Update: June 26, 2013
We did our first trip to Mountain Bike Oregon in 2007 and have been back many times. Many of our friends and users have done the MBO trip as well and have come back with memories from a great adventure. Check out the highlights below from their recent trips and from our first experience with the hallowed trails of Oregon.
— Francis Cebedo —
Destination: Oakridge, Oregon.
Where? Oakridge is a small valley town, east of Eugene. Where? It’s 9 hours north of Norcal. We’ll figure it out. There’s a small outfit called Mountain Bike Oregon that promises 3 days of riding bliss and free beer for less than $429 (updated). Last year, a few of my friends left me on injured reserve and took the trip to Oakridge. They said the riding was incredible and the event was very enjoyable. Tom Tran described it as: “You know our favorite part in Downieville… Third Divide? It’s like that but hundreds of miles long.” I said “Wow, let’s roll!”
What bike to bring?
Nomad, 29er FS, Rigid, Singlespeed? Since I was just hitching a ride, I could only bring one bike. All the rides are shuttle rides, I hear. So let’s bring the Nomad. Tom however convinces me to ride the Salsa Mamasita 29er singlespeed. “That’ll be perfect” he said. Nice cushy front and light enough to be fast. I had my doubts as I wasn’t too interested in racing XC up the trails. Although Tom took a Niner singlespeed rigid fork last year and had a blast. He said all the descents are fairly smooth and the climbs are not too steep. Ok, Mamasita it is.
So I’ve never been to Oregon. Well it’s very green, hilly and scenic. The roads are smoother and the folks drive slower. But don’t you dare pump your own gas since you might get arrested. We roll into Oakridge and it’s a beautiful valley town surrounded 360 degrees by these tall green mountains. Right by the main road is a park/campground next to the Willamette river.
We arrive on Thursday afternoon and the camping area has several dozen tents next to the river. We set up camp with about a dozen mtbr tents and signed up for the upcoming rides. There’s a beer garden area with a stage, a feeding area, a lunch box set up area and a shuttle staging area on one end of the park. Bathroooms are handled by several dozen portables. Showers are at a high school a half mile away with shuttles constantly running in the afternoons. Heck, we even had cell phone service.
There are many options for the three days of shuttle riding. Each route is described in a guidebook and it makes recommendations depending on rider skill level. Our ala carte schedule looked like this:
• Friday – Lawler and Hardesty
• Saturday – Middle Fork Trail ($50 extra)
• Sunday – Alpine Trail
That’s the consensus of the locals for advanced riders. Middle Fork Trail costs an extra $50 since it’s way out there. The shuttle ride to the drop-off point takes about an hour and a half. There’s lunch midway through the ride and there’s ice-cold beer at the end of the ride.
In addition, our group decided to do a couple of self-supported shuttle rides since we drove all the way from another state and all. These were:
• Thurs – Larison Rock
• Monday – Mackenzie River Trail
So why are all the rides shuttle rides?? Are they such extreme downhill runs? Isn’t shuttling uncool? It turns out the descents are very XC style and 40 lb. bikes are not needed. In fact, the locals rarely shuttle these same rides. But the climbs are huge at 4000-6000 feet of elevation gain. Shuttles are done basically so we can ride every day and not feel cooked. The remarkable thing is all these trails are shuttle friendly. There’s usually a road that drops you off at the top of the trailhead. And even with the shuttle up the hill, there’s usually some climbing involved throughout the day. Another point is riders of varying abilities can try these wonderful descents. Not everybody can climb 5000 feet but most folks can descend that. Of course that’s a double-edged sword that can put riders in over their heads on top of a mountain.
Thursday – Larison Rock
This one is right behind the camping area across the river. We drove up a windy road for about 20 minutes and voila, we were at the trailhead. It’s about a 4-mile, 2000-foot descent. The minute we hit the trail, I knew this place was special. There were a hundred shades of green as vegetation covered every square inch outside the narrow singletrack. The trail snaked down the mountain, sometimes very narrow with some exposure on one side. Leaves lashed at my half-covered fingers as I swooped down the hill. The soil condition was A+ with zero dust and plenty of grip. We ended on a flatter trail that led us all the way to the campground. Wow, our beloved Norcal trails just got schooled and this was just a prelude to the trail orgy to follow.
Friday – Lawler and Hardesty Trails
This one is actually two shuttle rides. The bus waits for us at the bottom of Lawler and takes us to the top of Hardesty. This ride was a gem! There was a little out and back bonus trail in the beginning. Then the Lawler descent ensued with uninterrupted descending down the middle of a very big, dark forest. The twisty descent just flowed through soft, loamy trails inside the tree canopy. Then came Hardesty trail. Hardesty was easier yet better. It had such good flow and speed that everyone came out of the canopy just smiling. But wait there’s more! at the bottom, people were just laughing.
Saturday – Middle Fork Trail
An hour and a half away and $50 extra? Is it worth it? In a word, hellya! You have to be an advanced rider to survive the roots at the top and endure the 30 mile trek. But pay that price and you will be rewarded with the most interesting trail of the weekend. The trail is peppered with turns, roots, sights, hikes and flowy descents. The first half of the trail is an exciting and technical descent through some very twisty and very rooty singletrack. The views are dramatic with all the water flowing but there’s no time to look. It’s about a five-hour ride and the guides leave a personalized box lunch halfway through the trail. Let me just say that PB&J sandwiches never tasted so good. We even took a little hike across the highway and saw a natural spring pop out of the ground and start a creek before our very eyes. After the lunch break is an exciting but grueling section of creek crossings and hike-a-bikes. It then opens up to the flowy, buff singletrack the area is famous for. At the end of the 30 miles, the muscles, back and neck were sore. We then jumped into the river and injected life back into our bodies. Grab a beer at the shuttle and we can go ahead and anoint this as the ‘best ride evar’.
Sunday – Alpine Trail
At around 2 am, the skies opened up. August downpours are rare even here in Oakridge and it took everyone by surprise. Half the attendees packed up while most of the Norcal crew donned shower caps and braved the elements. Remarkably, the trail was in great condition as the showers lightened up at around 11am. I did not make the Alpine ride said this one rivaled the Middle Fork ride. They said the flow was incredible and the vistas were epic.
Monday – Self Shuttle at Mackenzie River Trail (non-MBO)
The great thing about Oakridge is we are within striking distance of some of the other great Oregon trails. We took about an hour and a half drive to Mackenzie river and stayed at Harbick’s Inn. The next morning, we braved the morning drizzle that unfortunately turned into a downpour. We shuttled to the top and did a loop around the lake. This trail was again so interesting and flowy. Did you know that lava and big fir and redwood trees can thrive together? Well, here it does. There is about a one-mile section of lava that was so technical and interesting. The good news about lava trails is there is almost perfect traction even in the rain. The bad is the price for failure is very steep as that lava will exhibit it’s friction properties on your skin. On the trail, we are treated to a symphony of twisty singletrack, lava obstacles, bridges, water crossings, waterfalls, pools and a million shades of green.
At the July venue, it was reported that there were 5 broken bones(mostly collarbones). In this August MBO, we were spared that but one of our Norcal contingent went down very hard. Sarah is a beginner/intermediate rider and was having a blast at Lawler trail. But as the trail opened up to a fire road, she picked up a bit of speed and did not see a dirt mound for blocking vehicle access. Not having ever jumped before, she launched off the dirt and landed on her head and her back. Now for the scary part, she was incoherent for about two minutes. Then she came to but had no memory whatsoever of the last week’s events. Over the next hour, she regained all her memory and complained of a sore back while laying down. She declined the ambulance ride to the dismay of all the rescuers and ride organizers. She then got checked out at a nearby hospital and got a clean bill of health. She is a trooper and managed to have fun the rest of the days despite being quite sore. The other injury of note was Noah’s tattoo. Noah crashed on the trail and the the bike was still clipped in on one foot and landed on his shoulder. Noah is about 300 lbs and can put some heat on those disc brakes. He thought, ‘what’s that little stinger on my shoulder’? It was his brake rotor burning his skin!!! Wow. Rumor is Noah is going to mark that spot with a real rotor tattoo that says ‘MBO’.
Each MBO ride is led by many guides. The guides are unpaid volunteers that belong to the Disciples of Dirt, the same group that maintains these trails. These guys were key to making this event so enjoyable. Their enthusiasm for sharing their trails was matched only by their riding ability. They excelled at climbing, descending, trials riding. Just by coincidence, the Norcal group was matched up with Boyd and Wes for four days of riding. We had fun at the expense of Boyd’s Kiwi accent. And we benefited from his guiding and riding expertise. Most important, Boyd and Wes’s upbeat spirit always lifted the group. I think they had fun too as they joined us on their own at the Mackenzie River Trail ride.
So there you have it. The perfect trip. The founders Randy and Porter of MBO have done good. The event has grown from 30 people in 2005, 250 in 2006 and 450 in 2007. Take note that MBO gives a money to a lot of local community groups. They care for the town and it shows as all the locals are very accomodating to cyclists. One caveat is each MBO event is capped at 300 riders. It will most likely sell out next year so register early when it opens before christmas.
Next year, get ready MBO, the Mtbr armada is coming!