With winter well underway in the Oregon Cascades, my mountain bike life has traditionally taken a backseat, or left me searching for dirt either north or east of town where snowfall is typically less likely to accumulate. Not being an avid skier or snowboarder, winter is typically not my favorite season in Bend, and often seems to drags on for far longer than I would personally like it to. But with the advent of the fat bike, and the popularity it’s seen in the past few years, winter may just have become more manageable and even enjoyable.
(Wanoga sno-park trail head for fat bike loops)
Over the holiday week of 2016, with the influx of visitors coming to town to celebrate and play, I was given the opportunity to guide 4 fat bike tours for Cog Wild. While I’ve been guiding for the past 5 seasons, until this season I have never guided, or ridden fat bikes in the snow. I’ve had a few rides on fat bike back east in the winter, but only on wet trail. Riding fat bikes in the snow, is a whole other beast. In Central Oregon where snowfall can accumulate to feet, fat biking while a fun way to access the outdoors, can prove to be a much more challenging experience than mountain biking on similar trails or terrain without the snow.
(fat bikes and waterfalls, a perfect Bend winter experience)
Over the course of the week, I had the privilege of taking quite a few first time fat bikers out into the woods to play. On most tours we stuck to a ride from Skyliners trail head to Tumalo Falls and back. While this would be considered a short ride or even just a warm up in summer, this distance often proved to be about as much as the guests wanted, luckily the view of the falls mid ride usually made them happy they put on the work, and the ride back always seemed to be quite a bit easier.
(riding Tumalo Creek Trail with one of the more adventurous groups I lead over the holidays)
Fat biking in Central Oregon is not for the faint of heart, and beginners should come with an open mind. riding on packed out snow is preferable to riding in fresh deep snow, even with fat tires and lower tire pressure, riding in the snow can be very challenging, and patience becomes a virtue. Your ability to mountain bike and fat bike are not always exactly compatible, and often guests found their bike handling skills while fat biking not as strong as they are riding single track in the dirt. But if you can get past this, and accept the change in pace, distance, and ability right out of the gate, the rides are a lot of fun and the views are so much different than those in the summer. Every ride we took was a ton of fun, but we all had to check our expectations and be present with the moment.
(smiling happy post ride faces at Wanoga sno-park new years day 2017)
(success is in the smiles, Tumalo falls with one of the tours)
(father and sons riding Tumalo Creek trail)
Riding fat bikes in the snow is a new experience for most of our guests, and it offers new challenges. New muscle groups get worked, and keeping the bike out of the soft snow and in the packed out track can be a challenge to bike handling. The best advice, is relax, enjoy the slower pace, take in the scenery, and just enjoy the ride and time in the woods with friends. It’s an amazing way to experience the Central Oregon winter on a bike, and we are putting together great opportunities for our guests to enjoy just that.
By Dillon Caldwell (Cog Wild Guide and Marketing Director)
As a lifelong mountain biking enthusiast, I have developed a very particular (if unusual) definition of the term “mountain biking”. And as a seasoned mountain bike tour guide, I’ve been exposed to a wide range of other concepts of what exactly it is that the two-wheeled knobby has come to represent for us.
But I’ve become more and more concerned with where mainstream mountain bike culture is headed today. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see greater numbers of friends and neighbors who can appreciate and join in the fun out on the open trail. In fact, a good chunk of my income and livelihood is directly tied to the tourism this industry brings to the table. I don’t think there’s any question that it’s a great thing for our world to get more people excited about getting outdoors and enjoying nature on bikes. But I’d like to take a moment to reflect on this nascent industry and offer a slightly different perspective on what the mountain bike ride truly represents — at least to this native of the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.
This sport of ours has finally reached a notable level of acceptance in America. Gone are the days where the blue jean and leather jacket were seen as normal attire for the fringe activity we call mountain biking. The Klunker is a not-too-distant part of our history, but it is little more than obscure history at this point.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that mountain biking has become a part of mainstream American culture at this point — even here in the West. But the balance between mountain biking’s perceived status as being something “different” and the reality that it is now a mainstream sport, one that even rivals more traditional American sports for scales of economy (e.g., golf*) in our region of the country, is precisely why it has become so hip. And it’s becoming hipper with each turn of the calendar. Now a significant part of Western culture, this sport has taken on an entirely new persona and meaning for most of us who call ourselves mountain bikers today.
With contemporary advances in mountain bike technology turning the original steel and rubber rigid “Klunker” into something that more closely resembles a piece of aerospace equipment, it’s not hard to imagine that our experience of what that tool represents for each of us has changed as well. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this change. The 2016 Santa Cruz 5010 that I reviewed last fall absolutely blew my mind. There’s no way I would trade the opportunity to ride that amazing bicycle for a hardtail or a rigid bike from the past. Technological advancements in sport, in and of themselves, are nothing to frown upon. They’ve simply made our sport faster, more technically advanced, and (arguably) more fun in the process.
That said, precisely because of these technological advancements, this sport appears to be turning into more and more of an elitist’s hobby today. A top-of-the-line, brand-new mountain bike cost little more than an equivalent set of golf clubs just 15 years ago. Today, a bike of that stature would cost you at least five times that of an equivalent set of golf clubs. Yet many owners of these new “superbikes” are of modest means, and really stretching their budgets to keep up with the sport they love. It’s hard for most people to imagine putting a “toy”, one which we learned to pedal down to the ice cream shop before we could legally drive our car there instead, on top of that very car when it’s resale value is actually worth more than the car itself. I think about the ridiculousness of this situation as I do it myself all summer long. But such is the nature of this sport today. And I love it.
Still, this is an important contradiction to recognize, specifically as it relates to our sport on the whole and to how it is being represented as a result. For many of us who value the best equipment for this sport that we love with all our hearts, that equipment must take precedence over the more traditionally valued western material bases for everyday life (e.g., the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, etc.). This may seem backwards at face value, but we do exist and we’re not going anywhere. Because the feeling we get when we ride that mountain bike never fails to excite our souls, to balance out the hectic workweek, or simply to remind us of that kid on his way to the ice cream shop.
Despite how far the mountain bike industry has come, they’ve done a standout job of keeping this core group of evangelists in mind and in spirit all along the way. However, there is still an important and growing disparity in this sport between who rides this equipment and who can afford this equipment. That disparity may appear to be pushing out the everyday rider with a non-traditional job (or seven or eight) that is often chosen simply by virtue of its amenability to riding more bicycles. This disparity seems to be favoring the rider who makes upwards of $100,000 per year and can afford to take a weeklong break from work in order to take a destination “mountain bike” vacation on their new $10,000 bicycle.
But then again, maybe that’s not the case. What is mountain biking anyways? Is it the chase for faster and faster Strava times on your favorite local trail? Is it the value of the “quiver” of bikes in our garages? Or is it something else entirely?
Mountain biking is so great precisely because it’s available to the masses, across all lines of class and income. When it comes down to it, we’re all just kids pedaling our bicycles. Whether that be to the corner ice cream shop with our families, or through the lush forests of the Cascade Mountains, this is the beautifully simple essence of our sport. And we need to appreciate that essence in order to preserve it.
To start, we need to reconnect with the basis for exactly what it is we are saying when we tell our friends that we are going for a mountain bike ride. The brief history and development of this nascent sport points to one very simple understanding for life on the mountain bike. It points to an understanding that I think is critical in mountain biking’s ability to continue to grow in scale and economy, yet remember its roots and preserve its appeal to everyone. That understanding is the foundation for what mountain biking really is, on a purely philosophical level. Mountain biking cannot be materially defined, but can be defined only from an experiential standpoint.
To assist with this definition, let’s consider what mountain biking is not. Mountain biking is not trail biking. Mountain biking is not a mountain bike. Mountain biking exists beyond the scope of the equipment we choose to pursue it on. You can ride that knobby tired “mountain bike” on the trails your whole life, and never appreciate the true nature of the mountain bike ride. I see these people, I ride with these people, all the time. And it very much excites me to reframe their understandings of what this sport could be.
Conversely, you can be a pure roadie, only ever donning lycra and slick 23mm tires, and still experience the nature of a mountain bike ride every time you head out on the road. I’ve seen both of these worlds many times. I’ve been on some of the most incredible, eye-opening backcountry experiences on my road bike. Yet there is and will always be far more to explore on the more and more versatile piece of equipment we call a “mountain bike”, simply because of the lack of well-maintained roads that connect our world. Certainly, the piece of equipment you choose for your mountain bike ride is not the essential piece of what makes an two-wheeled adventure a mountain bike ride.
So what is a mountain bike ride then? Have you ever found yourself out in the woods, perhaps exploring a new route, perhaps getting separated from your partner(s) and/or your bearings on the world? Have you ever misjudged a map reading so badly that you were forced to ride the majority of the route with your bike on your back, your water pack all dried up, your stomach rumbling with hunger? Have your lights ever run out, forcing you to spend the night on the trail and continue the journey when the sun rose the next morning? Have you ever wondered why the hell you get yourself into these situations over and over, especially when you’re effectively bankrupting yourself with state-of-the-art gear and supplies only to continue to revert to basic survival skills? If you’ve answered yes to any or all of these questions (and, to be clear, this list is certainly not exhaustive or exclusive), chances are you know what a mountain bike ride is.
What’s more, I’d bet that many of us know the answer to that last question well. It’s why we keep coming back for more. It’s the beer at the end of the trail that only took 45 minutes to ride, even though we spent seven hours trying to find it. It’s the smiles and the memories that we share with our partners, either on those rides or in the recounting. It’s the shared meaning and value we all get when these real-world, real-life experiences remind us of the easily forgotten fact that (despite the automated and mind-numbing realities of modern life) we’re still just animals — truly amazing ones at that. And it’s the reminder that our place as animals in this vast world might seem pretty insignificant at times in daily life. But when we find ourselves out there amongst the rushing rivers and the alpenglow on the high peaks, with muddy paws and unibrows of dust, our insignificance in this awe-inspiring place is actually quite significant.
That feeling is the one we’re after. And that feeling can be appreciated whether we have drop-bars or knobby tires. It can be appreciated in jeans or in lycra, or in anything in between. That feeling can be appreciated from atop a mountain, or in the river valley below. That feeling can be accessed whether we find ourselves behind the desk at a multi-million dollar international insurance company on Monday, or behind the steering wheel of a garbage truck. That feeling is universal in both accessibility and in mutual understanding. That feeling is the essence of mountain biking. And whenever it’s accessed by two wheels and nothing more than our body’s own power, that is a mountain bike ride.
By Katy Bryce, Freelance Writer and Cog Wild Friend
Clam chowder, sand dollars, bald eagles and fat bikes. That’s right. We are excited to offer a new and different tour—a fat biking adventure on the amazing Oregon coast. This is something we have wanted to do for a long time and it’s finally coming together!
The Oregon Coast boasts 363 miles of beautiful and rugged coastline, and fortunately for us, every inch of it is designated as public land, available for anyone and everyone to enjoy. That’s why we like to call it The People’s Coast. Not only that, it offers stunning scenery, friendly towns and lots of adventure—all the stuff that our guests get to enjoy on our mountain biking tours. Oh, and beer. Because what is a bike ride without a frosty craft beer waiting for you at the end?
We spent an awesome five days with Travel Oregon scouting out places and routes, opportunities and eateries, and the best of what you might see on one of our upcoming Oregon Coast Fat Bike Tours.
Read along for a recap of our tour.
There’s always a good reason to jump for joy at the coast!
Day 1: Getting Our Feet Wet (and Sandy)
Our biggest lesson for Day 1: Fat biking the Oregon Coast is a one-way affair. Most of the time on the coast, the wind comes from the north and sweeps side shore in a southerly direction. This means, we’ll be organizing our tours to go north to south for a nice tailwind—yes please!
We immediately sought out expansive stretches of beach with nice flat, packed sand to cruise on. While the fat bikes can and will go in softer sand, having a smooth and tacky route right along the water’s edge makes for very enjoyable riding.
This southern section of the coastline featured the mouth of the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, the quaint town of Gold Beach, long stretches of open beaches, and an adventurous river crossing. Not to mention Melanie’s first of seven taste tests of clam chowder. By the end of the trip, she was the total expert on Oregon Coast clam chowder!
Can you say A-Mazing? Day 2 definitely had a few a-ha moments as we cruised from Bandon south to China Creek. Led by Karl of South Coast Bicycles, we were awed by the beauty of sea stacks and pinnacles that rose up both on the beach and out in the ocean. Like little kids, we rode in circles through slot canyons, sea caves, arches, and rock formations formed from thousands of years of wind, water and weather.
Tons of fun things to explore! Photo credit: Jason Britton, Velograph
Wildlife included seals eyeing us curiously from the rocks, seabirds, and tide pool critters. Approaching our take out at China Creek, we had the opportunity to learn about Snowy Plovers, a threatened beach nesting bird. For several months out of the year, some stretches of sand are closed to protect the birds during their nesting season.
Our afternoon was sheer fun in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area—the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. Imagine opening it up on a steep downhill with nothing but a soft landing if you tip over or crash. We’re pretty sure we invented a new sport – DuneDuro! Fortunately all of the Oregon State Park Campgrounds have excellent hot showers to get the sand off.
Day 3: Finding Adventure and Dead Guys (Ales, that is)
Whew! We made it about halfway up the coast to Florence, were we started our morning ride at the South Florence Jetty. Today’s adventure included a mix of fast hard packed sand along the water and some more adventuring in the dunes as we navigated our way to our take out spot. We found all kinds of good stuff sliding our way through fluffy sand and splashing through creek crossings.
The fishing town of Newport was a welcome stop for the night, complete with the very community-oriented Newport Bike Shop and one of Oregon’s most popular breweries, Rogue Ales, under the majestic Yaquina Bay Bridge. From our camp at South Beach State Park Campground, we rode a sweet little path to the brewery, then caught the sun setting from the vantage point of the South Beach Jetty. A fun ride back to camp on the beach at dusk was a perfect way to end the day.
Our bikes got VIP seating too at the Rogue Brewery in Newport.
Day 4: Headlands and Surf City
North of Newport, much of the coast is a series of large headlands and capes that jut into the ocean, resulting in stunning, post-card-like scenery. From Otter Rock to Newport, with a short section of pavement in the middle, the beach was more of the hard packed sand that is so fun to cruise on a fat bike. Small creek crossings, the occasional rock outcropping and more of the blue ocean flanking us the whole way made for a great day.
We had a lot more to cover that day, so onward north we headed, to Lincoln City for some incredible scenery around Roads End State Park. We felt like we momentarily left Oregon and entered another world. Check out some video footage of this amazing area.
Sometimes, you just gotta go around the corner to see what is there.
The last leg of the day had us exploring the areas between Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda, including an adventurous crossing of Sand lake and a sand dune descent, ending at the Pelican Brewery & Pub in Oregon’s surf city, Pacific City. Ahhh, time for a beer and hearty meal! And more chowder.
Day 5: The Sand Dollar Challenge
Our group looked only slightly weary after four days of riding, but quickly perked up as we set out on the sand at the quaint town of Cannon Beach and rode south, skirting Hug Point and on to Arch Cape. A seriously spectacular stretch of coast with deep green, forested hillsides on one side, and the iconic Haystack Rock and other sea stacks on the other.
Riding to Oregon’s iconic Haystack Rock
We came so far on our adventure, but we just had to scope out the very most northern beach in Oregon, from the Astoria South Jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River, to the little town of Gearhart. This 16-mile stretch of white sand was dotted with hundreds of sand dollars—the trick was to find an intact one to take home!
After nearly 100 miles of fat bike riding, we loaded our gear into our sag wagons for the last time. Reminiscing about the long stretches of solitude, our Duneduro shenanigans, and the seven cups of chowder that Melanie “tested” (ask her about the findings), we reminded ourselves how luck we are to live in beautiful, rugged and quirky Oregon.
We’re excited to take you along next time. Our tours will include days filled with fun beach and sand dune riding, healthy and delicious meals, Oregon beers, and overnights in either hotels or Oregon State Park campgrounds.
And the winner of the chowder chomp-off: Rogue Brewery.
Stay tuned for more information about upcoming coast fat bike tours. Sign up for our newsletter to be notified or contact us directly to get on the list.
Remember the party joke about “That Guy”, as in don’t be “That Guy?”. Well, I thrive to find the phrase’s better cousin “That Moment”. What? Okay, I am a photographer. Let me be more specific, a still photographer enjoying my second season as a Cog Wild guide. I have been in love with photography, particularly photojournalism, for most of my life. Mountain biking has always been alongside and Cog Wild has helped me be on more trails, more often, sharing my love for the outdoors.
The feeling of mountain biking is such a culmination of what we bring to the trail. A need to get outside, a desire to try something new, a vigor to push yourself, wind in the hair, a lost feeling needing some pattern and direction. Perhaps it is more simple. Perhaps it’s way too complex. Whichever, rarely does a trail ride not make a vacation, day, evening spin or fast lunch break better. Can that ride be defined by a moment, or is it unfair to separate one particular slice of time?
Moments exist because of anticipation. If we don’t look forward to it, or feel aware to catch something … well, perhaps moments actually exist as processes. The above photo shows Cog Wild guide Seth Gehman showing Cog Wild clients the day’s ride route on a map. I love this moment, but not for the obvious. In the picture, Seth is pointing at something and feet surround him on a slab of asphalt. Well, I also hope this photo shares a lot more; the idea of an adventure ahead and the thousands of options yet to be experienced. To me, this picture is about hope (a process?). I have been exploring this in some photos that intend to anticipate the experience of a rider, without having the distraction of a rider in them.
Turns, Tiddlywinks Trail with frost
In the outdoors, mother nature is dealing the moments in an enormous quantity. This is one of my favorite reasons to be in the woods with others, to share in these moments as they endlessly come and go. Clouds, wind, perfectly still air, wildlife, changing seasons and different landscapes. Each flavor, feeling and smell a unique moment.
Alpine Trail, socked in
Sandy Ridge evening, after rain
Rhododendrons, Alpine Trail
Of course, these trails and experiences are about the people and their outlook. I find, as many have, natural conservation a pure side effect of being outdoors. Looking around, feeling small, finding a primal joy and challenging a point of view.
Chris, high desert singletrack, Horse Ridge
Snack break, Swede Ridge Shelter
Grab a friend, family member, someone special or just all that you can muster and get out here in Oregon. I can wait to ride another section of trail, share a laugh during a lunch break or indulge in a story after the journey. One thing, when the bike comes out and the helmets go on, we’re here to make the most of the experience.
The guides of Cog Wild come from all over, have many great stories about riding, guiding and take some great pictures. Through out the Summer, a Cog Wild guide will post a blog about their experiences. Here is the first one from Dillon Caldwell, we hope you like it.
“Diversity at the End of the Trail.”
Yeah, Oregon is a special place. Growing up here, I grew blind to several key features. But after completing a degree in environmental studies at the University of Oregon, expanding my travel horizons, and working as a guide with Cog Wild Bicycle Tours (Bend, OR), I’ve come to appreciate one particular feature of this special place that underlies its unique character. The diversity of landscape and ecosystems within the bounds of this small western state is truly mind-blowing. And I’m honored to call it home.
Toketee Falls is a perennial favorite, featured in Cog Wild’s North Umpqua trip
From the wind-battered beaches of the Pacific, to the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades; from the lush forests of the Western slope, to the arid badlands; there’s a little bit of everything in this magical place. What’s more, whichever zone you choose to spend your time exploring, you’re unlikely to share the trail with anyone but your buddies. Oregon’s side country is one of the last remnants of the wild, wild west. Only now our horses are made of plastic.
Some Cog Wild guest from Mexico City basking in the McKenzie River mists, courtesy of Sahalie Falls
You can travel the world to encounter all of these landscapes. Or you can simply explore my backyard.
The majestic, year-round snow fields of Mt. Hood are a sight to behold, visible from the world-class Hood River trail systems just down the road.
Whether or not you’re an Oregonian, I want to share this special Oregon-ness with you firsthand. Perhaps these images from the trail will refresh or awaken a curiosity within you. Maybe you’ll be motivated to find a bit of this great state’s diversity on your own in the fast-approaching riding season. Or maybe you’d rather let me and my friends at Cog Wild show off our playground from our own unique perspectives. We’re just getting going here for 2015, but it’s a long season and there are no limits on opportunity for exploration. Our already extensive territory is ever-expanding, now including the internationally acclaimed terrain of Oakridge. Accompanied by locally brewed Deschutes Brewery beer, Humm kombucha, gourmet menus (custom-built for our multi-day tour guests), and the personal flair of your own expert guide(s), the Cog Wild experience is truly a special thing. So what are you waiting for? Make like Lewis and Clark this summer. Let us, let Oregon, be your “end of the trail”.
The “Weeping Wall” is a bittersweet sight, signaling the end of Cog’s North Umpqua trip.
I was on a road trip through the North West with a couple buddies. Our goal was to find prime singletrack wherever we went. At one such destination, I went into the local bike shop, bought a map, and asked the salesman about the trails.
He pointed out the standard loops, but as we continued talking, I described what we were looking for: Steep, dh style, jumps, drops, freeride features. With a quick glance around the room to see that no one else was watching, he drew a squiggly line down a corner of the map and said “you should check this out, a couple buddies and I have been building this for a few years now, you know, under the radar”.
Hmm, what do you think we did? What would you have done?
Of course we went a rode it, who wouldn’t? Very few mountain bikers can stand on that high horse and claim they haven’t ridden illegal trail. It is part of our culture, and everyone, from IMBA top brass, to local staunch trail advocate, to a BadAss Mom (BAM) who innocently cuts through some private property to complete her after work loop, is guilty.
Without renegade trail building, the best trails out there would not exist. Many riding areas and trails across the country were created without permission, by mountain bikers. Think of your local trail system, or favorite riding destination, in a lot of cases those trails were built illegally, then over time adopted and recognized by the land management.
Shoot, even the banal trails West of Bend in the Phil’s network, were scratched in with no permission back in the day.
Since we all know it’s going on, almost all of us participate and illegally built trails aren’t going away, there needs to be a set of rules that we abide by. Here is the code based on my observances over the years, it is probably incomplete, or some don’t apply to certain areas.
The riders code: In most cases the trail builder, or core local group, sets the rules for their trail. If you are privileged enough to be shown a renegade trail, you must follow the rules laid out to you.
Don’t tell anyone Of course this isn’t practical, so choose wisely who you show it to. Usually just your closest riding buddy who you trust to stick to the code. Whatever rules were imparted to you, you must pass on the code as it was explained to you.
No STRAVA or GPS This is a funny one, many renegade trails and trails illegal to bikes have cycling STRAVA segments with sometime thousands of posted times. If that is the acceptable on the trail, so be it. However if you are told to turn it off, you must do it.
Do not post pictures or reports reports to social media. I know you need to show the world how connected you are and how rad you can get. But don’t expose a buddies trail in the process.
If someone does post pics, video or trail report, do not comment. I have seen this too many times: A bike company comes out with a hot new video showing off their new product ridden by their pro rider, and they used renegade trail.
No one would know except the small group of folks who ride that trail, until some jackass comments: “The trail they filmed on is illegal, who do they think they are, it was built by locals who don’t want anyone to know about it”… dumbass, now we all are going to try and find that trail because it looked so rad in the video.
No asking about renegade trails on forums. If you are trying to find info, getting to know the local crew and riding with folks is your best bet. If someone asks on a public forum, there is no good response accept to say “I don’t know”. Even giving a hint that you might know something but can’t tell is bad form.
Walk in/walk out. Often times, to hide the entrance and exits of a trail, walking and carrying your bike is practiced. Usually this is done if the trail splits from a popular route onto private property to prevent curious passer from seeing tire tracks.
Builders code: So, you have a rake and shovel, a vision in your head of your dream track, but don’t have permission to use the land you want to build on. Some suggestions below.
#1: Don’t do it! First of all, you are not qualified! 99% of the renegade trails out there are poorly built. The absolute shit I have seen over the years is embarrassing, I am
ashamed for whoever built it and annoyed because it is associated with our beloved sport of mountain biking. Ladder bridges made out of twigs, jumps to no landing, fall line ruts three feet deep, Pungy sticks or sharp rocks in the fall zone and many more terrible offenses are common on most renegade built trails.
Second of all, you don’t have the time. Building a good trail takes more time than most of you have patience for. Way to many times I have seen or heard of someone start their dream track, only to have them realize how hard building trail is and quit after a day or two of half-assed shoveling.
Lastly: Going rouge on public land flies in the face of the efforts by all the advocacy groups working with land managers over the years. Mountain biking has a very tenuous place in the user group battle, and a ranger who finds illegal trails built by mountain bikers isn’t going to be very sympathetic to the association advocating for mountain bikers.
My suggestion: join you local trail association, spend some time along side the master builders in your area, an apprenticeship of sorts. Learn good, sustainable trail building technique. Contribute your newfound shovel skills to working on legal trails. Go to some meetings about land use, and learn why land managers have such a hard time with user built, renegade trails. Learn who gets the responsibility of policing and tearing out user built trails. Hint, it’s usually your local trail advocacy group, and they’ll be pissed at you for giving them extra work.
So after all this, if you still feel the need to go rogue and build trail without permission, a couple suggestions:
Build it right!!! Put some time and effort into your project. make it sustainable, with drainage and some flow. If building wood features is your thing, build them to last.
Keep it consistent. If your trail has three drops that are rollable, don’t make the fourth one a mandatory gap, or at least give some warning. This leads to unnecessary accidents, which shuts down trails.
Choose your location wisely. Low traffic areas, away from the normal riding loops are best. I have seen renegade trails persist right off the main local loop, but usually they get discovered, overrun and shut down.
You, as the builder, are at the top of the “riders code”. You set the rules, choose who to tell and are ultimately responsible if some loud mouth exposes your trail.
If your trail gets exposed and shutdown, it is your fault, don’t be surprised or indignant. You were doing something illegal, tuck your tail between your legs and slink off to a dark
corner to think about what you’ve done.
Are there renegade trails built in your area? Do mountain bikers ride trails closed to bikes often? Do you have a code or rules when riding illegal trails? Do you think renegade builders have impacted our sport in a positive or negative way?
That rock that you would always pedal-strike, I made it smoother. That ditch you could almost wheelie across, I filled it in so now you can roll it.
That tight switchback that you could hop around like Ryan Leach and all your friends were impressed, I made it so you can pedal around it.
I have a confession: I am the guy who dumbs down your trails.
Over many years and miles of trail work, I have smoothed, buffed, filled in gap jumps, opened up corners, bench-cut narrow trails, dismantled wooden features, made mandatory drops rollable, armored stutter bumpy corners, cut out roots, rerouted trail, and I apologize for none of it.
Let’s back up a bit and get some perspective on this issue. I grew up in a northern California town with a burgeoning mountain bike community; above town there is a university with a campus with expansive meadows and acres of dark redwood forest, and a budding renegade trail system. I began mountain biking in high school with two buddies. As our skills progressed and we searched farther and farther for cool trails, we added to the growing underground build scene, and built a steep downhill trail close to town on the university property. Though completely illegal and equipped with little more than our bikes and a rake between us, we “built” our first trail. The result was steep, rocky, surfy and unsustainable. Don’t worry, no campers died during the process (If you have ridden this campus you know what trail I’m talking about)
I continued building trails without permission over the years in California and in Central Oregon, when I moved here. The theme was always steep and technical, usually as much fall line as possible. Eventually, I joined my local trail association because I decided I could put my efforts to better use by cooperating with the authorities to develop legal, land owner approved trails. Now, I am a trail crew leader, designer and head builder with Central Oregon Trail Alliance in Bend. My main focus is the more technical trails we build and maintain. I have also adopted two trails and have added a lot of my personal flair to both. Ever ridden South Fork or Whoops? Those are my babies.
Who else is a trail dumb downer? Folks who have been working on trails for a long, long time. Guys like me who do trail work all the time don’t want to come back to the same problem on a trail over and over. We have learned to approach trail sections with a five or even ten-year plan to make our efforts sustainable. A trail dumb downer may be working with local land management to develop better trail systems in your area, and the scratched in track out your back door is becoming the “Blue Square” route. Trails close to town should be the easier trails, with the more technical advanced trail further out and harder to find.
I am calling out anyone who whines publicly about losing the one technical feature on their favorite local loop for being shortsighted. Before getting all indignant, consider the history of the trail, why it’s there, who built it, was it built to be mountain bike specific or is it an old hiking trail that we now ride? However the trail started, degradation happens over time; and needs upkeep. Often times the big rut or erosion problem ends up being the most technical part of the trail.
Case in point: There is an MTBR thread questioning some work I did on a trail that is many locals favorite downhill. It has fast rooty sections, hard loose corners and rough straights that require advanced mountain bike skill to ride well. However, this trail did not start out rowdy or chundery. When built in the 1980s it started out as smooth, loamy hiking trail. After being rolled over by thousands of knobby tires and 30 years of rainstorms and snow melt, the roots became more and more exposed and yes, more technical and more fun. To make it more sustainable, the most eroded sections need fixing and armoring. Yes, adding flat rock and covering the roots dumbed down the trail, but what it accomplished is a piece of trail that will hopefully last 10 more years. Here is the Forum post, http://forums.mtbr.com/oregon/more-dumbing-down-bend-trails-938030.html.
I still want to ride steep, techy trails like the ones that scared me on that unnamed campus as a kid, and I know where to find them. They are not the after-work ripper loop that you bust out of from your house or the two-mile loop out of your local trail center. You must make an effort to ride these trails, go beyond guidebook or online reviews to find these trails. The trails that are on the maps and in guidebooks, have an established trail head and have a trail rating, and need a bit of homogenizing to serve the masses.
There is no preserving a trail. What you experience today, this week or even this year is just a snapshot in time. The trail will change; plants encroach on it, rocks and trees fall and the trail shifts in response, heavy rains erode the surface exposing roots, rocks and forming ruts. The maintenance done usually makes the trail easier, by default. But don’t worry; soon enough, the trail will change again.
Is this an issue in your area? What do you think of the work done to your local trails?
Are you a trail dumb downer too?
What are your reasons to make a difficult section more rideable?
Have your trails been dumbed? What do you think of the changes?
My Bio: Lev brings a long history of cycling to Cog Wild. He started mountain…Read the rest here
Writer and Photographer Ronald Jacobs came and rode with us. He had a wonderful time, of course, and took some great shots. Our guides came out to to ride, look for Sara, Matt and Lev ripping some trail for the camera. The article is in Dutch, we will try to get an English version.
Mountain biking in Central Oregon
Drugs were a way of life for Kirt Voreis’ parents.
His father died in a motorcycle crash while high on cocaine when Kirt was just 5 years old. He recalls how his mother raised him among methamphetamine addicts in Fontana, Calif., and became addicted to the drug herself, working nights to support her son.
Kirt remembers fighting off his mother’s heroin-addicted boyfriend when he was just 10 years old.
He was determined not to follow the same tragic path as his parents.
“I grew up around a lot of Hells Angels and stuff like that,” Voreis says. “Meth is big now, but when I was a kid it was life. My mom got hooked on it to work and feed me. Most of my adolescence, it was me going and finding things on my own. It was a crazy environment to grow up in. I wouldn’t change it for anything, but … I put a lot of my effort into sport. For me, it was about jumping down streets on my skateboard.”
Voreis — who is now 38 and has lived in Bend for seven years — took up skateboarding at the age of 15, and dabbled in biking when he could find a friend’s bike to ride.
“I broke a lot of kids’ bikes,” Voreis recalls.
That can happen when you attempt things on bikes that have never been done before.
Those early days on borrowed bikes were the start of Voreis’ path to becoming a pioneer of downhill and freeride mountain biking. He is now known as one of the best all-around mountain bikers in the world, and a driving force in the rapid evolution of the sport.
Voreis travels across the nation each spring and summer on his AllRide Tour, promoting all disciplines of mountain biking and introducing kids to the sport. He also volunteers more than 100 hours a year helping build and maintain trails here with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance.
When Kirt was still a teenager, his mother remarried, and his stepfather encouraged Kirt to follow his passions and escape his troubled childhood.
“He changed me,” Kirt recalls. “With his tutelage and him opening my mind, he had passion. I didn’t realize I had passion for these sports.”
By the age of 17, Voreis had moved on from skateboarding competitions to cross-country mountain bike racing. He became a professional downhill racer in 1994 after sending a tape of himself performing back flips on his BMX bike to the owner of Yeti Cycles.
In 1996, Kirt had blossomed into a top World Cup downhill and dual slalom racer. (Downhill races are time trials held on steep terrain, with high-speed descents and extended air time off jumps and other obstacles. Dual slalom races are head-to-head competitions down a course of berms, jumps and drops.)
From 1998 to 2000, Voreis raced for the Mountain Dew/Specialized team alongside his friend and freeride legend Shaun Palmer. The two created a rabid following with their colorful personalities. By 2001, mountain bike racing had grown stale for Voreis.
“I thought those guys didn’t have skills, they just pedal,” he says.
He reinvented himself by making a video called “Evolution,” which features him racing on the World Cup circuit AND performing freeride tricks. It was released before freeride videos became commonplace.
As mountain biking began to shift toward freestyle riding in 2002, Voreis won several freestyle/dirt jump events and was filmed in many cutting-edge videos. Evolving with the sport, he re-branded himself as a freerider while he continued to race World Cup events.
“By 2002, I was racing and traveling the world and making a lot of money,” Voreis says.
In 2003, Voreis started the AllRide Tour. The tour is now sponsored by Specialized, and Voreis says he averages more than 30,000 miles on the tour’s van each May through September.
The goal of AllRide is to promote Specialized products — but also to get people into mountain biking.
“Each year I get 400 to 600 people on bikes to test my products, and we have a junior racing team,” says Voreis, who quit racing in 2005.
That same year Voreis and his wife Lindsey moved to Bend from Southern California. Lindsey — who handles most of the business behind the AllRide Tour and guides rides for Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours in Bend — was raised in Portland, and would travel to Black Butte for vacation when she was growing up. When she introduced Kirt to Central Oregon, he knew he had found home.
“I realized what mountain biking should be — it was accessible to people,” Voreis says. “Other places are too steep. The trails … we all work together and there’s a community.”
Voreis is still an avid skateboarder, and he also enjoys snowboarding and kayaking. His favorite mountain bike trails include the McKenzie River Trail, South Fork, Flagline, and the slalom play loop at Phil’s Trailhead, which he builds and maintains.
“There’s something about Bend, with everything here,” Voreis says. “I change my mind a lot, so it’s good.”
Editor’s note: Mountain Bike Trail Guide, by Bulletin outdoors writer Mark Morical, features various trails in Central Oregon and beyond. The trail guide appears in Adventure Sports on alternating Fridays through the riding season.
Bob Gilbert barreled down a steep, rock-strewn section of singletrack, then glanced back at the challenging section of trail he had just descended. The trail included a long, flat, smooth piece of lava rock.
To the trail builders in the Radlands — a network of mountain biking trails currently being built east of Redmond — this sort of rock is called “beautiful slab.”
“When we’re designing the trail, we always go on the hunt for some beautiful slab,” says Gilbert, one of the main volunteer trail designers of the Radlands. “We try to flag it so it will be smooth. A lot of those climbing/descending areas are that sort of rock. It’s fun stuff, that’s what we live for.”
The Radlands — officially called the Northeast Redmond Trail Complex, but that will never stick — calls for about 30 miles of trails to be built east of Redmond. About five miles of singletrack exist, starting from a trailhead at the High Desert Sports Complex on Maple Avenue, home to the Smith Rock BMX racetrack. That marks the north end of the trail system that is planned to reach as far south as state Highway 126 in years to come.
The Radlands project is a collaborative effort of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, the Redmond Area Parks and Recreation District, and corporate sponsors Trinity Bikes, REI and altrec.com.
Tom Holt, a financial planner for the outdoor gear company altrec.com in Redmond, has spearheaded the project for about two years since he began looking for mountain bike trails to ride near Redmond.
“You would think it (the area east of Redmond) would be a flat experience,” Holt says. “But there are a number of elevation changes, and inherent in the area is the rock. We were deliberate in incorporating the rocks into the trail. In the rock-intensive places, the building was slow and challenging.”
The Radlands — intended for cyclists, runners and hikers — currently includes two loops that will make up the upper-left quadrant of the future 30-mile complex. One loop is considered easy, and the other is intermediate. An experts-only trail is also in the works. Signs will eventually be posted to note the difficulty of the trails, according to Gilbert.
On Wednesday, I rode both loops with Gilbert and Eric Helie, owner of Trinity Bikes in Redmond and a trail-building volunteer. Recent significant rainfall put the trail in nice, tacky shape. (In mid-summer, the Radlands could become extremely dusty.)
The first thing that struck me as I pedaled along the trail were the dramatic views: the Cascade Range to the west and Smith Rock State Park to the north. Twisty old juniper trees dotted the barren landscape.
The lava rock comes into play quickly on the intermediate loop. Some rock sections are particularly tricky, with the rocks jutting up sharply for several feet at a time, similar to the Horse Ridge trails east of Bend. But other rocky sections in the Radlands incorporate the “beautiful slab,” which looks somewhat terrifying but is actually a joy to ride on a full-suspension mountain bike.
Several well-placed turns give a flow to a trail that is not inherently so because of the lava rock. The shorter, easier loop features fewer rocky, technical sections than the intermediate loop.
“When you build a trail you find the small rocks that would be intrusive,” Gilbert says. “There’s a lot of work. You pull out one rock and there’s 10 more underneath it. You just have to leave some. A lot of this area is lava residue. It creates for hard trail-building in some spots, but the valleys with more dirt makes for really fast trail-building.”
The current five miles of trail in the Radlands are the fruits of several volunteer trail-work parties staged since last fall.
Helie calls the existing trails “the tip of the iceberg.”
Plans call for a trail to lead bikers right into “Shredmond,” a cleverly named dirt-jump park located near the Radlands trailhead which features rival the Lair free-ride park west of Bend.
Helie says that many folks in Redmond, including himself, thought that the area east of town was “just desolate BLM land.” But add some creative trail builders and some hard work, and it becomes so much more — it becomes a place that Redmond mountain bikers have never really had.
“It’s great for Redmond,” Helie says. “Even though we’re in this mega-cycling area, we’re kind of … it’s its own little bubble here. There’s a lot of people who ride but it’s not like the masses like Bend is. I think having stuff like this will definitely get people more into cycling, which is great.”
The current trails are located on Deschutes County land, where the western portion of the Radlands will be built. The eastern half of the trail system is planned for BLM land.
Holt says the project so far has exceeded his expectations in how quickly the existing five miles of trail have been designed and built.
“We are talking about a years-long project,” Holt says. “One of the things I like is that these trails are going to be here forever.”
From Bend, take U.S. Highway 97 north to Redmond. Turn right on state Highway 126/Evergeeen Avenue. Turn left on Ninth Street. Turn right on Negus Way. Stay straight to go onto Maple Avenue. The High Desert Sports Complex and the Radlands trailhead is on the left.
Technically intermediate to advanced; aerobically easy to intermediate.
The planned 30-mile system currently includes about five miles of trails in two loops. One loop is easy and the other is intermediate. Many of the trails include technical riding over lava rock. Views include the Cascade Range and Smith Rock State Park.
Breaking down the trail: The Radlands
From Bend, take U.S. Highway 97 north to Redmond. Turn right on state Highway126/Evergeeen Avenue. Turn left on Ninth Street. Turn right on Negus Way. Stay straight to go onto Maple Avenue. The High Desert Sports Complex and the Radlands trailhead is on the left.
Technically intermediate to advanced; aerobically easy to intermediate.
The planned 30-mile system currently includes about five miles of trails in two loops. One loop is easy and the other is intermediate. Much of the trails include technical riding over lava rock. Views include the Cascade Range and Smith Rock State Park.