Mountain Biker Dies After Crash

66-year-old male was riding popular trail near Ashland, Oregon

MTB Fatality

The section of Hitt Road Trail where an Ashland mountain biker crashed. Photo courtesy Jackson County Sheriff’s Office

When the death of Ashland mountain biker John Edward Thomas Jr. was first reported late Monday, most locals assumed the 66-year-old suffered a heart attack on a favorite trail. Instead, something went tragically wrong on his ride.

The section of Hitt Road Trail, a popular downhill just west of town where Thomas and his bike were found shortly after noon by a hiker, isn’t particularly steep or technical. But it is smooth, straight and fast. An autopsy by the Jackson County medical examiner found that Thomas died of head injuries sustained in a crash. An experienced mountain biker, Thomas was wearing a helmet at the time of the incident.

The local sheriff’s office concluded that Thomas lost control of his bike while “apparently negotiating a dip in the trail.” A press release from the sheriff’s office did not elaborate on Thomas’ speed at the time. A photo of the section shows a potential gap jump. Conditions were clear and dry, and the trail was tacky hardpan.

Access to the trail normally involves a relentless 5-mile grind up a fire road in the Ashland watershed, which is ribboned with multi-use trails. Another local rider died here three years ago after suffering a heart attack on the climb toward Hitt Road.

Unseasonable summer-like weather has drawn riders from throughout the Northwest to Ashland’s gritty, well-groomed trails in recent weeks. Normally a ski destination this time of year, Mount Ashland closed operations Monday due to lack of snow.

All of us at Mtbr wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of the deceased.

About the author: Paul Andrews

Dividing his time between Seattle and Santa Cruz, career journalist Paul Andrews has more than a quarter century of mountain biking under his belt, which he wishes had a few less notches.

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  • Plusbike Nerd says:

    We all know that mountain biking accidents can lead to serious injury or even death. Speaking for myself, I believe the benefits of mountain biking are worth the risk. I find some solace in knowing he was likely doing something he loved. My heart goes out to John’s family.

  • Scotch Hennesy says:

    Agree 100% Nerd! I want to go out on one of my favorite So Cal singletracks the same way! Keep turning those cranks people!

    • matt says:

      i don’t think you want to die that way… For all you know he suffered in pain, alone, for a long time before he passed… Dying while doing what you love isn’t romantic, it’s probably most likely, extremely horrifying and painful…

  • Steve says:

    I ride that trail often, I am almost the same age ( another old dude ) .

    Sad, sigh to me Hitt rd trail is now Johns trail, RIP

  • jwilli says:

    Not going to wax philosphical with this tragedy, which is just what it is. However, as a previous poster said, “it’s worth the risk”, and I believe it is too. Especially as an older rider, it provides so much physical and mental benefit.
    I am curious what occured, as the photo doesn’t show it to be a particularly difficult feature, maybe if you were going 30 mph, might be a different story. Also like to know what helmet he was wearing.
    Condolences to the Thomas family.

  • Will Urich says:

    It would be nice if dying wasn’t always so traumatic…I guess it is though – people say they wanna “go” doing the things they loved, but I don’t anybody really wants to die if they even enjoy life a little bit. I feel empathy for John and for his family – if there’s a place after this one, hopefully it’s got some sweet trails to bomb for us all 🙂

  • Lindal says:

    R I P – John Edward Thomas Jr. We will ride on for you…..

  • DoronL says:

    The type of helmet makes much difference when impact occurs. . Plenty of info on that issue the web. Don’t compromise on protection, save that extra dollar elsewhere. And be well!

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