Home » Trail Photos » Redmond’s Radlands

Front the Bend Bulletin, June 8, 2012

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.”

And those trails are no doubt going to be rad.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, mmorical@bendbulletin.com

 

Breaking down the trail: The Radlands

DIRECTIONS

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.

RATING

Technically intermediate to advanced; aerobically easy to intermediate.

TRAIL FEATURES

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

DIRECTIONS

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.

RATING

Technically intermediate to advanced; aerobically easy to intermediate.

TRAIL FEATURES

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.