A Three Day Singletrack Binge in Oakridge, Oregon

Sep 7, 2013 at 0:05
Sep 7, 2013
by Stephanie Nitsch  
 
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For years I’ve heard rumors of mystical singletrack that exists in Oakridge, Oregon, but not much has been written about the place. Troubled by years of economic collapse, this old logging town somewhere between Eugene and Bend has been a dormant community that’s hardly worth a stop along the old Willamette Highway. Although these rumors of Oregon’s finest dirt have been confirmed by close friends, finding beta on the best place for a decent cup of coffee is as difficult as finding directions to any trailhead. Which is to say, near impossible without the help of local insight.

Long descents through lush forests funnel down into the small town of Oakridge.

I came here on my own, in the middle of July. A girl, her bike and her trusted Subaru on an indefinite road trip to whatever singletrack mecca she comes across along the West Coast. Some by chance, others by plan. But, inevitably, always with an insatiable hunger for dirt. Smooth. Dusty. Rocky. Muddy. Craggy. Difficult. Easy. It doesn’t really matter. I just want to ride it. This time, by dumb luck, I came upon a place that had it all during an annual event that showcased it all.

Lush overgrown riding in the Willamette National Forest.
A rolling wheel gathers no moss through the dense overgrowth in the Willamette National Forest.

Mountain Bike Oregon (MBO) is an annual festival that brings together a few hundred weekend warriors to Oakridge who share a common love for fat tires. This three-day fest is so popular, in fact, that there are two separate events each summer, in July and August, to accommodate the growing demand for this adult version of summer bike camp. For the last nine years, MBO attendees have given the town a much needed boost by setting up a fortified compound of well-traveled RVs, pimped-out Sprinter vans and humble REI tents in the middle of a city park, known – at least temporarily – as basecamp. It’s here, where veteran and rookie attendees share living quarters, that people come to celebrate the lifestyle of mountain biking and all that encompasses it. (Namely, the unlimited kegs of free microbrews and kombucha. This is Oregon, after all.)

A convoy of tents posted up during Mountain Bike Oregon 2013.
Tent City brings together all greatest the dirtbags in one spot.

Essential hydration and the happiest of hours.
Where the beer flows like fermented kombucha.

It’s a mellow schedule of events by comparison to any big bike festival. No pros. No big air contests. No headlining concerts. Just a bunch of recreational riders who like to pedal to the best of their ability. Rim brakes and clunker hardtails hold as much clout on the trail as dropper posts and adjustable shocks. And, much like the quirky Oregonian attitudes, no one cares what you ride or how you ride it – even if it’s just for laughs on a 14-inch kids’ bike. Just as long as you’re having fun.

Ti Cycles based in Portland OR shows off a full-suspension fat bike with a lefty fork that rides like a pair of Moon Shoes.
Ti Cycles from Portland, Oregon was on hand to display and demo their hand-built titanium cycles, like this full suspension fat bike with a lefty fork. Like riding a pair of Moon Shoes.

Unknown rider breaking away from the peloton in one of the toughest competitions during Mountain Bike Oregon s annual trail festival. 14 -tall kids bikes are the weapon of choice.
A rider breaks away from the peloton during the annual Beer Garden crit.

Endless rides and a full weekend of shuttles about to go down during the 2013 Mountain Bike Oregon festival.
A packed weekend of scheduled rides require thorough planning if you want to ride it all.

All weekend, shuttle runs were offered by the busload, transporting groups of riders and guides to the start of Oakridge’s inconspicuous trailheads that all seemed to be accessed only by a set of top-secret turns through twisty forest service roads. Once underneath the emerald canopy of giant old growth trees and golden beams of sun, everything began to look familiar. Not that I had ridden these trails before, but the smell of fresh dirt and fuzzy moss and the cool humidity of rivers and waterfalls parallel to the trails reminded me of growing up in the soggy PNW forests, when I once believed in a secret world of imaginary fairies and gnomes living among furry woodland creatures. Floating through the root-y ribbons of singletrack only fueled my make-believe paradise. Unfortunately, no amount of pixie dust could help when I found myself airborne, flying over the bars, and impaled by the sudden landing -- which rendered me totally useless and unable to ride any of Oakridge's classic trails like Alpine, known for its hairpin switchbacks and high-speed descents, or Larison Rock, a short-n-sweet exposed ridgeline ride with phenomenal views of the Cascade Mountains below, or Heckletooth, a rugged and steep 15-miler that punishes even the best rider if you're not careful.

Standing in poison oak was the least of my problems.
OTB and out of the game for the next 3 weeks.

One of many MBO shuttle rigs.
Shuttling in style on Flat Creek trail.

Mountain Bike Oregon guide Erin Uhlemann cuts through the shadows on Larison Creek Trail.
Erin, one of the many volunteer guides at MBO, pops through the shadows on Larison Creek trail.

A must-ride descent when you visit Oakridge Oregon.
Larison Rock trail. Don't miss this ride like I did.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, MBO is as much about making new friends as it is about riding with said new friends. For many attendees, this ain’t their first rodeo. Familiar faces return year after year, some for as long as the nine-year anniversary of the festival itself. But seniority doesn’t mean much. Others, like myself and Grace, an 18-month old rockstar who has yet to own a bike but is easily MBO’s youngest fanatic, were only just discovering the friendly community of riders who keep Oakridge’s bike scene alive and thriving. We may have been newcomers, but it's easy to bond when you share something in common – like tales of nasty mid-ride injuries or the simple pleasure of pedaling a bike – in the middle of a mystical singletrack paradise.

MBO s youngest supporter rallied all weekend. Not yet 2 years old Grace s love for bikes - and the color purple - surpass all other priorities in her life.
Someone get this girl a bike! Unbeknownst to her, Grace will be the proud owner of her first push bike when she turns two years old in December.

Pushing 60 Paul from Bend OR rips as hard on his mountain bike as he does on his moto.
Paul, a Bend, Oregon, resident, takes biking very seriously.

Camp crusin
Cruisin' in style.

Mountain Bike Oregon returns to Oakridge for two sessions next year: July 18-20, 2014 and August 15-17, 2014. Early-bird registration is $360 per person and includes camping, three meals a day, unlimited beverages, all-you-can-shred shuttle rides, bike demos, mechanical support, women’s-only rides, yoga sessions and entry into the MBO beer garden crit. For more info or to register, visit mtboregon.com. Additional trail info can be found by visiting the Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards (GOATS) or the Disciples of Dirt.

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36 Comments

  • + 16
 My girlfriend and I went to Oregon this summer for a quick week-long road trip. I had heard so many good things about Oakridge that we made it a point to stop. The author has described the town to a T, years of economic downturn have left the main drag through town looking like many of the 'industrial leftovers'. But Oakridge was different. We kept saying that it had everything you needed just no extra fluff. We loved it! Oakridge has 1 bike shop one shuttle company, one brewery, and one bakery, all of them with top notch service. The cask conditioned beer from the public house was the best we had through our whole trip, and we stopped at a lot of breweries! Bikes at the shop were top shelf. Gene was one of the nicest guys we met on the whole trip, he pointed out good loops for us to take, recommended good camping, and when it was time for us to move on to Bend for more riding he whipped out the map and showed all the ins and outs. We've already made plans to head back to Oakridge. It's pure and simple mountain biking! Great article!
  • + 1
 What about the Corner Bar or Loggers Den? Those are both way cheaper than the pub, and if you go to the den you can get pizza at Big Mountain..... yummmm

That said, I love to get the ruben and sweet potato fries from the pub.
  • + 1
 Thanks, man. Oakridge was pretty special. Glad you got to experience it for yourself. No blog post could really capture the quirkiness of that town. Plus, I was pretty out of it after getting banged up, so a few details went unwritten. Mostly because I can't remember them.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 What a great place. My wife and I were there in July and hit up for a shuttle. It was just us and the driver. He pointed out all the crossings and gave us all the goods. I cant say enough about this town on the turn around. It is amazing the community of bikers that are so welcoming and friendly! Always interested in where you have been and where you are going. I wish my community could be as cool.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Loved Oakridge! Fun trails, great community and my whole family loved the Public House for dinner and drinks after riding. Had one of my all time favorite Imperial IPA's at that place by a brewery called "walking man" i think. I'd love to do an MBO weekend!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Man I need to ride Oakridge. I've ridden everywhere else around my great state of Oregon but have yet to hit Oakridge. Great article as this just motivates me to get there....soon.
  • + 5
 Be careful when your driving into or around oakridge. Haven't been there for a couple years but last couple time through there got speeding tickets. Just follow the speed limits to a 'T'.
  • + 1
 Thanks for the heads up! I'll certainly be on my best behavior!
  • + 1
 I live in oakridge part time, and have to mirror the follow the posted speed remark. The oakridge PD are not really fans of speeders...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Bend vs Oakridge- rode at both last week. Oakridge = more challenging, better downhills by far. Bend = easier to hammer all-day. 25 miles of ATCA and I was wiped. 28 miles of Northfork, MW, Flagline, Swampy, S-16, Upper Whoops, Skyliners, not near as much but still finished with a grin! More beer and food choices in Bend. Probably better camping in Oakridge. Both worth it!
  • + 1
 And Not Or. They're close enough so you can do both Oakridge and Bend and even throw in a quick McKenzie River Trail. Had a great time at August 2013 MBO. Going back for more in 2014.
  • + 1
 Well said. Bend vs Oakridge has been a debate for a few years now. Everyone's favorite time to ride is spring and fall, except when It's summer time. All trails could use some rain now and then. As far as challenges go, it is what you make it, especially when you put it in the big chain ring and let it rip. Have a good ride!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Awesome 55 mi xc race coming up in oak ridge. Fatfiftyfive dot com Still has openings September is the best time to ride here.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Hoping to ride Oakridge for the first time this Sunday. Enjoyed this article...
[Reply]
  • + 2
 full sus ti fatbike w/ a lefty? that deserves a real photo.
  • + 2
 I agree. not some macro of a cable guide.
  • + 2
 I was told I couldn't add vertical images to this blog, so here's a better view of that lefty fat bike...

www.pinkbike.com/photo/10073304
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Good story! I need to get there next spring BEFORE MBO blows out the trails.
  • + 1
 Thank you! Plus, the trails are more squishy and fun in the spring vs. when it dries up in July.
  • + 2
 It should be noted that Mountain Bike Oregon is responsible for bringing large amounts of dollars to the local trail user groups to support trail maintenance efforts. In addition, through the donations that MBO makes, new trails are able to be opened. I realize that the impact of MBO on the local trails might be considered negative, however, the trail building and maintenance work that GOATS and DOD provide far outweighs the impact of MBO on the trail system.
  • + 1
 Oh I realize that completely but if you have hundreds of people pounding trails it's gonna get pretty blown out quickly. You just let fall do it's thing in the northwest and it's all back to normal.
  • + 1
 What do ya know....I got there on the same day as the trail guide training was happening. Had a blast with all the people and the MBO organization and stayed at Randyland. Oakridge is a great little town and they have a heck of a burgeoning community there.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Really out for three weeks just for a OTB and a small cut on the ankle?
  • + 2
 or a dislocated ankle... Who knows.
  • + 1
 I think when the word 'impaled' is used its safe to assume some damage was done...
  • + 1
 A cut on the ankle? Not quite. Wish it were as pretty as a few drops of blood.

Post-stitches: www.pinkbike.com/photo/10073307

Post-stitches and 5 trips back to the doc: www.pinkbike.com/photo/10073308
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I need to see more pics of that cruiser/low rider bike
  • + 1
 That is my buddy Brent on the low rider. We will be at the July mbo, and I'm sure he will bring that bike.
[Reply]
  • - 2
 When I have a choice between Bend or Oakridge its most certainly BEND. you can drive straight to the TH in a low rider not on a twisty turny puncture all four tires 40 min shuttle.
  • + 1
 I'm a native bendite, and though I love my trails, nothing compares to how much fun you will have in oakridge. Unless you do not have a shuttle, because its just as steep up as it is down, haha.
  • + 1
 I get it, I can't tell the young guns what to do. I've just come full circle in my riding and actually like to pedal up hills now....what?? Smile
  • + 2
 Yeah, old people like Bend because it's easier to peddle uphill there. But if you really want to peddle uphill, Oakridge is still where it's at. Although, in Oakridge your climb is rewarded with an awesome downhill instead of a sandbox..
  • + 1
 It's all a matter of perspective. I actually prefer to WORK for my downhill fun. I ride a XC bike that is as pleasant as can be going up hill ... and even more fun to go downhill. These new Trail/All Mountain/DH bikes are waste and take the technicality out of the downhill ... and you can't pedal up the hill for beans.

I find that Bend is only good to ride during the spring, after the snows have melted off, and before the sun has obliterated the trials. Four inches of puff powder is not my idea of fun riding.

But like I said - tis all a matter of perspective. I know people who walk their bikes up the hills and then blast down on their big (silly to me) DH bikes, but have a total blast and have fun. That's what it's all about at the end of the day ...
  • + 1
 As a certified Old Person (certifiable?) I can tell you that we are fine with riding up hill too. Especially in Oakridge. I'll take a damp trail over dust any day.

-Bob
[Reply]

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