A hideaway, camouflaged in Douglas fir and redwoods, and simply drenched in some of the most outstanding trail riding in the world. Welcome to Bend…
Taken from Dirt issue 144, February 2014
‘Party Bus’ was stretching the imagination, but the cranky old bus driver who’d taken us across the border into the top left corner of the United States of America finally slung our bags out at Bellingham International where propeller planes ruled the runway rather than jet engines – international only in that it serves as a hub for shipping fishermen north to Alaska. That’s the impression I got anyway.
The drive south to Oregon along Highway 5 was an epic, the pathway led by dormant volcanoes that worked wonders as cairns for our journey. Mt Baker and Snoqualmie dominate the horizon to the east, before the road heels right and then south, Mt Rainier and then Mt St Helens – a peak that blew a thousand foot off its summit back in 1980, the deadliest volcanic activity in the history of the United States.
We wake up in a village called Battle Ground just on the state border. Coffee and cake get us motoring again and soon Portland comes into view just over the boundary, but not after you’ve passed over the languid Columbia River which pulls in from the east. As enticing as the city appears, this is where we turn off the main highway and head for Mt Hood, another focal point, another pile of trouble, a place rich in mountainbike history. A wrong turn has us poking around in the undergrowth for a short while, the roads small but full of characters, we re–join onto some new tarmac broader of girth en route to Madras passing a few sketchy Reservations, which as it turned out were best avoided anyway.
South–east from Portland is largely on wide–open road, slightly different to the densely forested rolling hills that I had envisaged. Obviously there’s lots of it and Bend sits on the edge of the big woodland blocks. For now the southern peaks of the Cascade Volcanic Arc and big country stretch out south – Mt Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt Washington, Broken Top and Mt Bachelor keep us absorbed for the final leg of the drive. It’s impressive.
Rolling into Bend at around midday the heat is intense and the mood upbeat, its grid square town centre is easy to navigate, but as we were to find it has a rare old twist. It’s a town rich in pretty much everything, one of many seasons, top racers, wild boozers and simply incredible trail riding.
Cog Wild Tours (our hosts for the week) sits on the perimeter of the town, on the edge of a wild expanse broken only by one major road until you get to the Pacific. The states of California, Nevada, Idaho and Washington border this impressive and relatively rural state – madness to the south, trees to the east and the conclusion to our journey back up north – strange old days. The base of Cog Wild is craftily located so that in but a few breaths you are into woodland, which stretches for hundreds of miles. Scooting singletrack, food and beer are all within walking distance and all of the highest quality.
Click through to view part one of the gallery of Bend before reading on on…
Open Gallery13 Images
Within minutes we are skirting the Deschutes river, as it crashes down through volcanic lava fields, and choking on dust on the rapid singletrack. Bloody Mary’s for breakfast and Boneyard beer in the sultry evenings. I’ll let the locals take up the story.
LEV STRYKER, OWNER OF COG WILD“A lot of progression has come from the volunteers because we are building trails we like to ride” One day, week–long or simply shuttles, you’ve got it covered?
Cog Wild has something for all types of riders, to do–it–yourself adventurers who just want a drop off and pointed toward the good trails to a fully catered and guided experience. Riding with a guide has so many benefits we find more and more experienced riders end up doing the guided experience, there is so much freedom to shredding with someone who has intimate knowledge of the trails.
The overnight camping trips continue to be a favourite. Lasting friendships are often formed between guests and guides and we end up with a lot of tours with the same guests requesting the same guides year after year. One of our favourite tours is called the “Bike and Brew”. The guests stay at a downtown hotel, we ride great trail all day then end up at a local brewery for a tasting with the brewmaster and a tour of the facility. Dinner is either at the pub or a local favourite restaurant.There’s a massive riding scene in town it seems?
Bend is a very complete cycling town. There are multiple group rides, road and mountain, each week. A very robust race scene with Super D’s, Enduro racing, XC, 24 hour and ultra endurance events happening all summer. Our trail system is so massive and diverse, you can get away from the busy trails and find yourself on a lonesome ride pretty easily. I think one of the best parts of our scene is the volunteer effort on our trails. The Central Oregon Trail Alliance is big and a lot of people put in time to fix trails and build new ones. A lot of progression has come from the volunteers because we are building trails we like to ride, with some fun unique features with lots of speed and flow.Bend is pretty much all about trail riding correct? 140mm max?
The weapon of choice for Bend is a trail bike. Most of the trails are fast and smooth, with connecting banked corners and high–speed flow. There is a lot of classic style XC trail, with technical climbing and narrow swooping downs. There is more and more machine built, flow style trails, with big berms, floaty jumps and long connecting rhythm sections. There are a few local knowledge zones that we shuttle with DH bikes, rocky loose tracks that require a big bike. And there are a few dirt jump, slalom tracks where a hardtail is the best.Trail respect, I went off trail to let someone past, not the done thing!
The etiquette for passing riders has been evolving a lot around here lately. The established code these days is that the uphill rider has the right of way, and the down hiller should pull to the side, leaving their tyres on the edge of the trail. There has been a big push lately for one–way trails, and hopefully we will see more implemented soon. We do have a few downhill only trails, specifically ones with built berms and jumps.We’ve seen from the World Enduro Series that riders are now beginning to understand trail respect. The problem is on the French/Italian Riviera in particular is it’s a historical network going back centuries designed for donkeys and feet. Out here the trails are designed for mountainbikes only?
There are more and more mountain bike specific trails. They aren’t closed to runners and hikers, but we have mountain biking in mind when designing and building. Some of my favourites however are the classic old hiking and horse trails the climb high into the mountains above our deep forests. Getting the vast views then dropping in for a five mile downhill to the river is amazing.What kind of elevations up and down are we talking?
The town of Bend is around 3400’ and all our trails head up from there. Our highest trailhead we shuttle to is 6500’, and the trails top out around 7400’. The must do shuttle ride is called Bachelor to Bend, where we drop you off at 6500′, then you climb another 800 to 7300, then ride trail all the way to town 4000 feet and 25 miles later.The network is vast, what are the other highlights?
The main flavour for Bend riding is fast, open flow trail. Pushing dusty corner after dusty corner in the summer is just loads of fun. A fun game to play with your buddies is ‘no brake, no pedal’. It can get pretty rowdy sliding through the corners with all your fingers wrapped around your grip. There are classic loops, long shuttle point–to–point rides, jump parks and free ride zones, something for everyone.“This is the first place that it wasn’t just me and the boys” Mel you’ve ridden bikes all around the World, why have you settled in Bend?
Bend is the first place that I have felt completely at home. Sure, other towns had great food or people or trails or nature, but they didn’t have them all together. Here in Bend I feel surrounded by amazing like–minded people, and many women on the trail too! This is the first place that it wasn’t just me and the boys. Nothing wrong with boys, but I love riding with my female riding friends just as much! I feel very blessed to live here, one of the reasons I love to share Bend with our guests, this town makes you happy.