make disc brakes a definite go-to for the Outback.
This is hands down my ideal setup for tackling the 360 miles of Oregon backcountry come next spring. To sum it up: Lynskey Cooper, 650b, disc, Compass Babyshoe Pass 42s. The backbone of the perfect gravel-grinder-monster-cross-drop-bar-mountain-bike, whatever you choose to call it. My perfect tool for the job. And after all that to-do I’ll be detailing what I’ll actually be riding as we get closer to the ride!