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The basics
What: Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours & Shuttles
Employees: 18, seasonally
Where: 255 S.W. Century Drive, Suite 201
Phone: 541-385-7002
Website: http://cogwild.com
Local email list: email us at info@cogwild.com to be added to our local shuttle and event list.

Cog Wild offers Central Oregon cycling tours

Lev Stryker and Melanie Fisher saw the chance to add a new twist to Bend’s bike-crazy culture, and they took it.

Cog Wild had been operating since 1999 as a trail touring company, offering locals and tourists the chance to hop on a mountain bike and take in Central Oregon’s mammoth network of scenic trails.

But the owner of the business, Woody Starr, was looking for a change. In 2006, he sold Cog Wild to Stryker and Fisher, both biking enthusiasts.

In six years of ownership, the pair has grown Cog Wild from a four-person, experimental guide business to a seasoned member of the region’s tour-guide industry. The company seasonally employs 15 guides, who take riders of all skill levels on hundreds of miles of trails throughout Central Oregon and other parts of the state.

The pair has decades of cycling experience, both on trails and in road races: Stryker worked as a guide for Starr when he was running the business. Stryker is also a veteran of the renowned Cascade Cycling Classic.

Fisher has experience mountain biking in India, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand and elsewhere.

A shared love of mountain biking and the outdoors brought Stryker and Fisher together as business partners, with Fisher handling much of the bookkeeping, and Stryker as the point man for setting up guided trips.

Growing the business hasn’t come without challenges, Stryker said. He explained the process of recruiting new tour guides and exploring new trails, determining which would be suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.

The process has included plenty of trial and error, running each of the trails to figure out which they should incorporate into their tours and which were best left alone.

They’ve also built up a fleet of rental bikes over the years.

“We want to work a lot, to do quite a few more tours this summer” than in the past, Stryker said. Those tours vary from half-day, local trips for $60, all the way up to multi-day treks across different parts of the state, with $625 covering food, beer and lodging.

Steadily expanding the business over the last six years has given Cog Wild the benefit of a built-up reputation, especially with out-of-towners who swing through Bend in the summer.

“We have a lot of guides, and as soon as we’re really going this summer, they’ll work as much as possible,” Stryker said.

Q: How did you and Melanie Fisher first get involved with Cog Wild?

A: The former owner was interested in getting out. So we kind of pooled our backgrounds. Mel was very familiar with the booking and all the front-office stuff. And I’d guided for Cog Wild before. … The business was definitely much smaller at first. We’ve grown a lot since we started. We’ve adjusted our tours based on what’s been selling, doing more single- and half-day tours, which are great for people visiting town, people who aren’t necessarily mountain bike junkies.

Q: What type of riders does the business accommodate?

A: Basically, we take everyone, from a total beginner, a first-timer on a bike. We basically do a mountain bike clinic, at the same time showing people great trails, teaching them how to shift and brake. Those trips are fun; you get to really show them why we love the sport. But then we go all the way through with intermediate riders to experts, really fast riders who hire us because they want to be shown the best trails right away.

Q: What type of riding packages are you trying to promote?

A: We’re getting more into mountain bike vacations. Those are three-day, and sometimes longer, vacations. We either put the clients up in a hotel, or we have guides that are well-trained in making camps, who can make the experience really easy for clients. Those are great; you go for a ride, make camp, hang out by the fire and have a beer. We do it up, with full-course meals. There are great opportunities for that, either on the Cascade Lakes Highway, down the Umpqua River (or) near Mount Hood. Our huge trail system allows us to adjust the ride based on the group.

Q: How important is the local trail system to your business?

A: We’re blessed with this amazing trail system, with the (Deschutes) National Forest right outside of Bend. Maintaining them has been a collaborative effort with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance. Cog Wild has been involved from the beginning in helping with trail work, suggesting routes for new trails, being involved as a liaison with the Forest Service. The trails are obviously a big part of our success. They’re our bread and butter.

By Elon Glucklich / The Bend Bulletin
Published: May 08. 2012
eglucklich@bendbulletin.com