Enter, ‘Cross Season!

It’s been a busy summer here at the shop, and I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogging duties. As we transition into fall, I hope to be able to devote a little more time to the blogular sciences. We’re also going to have a lot more subject matter to write about as cyclocross season is here and heating up quickly. The first race of the season was actually August 31st (I know!) and there has been at least one if not two races every weekend since. I myself (along with the Hymanator and Secret Chilidog, with moral support provided by The Schwartz) kicked off the season last Sunday at Fazio Farms. They call it a farm, but it’s as much a gravel pit as a farm, with lots of heavy machinery and huge piles of dirt and rock. I didn’t have much time for photojournalizing, and I didn’t have a real camera, but here are a few cellphone pictures to give you an idea of the majesty of the scene.

The 3 tents on the right are the finish line. The tents on the left had FREE BEER!

The course is in a great location between the Columbia River and the Columbia Slough, just West of the airport. It was an easy 15 minute ride from my house. It featured a mix of fast, flat (though bumpy) dirt and grass stretches and a few short but steep climbs. The main feature was the bomber downhill followed by the uphill to 180 which I referred to as the halfpipe. Holy shit was it fun.

Dropping in. Don’t touch your brakes. Just trust me.

Full speed ahead!

Now pedal your ass off!

But wait, there’s more!

The view from the beer tent to the “dinosaur back”.

The other main feature was the so-called Dinosaur Back. It was a steep (though rideable) hill with a less dramatic though still fun descent. It’s best feature was a sweet berm that funneled you around the hill and into a narrow chute of marshy grass that immediately sapped all your momentum.

Coming down the Dinosaur Back. Note Sr. Chilidog repping the orange.

Dig in and let your tires do the work.

All in all, I vote Fazio Farms as most fun cross course ever. And there was free Tecate!

Next weekend you have a choice between Ninkrossi (featuring lots of Ninkasi beer) or the Battle at Barlow (featuring no beer because it’s at a high school). For more details check out the OBRA calendar. If Fazio Farms looked like fun, it’s coming back for a rematch on November 16th! In 2 weeks shit gets real when the infamous ‘Cross Crusade kicks off at the Alpenrose Dairy.

Last Sunday I rode my bike up Mount St. Helens…

Well, partway anyway. It sure felt like I rode all the way to the top. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. The whole trip was masterminded by the Hymanator who wanted to cross it off his “bucket list”, whatever the hell that is. I’m guessing it involves doing things that make you feel like you’ve kicked said bucket, ’cause that’s sure how I felt after. Along for the ride was D-Bone (AKA Dime Bag) because we figured somebody out of the three of us would probably survive to go for help. We headed out bright and earlyish after a hearty breakfast.

Man what a crappy view!

The trail from the parking lot climbs steadily up through an evergreen forest, following a ridge line that eventually takes you to Ape Canyon, a deep but narrow cleft in the flank of the mountain. Before that, we had to read about the dangers of Giardia.

Not to mention get swarmed by a horde of black flies that were attracted to my sweaty, salty flesh. I felt like one of those kids in the Sally Struthers infomercials, I had so many flies crawling all over me. I didn’t get a picture of the flies, but here’s one from where they were thickest.

The climb was long and challenging, and I’m not ashamed to say I had to walk a good chunk. Eventually it leveled off a bit and we reemerged from the trees to this:

And this:

Another mile or so of intermittent climbing brought us to the actual Ape Canyon.

We didn’t see any apes, though we did see some other primates.

From here the trail wound up and over a rocky saddle to the Plains of Abraham. (Insert biblical joke here.) The trail up this point had been fairly typical of riding West of the Cascades; steep, with roots and rocks, but mostly firm soil under tree cover. From here on, it was markedly volcanic, lots of loose gravelly sections composed of pumice, interspersed with harder rock shelves and outcrops. Also, not a tree in sight and little other vegetation. It kind of reminds me of the plateau of Gorgoroth in Mordor. You know, if it were real.

Once we ascended to the Plains, we had a mile or so of flat, moderately technical riding before transitioning onto a ridge that headed toward Spirit Lake. From here the trail wrapped around numerous narrow drainages cut into the side of the ridge.

Until we came out here:

If you look on the left hand side, you can see where the trail continues.

This seemed look a good spot for a break and a chicken fried steak sandwich before continuing on. From here we dropped down a hundred feet and continued on a trail running along a narrow spine before arriving at the “stairs.”

As you can see, they’re not really stairs, but that’s the easiest way to describe them. We descended 8 or 10 sets of these before continuing a few hundred more feet along the spine to a road. From here, it was an uneventful 2 miles to the Windy Ridge viewpoint.

That’s the rim of the crater in the background.

We loitered around the viewpoint for a bit, wolfing down some more food and water in preparation for the return journey. Of course the trip back required us to go UP the stairs, which was not my favorite part of the day.

View from halfway up the stairs.

All in all the return was uneventful, if a little thirsty. By the time we were back under the trees, I was almost out of water and wishing I had more.


Looking East from the top of Ape Canyon.

Almost done!

After a long, fast descent, we were back at the car and ready for some damn ice cream! Fortunately the store in the little town of Cougar obliged us.

New Stuff

Hello to everyone out in blog land. It’s been a busy summer here in the bike shop, and new blog posts have been a low priority, but I wanted to do a quick post about some of the cool new stuff we have in the shop.

First up is something we are all excited about being long time fans of Vans footwear: Vans sole pattern lock on grips from ODI.

Available in classic natural, black, red, and white. $30 per pair.

On the handlebar coverage front, we also have a fresh batch of Deda handlebar tape in a wide range of colors in synthetic cork and synthetic leather. The cork is stretchy and cushy, and you can clean it with soap and water when it gets grimy.

Colors to match any paint scheme! Regular synthetic cork is $15, synthetic leather is $20.

We also have a new helmet model which has turned out to be a hot seller, the Lazer Beam. It has an automatically adjusting headband, and comes in 2 sizes and 4 colors.

On the left is hi viz yellow, on the right is grey. Also available in black and brown. $50.

We also have a new batch of Raleigh closeout bikes. They are all models we have carried before, but now they are on sale. First up is the Furley, Raleigh’s disc brake equipped single speed cross machine.

On sale for $800. We have 53, 55 and 57cm.

Next is the Clubman Mixte, a classy step through road bike for commuting, light touring or weekend fun rides. Great mix of Shimano components and color matched fenders.

We have the Clubman Mixte in 50cm only. It’s $1,100, which is $200 off.

Next is the Raleigh Port Townsend, randonneur champion and commute slayer. Bar end shifters, Shimano CX 50 cantilever brakes and a smart and affordable parts mix make this a super versatile steed.

Available in 55 and 57 cm. On sale for $900!

We also have a cool new model from Felt called the York. It’s a sharp, classically styled city bike with a 2 speed kickback hub, hammered fenders, and a roomy front rack for hauling your stuff.

In stock in 56cm.

Finally, something we’ve had for a little while, but is still fairly new to us; the Devil and She Devil from Handsome Cycles. Cro Moly steel frames with all the braze-ons for racks and fenders, and plenty of clearance for big tires, they’re ready to be turned into your ideal adventure machine.

We’ve also got plenty of closeout models that are priced to move. Checkout out our website for a complete list of all our in stock bikes.

Bend Weekend

I did a bunch of mountain biking in Bend over the 4th of July weekend. Here are some pictures and words.

Day one was COD, on the southern edge of the Phil’s Trail complex. The plan was to head west on COD to Storm King, then north to connect with Grand Slam before swinging back south to the start. Unfortunately, a misleading  fire road derailed my plans and brought me back to COD early. Still a good ride.

View from the Deschutes River trail. This was my jumping off point for the first ride of the weekend, COD.

The Battleship, looking tough.

I didn’t ride it, but it sounds good. It’s hidden away on the back side of the Phil’s complex near Storm King.

On Day 2, I wanted to cover the ground I had missed the day before, but I attacked from the north. I started on Kent’s Trail from the main Phil’s trailhead, then took it to the junction with the actual Phil’s trail and followed it to the north end of Storm King via the helicopter pad. From there I descended Storm King to Grand Slam and headed back west to the start.

The so called “helicopter pad” at the top of Phil’s. You couldn’t really land a helicopter there.

Grand Slam. This is my new favorite trail at Phil’s. Part of it parallels a spine of rock that makes for some fun and interesting situations.

More fun and techie bits on Grand Slam.

Day 3 I rode Mrazek, a super fun out and back that runs along the ridge north of Tumalo Creek. I started at Shevlin Park, and climbed 1500 feet in 11 miles. The climbing was mostly gradual enough that it didn’t feel like a chore, and the trail was twisty and fun, with many berms. Of course, 11 miles of climbing means 11 miles of descending.

On the way back down, you get a choice of difficult or intermediate.

Unfortunately, this is as good as the view got. Looking south towards Mt Bachelor.

Suck it horses! Getting ready to descend Mrazek from near the top.

Brad’s Custom ‘Cross Bike.

After a long wait, Brad’s new Ahearne custom ‘cross bike is built and ready to rock! (I apologize in advance for mediocre cell phone pictures.) It’s single speed only with Paragon sliding dropouts and disc brake tabs. Brad is planning on doing some racing on it this Fall, but mostly using it for urban assault and Forest Park runs.

I think the coolest parts are the split seatstays, which are something Joseph has never done before.You can also see pictures of what it looked like before paint on the Ahearne Cycles website.

It also has the new improved super awesome Ahearne Cycles head badge.

Are You Ready To Meet Your Maker?

The South Fork of the Trask River

Looks nice, doesn’t it? Such a pleasant, pastoral image of stereotypical Oregon bliss in no way represents the pain we inflicted upon ourselves on Saturday, April 4th. That’s right, it was THE RAPTURE!

First, a little background. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve probably seen something about Velo Dirt. The VD (haha, VD) gang inaugurated the Rapture route a few years ago to coincide with one of the many “end of the worlds” various lunatics are always forecasting. Unsurprisingly, the world didn’t end, but a small group of dedicated cyclists did ride their asses off in the Coast Range. I had done the Dalles Mountain last year, and after riding quite a bit this spring, I was thirsty for a new challenge. In the Rapture, I got it in spades. I somehow convinced Senior Chilidog, and Dik Dik Tracy (aka D-Bone, aka Dime Bag) to accompany me on this foolhardy and potentially suicidal venture. The route is tough, around 70 miles in length with over 7,000 feet of elevation gain, virtually all of it on gravel roads. What adds an extra degree of challenge is the remoteness. Unlike other VD (haha, VD. That just doesn’t get old) rides, you don’t pass any convenience stores or restaurants, and hardly even any houses. You are really on your own, responsible for carrying anything the ride might call for, including of course food and water but also anything that might be required to keep your bike rolling through some pretty deep and rough gravel roads.

Girding our loins for battle.

One of the the only easy aspects of our day was the start time, a civilized 10 am. This allowed us to roll out from Portland at a fairly late hour for the drive to the Flying M ranch, the start and end point of the days festivities. A number of riders had elected to camp out at the ranch, and we were greeted by a number of tents with cyclists milling about in preparation for the day. We geared ourselves up and chatted with some of our comrades before gathering around the man who had planned the whole thing for a few last minute instructions.

Donnie from Velo Dirt putting the fear of God into us.

After the safety briefing, we rolled out. I would estimate 60 to 80 people, on a mix of mountain, cyclocross, touring, randonneur, and even a few purpose built gravel bikes. The weather was amazing for April in Oregon, with temperatures forecast in the 80’s and endless blue skies. After 2 relatively flat miles, we passed our first gate, crossing into private timber lands and starting up the first climb of the day, an 8 mile grind that wouldn’t release us from it’s grasp until we climbed almost 3,000 feet.

Just getting started. If you look close, you can see the nice deep gravel on the shoulder.

The climb was steep, but what made it tough was the deep, uncompacted gravel. Log trucks had carved out two parallel tracks that were fairly smooth, but they were separated and bordered by deep, loose, rock. The group stretched out quickly and I found myself at the back of the pack regretting my missed opportunity to gear down to a 34×32 low.

Halfway up the initial climb.

Still halfway, but this time looking uphill. The ridge to the left is where we end up.

We regrouped 6 miles into the climb and paused for some fuel. We had only been riding for an hour, but after already climbing 2,000 feet I was feeling the burn. Fortunately, the gravel mellowed a bit at this point and the riding (surface wise, at least) became a little easier. Another 2 miles of out of the saddle grunting brought us to the top, where a stretch of slightly descending road felt like heaven.

The top, more or less.

We passed a large group around this time, including Johnny 2.0, who you may remember is the guy who (voluntarily) rode the Ronde twice. One of his compatriots would be cursed with recurring flats, and this was the first of several times we would leapfrog each other throughout the day. We then began a furious descent for several miles, winding our way down the West slope of the Coast Range.

This gate marked the bottom of the descent and our return to public lands.

Sr. Chilidog coming in for a landing.

From here we stopped for water in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Trask river.

The boys, making some water safe for democracy.

D-bone had brought a water filter so as to avoid carrying 2 gallons of water on his bike. Streams and rivers were plentiful along the route, it was just a matter of rendering the water safe to drink. I opted for a 3 liter hydration pack and 2 water bottles on my bike, though I was happy to drink filtered river water before the day was done.

How’s that for mountain fresh?

After topping up our bottles, we ventured forward on the now gently descending road, following the quickly widening river. We began to encounter small groups of motocrossers, and could see MX trails branching off the road.

The road ahead.

A few more miles and some more descending brought us out to a main road and something we hadn’t seen in hours: pavement! It’s hard to describe how good a nice smooth asphalt road felt after three hours of gravel. It was not to last, however. Two or so miles and we turned back onto gravel, this time following the North Fork of the Trask. This also meant we had hit the lowest point of the day, and would be climbing until we began to descend the East slope of the Coast Range. Sure enough, after a few gentle meanders, the road turned sharply upward, before leveling out on a moderate cliffside traverse a few hundred feet above the river.

82 degrees and blue sky in May?

Six or eight miles of ups and downs on the cliffside, and we dropped back down to the river level where we took the opportunity for one more water stop. My levels were getting low, so I took advantage of the boy’s generosity to top up.

So thirsty…

It was a good thing we stopped when we did, because immediately after our water stop we began to climb again, this time battling a wicked set of switchbacks that seemed endless. We finally made it to the top and cruised along a nice smooth logging road before arriving at Barney Reservoir. The end was finally in sight. Well, metaphorically, anyway. We still had around 20 miles to go, but most of the climbing was over. We took a break on the shore of the lake and powered through some food before gearing up for the final push.

Barney Reservoir, looking southwest. After this I was too tired to take any more pictures.

The road around and past the reservoir was the loosest and deepest gravel we had seen all day. I believe the cue sheet referred to it as “regraded total shit”. I pretended I was Phillipe Gilbert, put my head down and powered through. By now it was four o clock, and I was starting to feel a little punchy. We were all ready to be done for the day. The cue sheet had mentioned a final “bail out” about 10 miles from the end that would cut 7 miles and 800 feet of climbing off the total. We decided to make for it, but first a bit more climbing followed by a wicked fast gravel descent awaited us.

Finally, we re-emerged onto the pavement like dusty butterflies bursting forth from a gritty chrysalis. The asphalt was even more blissful than before because it descended gently, allowing me to take my hands off the bars and stretch my aching back. We found the turn for the bypass, and limped back to the Flying M. It was 6 pm. The final tally was 8 hours total, with 6.5 hours moving time and about 63 miles total. I found myself thinking “what the fuck were we doing for that hour and a half we weren’t riding?” it certainly didn’t feel like we spent that much time off the bike.

Our timing was good, because the food came off the barbecue right after we arrived. That didn’t stop us from getting milkshakes at Burgerville on the way home.

Summer Night Ride

The view from the intersection of Leif Erikson Drive and Saltzman Road.

Last Friday I made it out to my first Metropolis Night Ride of the season. Hosted (most) Fridays by Lil’ Snacky and the Utard, (aka Kristina and Brad) the route winds from the bike shop over the Broadway Bridge, through Northwest and into Forest Park. Attendants on this particular edition included myself, Senor Chilidog, the Utard, and our friend, neighbor and framebuilder extraordinaire Christopher Igleheart.

Self Explanatory.

After navigating the mean streets of the West side, a short climb up Thurman Street brought us to the Leif Erikson trailhead and the end of the pavement until just before the Saint Johns bridge. Friday had been a warm day, but the air cooled appreciably on entering the newly leafed trees of the aptly named Forest Park. By the time of our arrival, twilight was approaching and traffic was thinning out. We passed a half dozen runners and three or four cyclists on the first leg of our trail journey, before pausing for liquid refreshment at the crossroads of Leif and Saltzman Road.

Okay, on 3, nobody look at the camera.

We hung out at the picnic table at the crossroads for a bit, cracking jokes, enjoying the view and sharing libations. It was getting dark under the trees, so we turned on our lights and embarked on the next leg of our journey. Lil’ Snacky had told us about an old car hidden in the trees below the road shortly after Firelane 5, and we were determined to spot it.

Trust me, it’s a car.

And spot it we did. Judging from the suicide doors and the general shape it looks like an early ’60s Lincoln Continental. Supposedly there are two cars in the same vicinity, but we only found one. After a bit of gawking and photography, we wound on through the rapidly darkening forest. Another 3 miles brought us to another crossroads where Leif Erikson is intersected by Springville Road. A left turn climbs up to Skyline, but we opted for a right and the short, steep descent to Bridge Road and the Saint Johns Bridge.

Looking toward downtown Portland from the bridge. You can see Mt. Hood to the left.

Normally, when I cross the Saint Johns, I like to take the lane, but tonight I decided to take the walkway and enjoy the view, which gave me the leisure to snap some pictures. After the bridge, we headed back into the city along Willamette Boulevard and some welcome post ride drinks.

Friday night Forest Park rides run most weeks from our shop at around 6:30. Call us or check out our Facebook page for more details.

Once More Unto the Breach… Now, With Updates!

The Lion of Flanders marks the way.
(Editors note: I went back up to Council Crest on Tuesday the 23rd and took some pictures of spots I was too tired to properly photograph the day of the ride and added them to the story. This explains the sun and clarity in said photos)

This past Saturday was the latest edition of what has become something of an institution for Portland roadies. In it’s sixth installment the Ronde, or more formerly De Ronde Van West Portlandia promised to send us up some of the West Hills steepest climbs.

The scene at the start. This is maybe half of the starters.

A little background if you’re not familiar. The Ronde started in 2008 as a celebration of the traditional Spring Classic races and is named after the Tour of Flanders (or the Ronde Van Vlaanderen) which is known for rough roads and short, steep climbs. It was the brainchild of local race promoter/ne’er do well Brad Ross (most famous for the ‘Cross Crusade) who wanted to force willing riders up some of West Portland’s little known and punishingly steep climbs. The route is only 45 miles in length, but climbs a hefty 7,800 feet, including multiple ascents of Council Crest. One of the most interesting things is that it is totally unsanctioned. No entry fees, no waivers, no numbers. It definitely appeals to a pretty race oriented crowd though. We recognized many faces from the ‘Cross Crusade and I would guess 80-90% of riders present hold an OBRA license.

Dik-Dik Tracy, the Hymanator and an unnamed accomplice waiting to start.It turns out most of Team Metropolis wasn’t quite up to the challenge this early in the season, so it came down to just myself, the Hymanator and D-Bone (aka Dik-Dik Tracy) to represent the honor of the team. The Schwartz gets an honorable mention because he had planned on doing it but was forced to retire due to illness. We rolled up to the undisclosed start location about ten minutes early and hobnobbed with some of our fellow riders. I chatted with Johnny 2.0 of the Filth and Fury team, and discovered he had already completed an entire lap of the course, and was refueling for his second go ’round. Then, right at ten o’clock, a motorcycle rolled up to the start and off climbed Brad Ross. He yelled something like “It’s ten o’clock! What are you waiting for?” and off we went.

The first leg of the route took us up Highway 30 to Saltzman Road and the first climb of the day. Saltzman starts off paved, but the upper 3 or so miles are gravel. At this point, we were still in a pretty big group and while Saltzman isn’t a super steep climb, it is 1,100 feet of elevation gain over almost 4 miles, so the group started to stretch out a bit. At the top we took a hard left onto Skyline, bypassing the gaggle of riders taking a break at the roadside. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the 6 miles that followed were probably the easiest (not counting descents) and most peaceful of the day. A sharp right at the Skyline Restaurant dropped us down into position for the first brutal climb of the day, the infamous Brynwood Road.

Riders about halfway up Brynwood. To the left you can see people in a driveway resting for the next leg.

Brynwood isn’t a long climb, only about 1/3rd of a mile, but the grade varies between 18% and 35%, depending on who you ask. Let’s just say it’s really, really steep. Stupid steep, not the kind of thing you would ride for fun. I had only ridden it once before, after I missed the Ronde last year. In addition to being absurdly steep, Brynwood has 3 other things that work against you.

  1. It’s narrow. This isn’t a big deal if you’re by yourself, but when there are 500 other people on the road with you, a little extra space is helpful.
  2. It’s slippery. Being narrow and tree lined, it doesn’t get a lot of sun and the resulting moss can be a deal breaker if it causes your rear wheel to spin out.
  3. It’s not straight, but roughly s shaped, and from the bottom you only see the first 1/3rd. The problem with this is you think that first turn is the summit, but once you reach it, you are confronted with another 100 yards of punishing steepness.

The only thing in your favor are the driveways. Clever riders know they can use the half dozen driveways on the upper stretch to catch a quick breath before lurching off for the next toe hold up the line. Therefore, you’ll see 2 or 3 riders in each driveway describing tight circles on their bikes, breathing like a blown race horse before surging off once again.

Brad Ross, delighting in the carnage he has created.

I personally only made it about halfway, even in my 34/32 low gear. But hey, at least I didn’t fall over like the poor bastard on the time trial bike that toppled into me as I was trying to dismount in disgrace.

The final push. Literally.

We regrouped at the top where Brynwood rejoins Skyline, and wolfed down some food in preparation for the descent down Cornell where we would assault the next climb up to the Pittock Mansion. This one was much more manageable, and would set the tone for most of the rest of the day. Climb for 10-20 minutes then rest at the summit, drink some water and snack, then move on to the next one. We repeated this pattern 3 or 4 more times, interspersed with a high speed run down West Burnside, culminating in a lengthy break at Plaid Pantry for refueling. I was surprised at how many calories I was burning through. I had brought what seemed like an adequate amount of food for a ride of this length, but I clearly underestimated.

After stocking up on junk food, we crossed over Highway 26 for the next phase of torment, which consisted of multiple runs up and down the slope between Council Crest and PSU. Finally, we came to the second of the day’s brutal monuments: the infamous and feared College Street.

College. Photos don’t do it justice.College was much like Brynwood, steep, narrow, and unpleasant. D-Bone was the only one of us to make a serious attempt and even he had to pause at the halfway mark.

D-Bone at the midpoint.

The view from College.

From here things began to get a bit blurry for me. The route started to work clockwise up and down around Council Crest, winding past OHSU and the VA Hospital. One of the coolest features of the ride, which I didn’t capture on film, were the numerous homegrown rest stops along the way, some sponsored by bike shops or teams, but mostly hosted by neighborhood residents. Treats included the basics like water and bananas, and the more luxurious like gummy bears, homemade cookies, and of course, beer. I personally felt pretty pro when I took a Coca Cola handup. We were also routed onto several short stretches of singletrack.

Into the woods. Photo taken 2/23.

A little rough, but doable on a road bike. Photo taken 2/23.

Still 3 climbs to go. Photo taken 2/23After what seemed an endless carousel of trips up and down hill, we finally began the ultimate ascent.

The ultimate goal. Photo 2/23.

The view from Council Crest.

The Hymanator had wisely parked his escape vehicle at the top before the ride started, and provisioned it with ice and beer in anticipation of the mighty thirst we would carry to the finish.

The finishers circle, high atop the city.I was happy to finally dismount and stretch my cramped legs. It felt good just to stand in one place and glory in a cold restorative beer.

D-Bone takes a load off.If you decide to do the Ronde, either next year or on your own:

The route is easy to follow, you can find numerous maps online, and the turns are marked with the Lion of Flanders in yellow

Bring plenty of food. There are places to resupply en route, but you will need more fuel than you think.
Unless you are positive you can ride 100% of the route, consider trading your road pedals and cleats for the mountain variety. It’s much easier to walk, especially up a steep grade. Definitely bring at least 2 bottles. I probably went through at least 5 large bottles of fluid, and it wasn’t even hot. There are also a few short stretches of unpaved singletrack. Though not very technical, they’re pretty rough for a road bike.

Spring Break MTB Action.

New bike at Peterson Ridge

We made it out to Bend for a few days over Spring Break, and I took the opportunity to get some mountain biking in. I’m constantly amazed at how awesome the trails are in Bend compared to our meager options in the metro area, even though 80% of them were still unrideable because of snow. Fortunately, the Central Oregon Trail Alliance has a great website that tells you at a glance what trails are open. The flagship Phils Trail complex was still closed, so I mapped out a plan to ride Peterson Ridge outside of Sisters on day 1, Horse Butte south of Bend on day 2, and Burma Road next to Smith Rock on day 3.

There are 8 or 10 gnome figurines perched on this rock alongside the Peterson Ridge Trail.

The trailhead for Peterson Ridge is just a half mile south of Sisters. It’s a complex of 3 or so parallel trails with a number of cross trails that you can use to connect up and create longer routes. It being my first time, I wanted to keep it simple, so I opted to do an out and back on the PRT West trail. It’s a pretty good example of the awesome Central Oregon MTB experience; fast, flowing trails winding around outcrops of volcanic rock and stands of Ponderosa pine. Elevation gain tends to be gradual, unlike the gut busting climbs typical of the Coast Range trails (I’m looking at you, Brown’s Camp). I climbed 600 feet to where the trail opened up to a panoramic view.

Looking West toward the Sisters.

By the way, the new Ahearne is perfect for this type of riding. I built it up with a rigid fork mainly to avoid the expense involved in a new 29er suspension fork, but it ate up the moderately rocky terrain with no problems.

The trail was mostly dry, with only a few soft and or muddy stretches, one of the other great things about Bend area riding. In addition to getting less rainfall, the sandy soil drains better and dries more quickly.

More Cascade views.

McKenzie Pass is over thataway somewhere.

DAY 2: Horse Butte
Horse Butte is south of Bend past the historic town dump, and is popular with both trail runners and (surprise!) equestrians. I can see why, as we passed numerous farms swarming with horses on the way out. After Peterson Ridge it was a bit of a letdown, mostly because it took me a while to find the good trail. I started off on the Swamp Wells trail, which is fairly wide and sandy at first, and not especially challenging or interesting. After climbing a bit, it started to get more technical, but I also began encountering more mud, which forced me to walk all the fun parts. This became so frequent I was forced to turn back in search of drier trails.

Looking south toward Bessie Butte.

After returning to the trail head, I turned east onto what I think was the Arnold Ice Cave trail. The terrain here was flatter and more open, but the trail was narrower, windier, and much more fun. It was also much less scenic than the country around Sisters, so I didn’t take as many photos.

Just in case you forgot what the Ahearne looks like.

DAY 3 Smith Rock
For our final day, we wanted to check out Smith Rock as it’s just east of Terrebonne, on the way back to Portland. I had done some research, and knew that winter conditions should be good, but the riding would be steeper and rockier than the last two days had prepared me for.This would prove to be a severe understatement.

The trail up to Burma Road

First, let me just say Smith Rock is very cool, and worth checking out, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a mountain bike destination. It’s best known for rock climbing, as the numerous walls and spires rise almost vertically out of the Crooked River. Those same attributes that make for good rock climbing make for a challenging bike environment. Everything is rocky and STEEP. I had read about a ride utilizing Burma Road that wound up from the river in the direction of Grey’s Butte. It sounded hard, and while I’m not a fast climber, I do a lot of it so I wasn’t too worried. As it turns out, I probably should have been.

After descending a steep trail down to the , there was a pleasant 2 miles of mellow single track running along the river.

The view from the trailhead.

After that, it got interesting.

That’s not encouraging‚Ķ

First, I had to hike up a steep rocky trail for 300 or so yards before I even reached the road. Then it was a mile and a half of 14% grade. Awesome. It took waay too long, partly because it was so damn steep my front wheel would hit a baby head, or my rear wheel would spin out in loose gravel and I would be unable to get started again. Pathetic, I know, but also very demoralizing. The weather was better then expected as well, mostly sunny and pushing 70. I can’t imagine what this would be like in the summer. Wait, I can imagine. Hellish is the word that comes to mind.

At least the gate wasn’t closed.

After much panting, puffing and pushing I arrived at the top. Of course, the singletrack that was my goal descended steeply from the crest, and the whole procedure of hiking and crawling up the grade had eroded most of my available time, so I took some photos, powered through some snacks, and prepared to return from whence I came.

View from the top.

The Crooked River as seen from the top of Burma Road.

The second peak from the right is where my ride ended.

In Summation:

  • Peterson Ridge: Great beginner to intermediate trail riding well worth the drive.
  • Horse Butte: Decent riding if you’re in Bend and most of the trails are closed for winter.
  • Smith Rock: Crazy beautiful, but only worth taking your bike if you are ready for an all day epic.

Cascade Snow!

Odell Creek

We took a trip to Bend over Spring Break week and spent the night at Odell Lake, just east of Oakridge. There was quite a bit of snow still, and the wind had blown spray from the lake up onto the adjoining plant life to form some really cool icicles and ice formations. Here are some pictures. I’ll post some more entertaining content about mountain biking in Bend soon.

Odell Lake, looking North

Moonrise over the Cascades