The Bend Experiment
Road trips are a big part of the mountain bike lifestyle. Day trips or week-long trips define us and our appreciation for life and our sport. Read on and share in our adventures called the Bend Experiment.
We’ll publish three articles on this adventure. The lodging and city of Bend, Cog Wild and the riding, COTA and the trail building efforts. Enjoy!
(Photo by Sterling Lorence courtesy of Specialized Bikes)
By Peter Tsang
I was fortunate enough to be able to join some fellow MTBR folks on a trip to Bend, Oregon this past October. I had already experienced my first Bend trip earlier in the year, back in June, and we had an absolute blast riding some of the best trails that Bend had to offer. When this latest opportunity popped up, there was no way I was going to miss out. Just like the previous trip, we hooked up with the good folks at Cog Wild again. However, this time around, rather than just riding and enjoying every new experience, I had the mindset of really focusing on the trails and learning about what it was that made the expansive network of trails here so great. Heck, I live near the so called birth place of mountain biking, and it’s still a pipe dream for us to have new, mountain bike friendly, fun and challenging multi-use trails.
In the early 1990s, land managers in Central Oregon sought to close off mountain bike access to trails on Forest Service or BLM land. They were quickly met with organized opposition. In 1992, this opposition, consisting of bikers and hikers, led to the formation of COTA, the Central Oregon Trail Alliance. One of the keys to their success was the ability to reach a compromise with land managers, and over the years, they have been working in conjunction with the USFS and other land managers to build and maintain over 500 miles of trails in Central Oregon.
There has been much written about COTA, and they have an excellent website which describes their work and mission statement, so I won’t regurgitate that here. What I can offer is my impressions of COTA and their results as an outsider looking in. The COTA motto is “the world is run by the people who show up”. So how does COTA make this happen?
Watch Seth Graham take the Bob Trailer out for some trail work.
In addition to working with land managers and other trail user groups, COTA has gained community support through local business sponsorships and trail work events. With well organized events, trail work becomes a fun and rewarding experience. All the locals I spoke to seemed to have a blast doing trail work, and inevitably, someone has a funny story to tell about the last time they were out working.
Communication is also important. Members meet once a month to discuss various topics. The COTA website is up to date, newsletters are current, trail work logs are updated, and trail conditions are posted. Members are even active here on the MTBR Oregon forums. This all makes it very easy for anyone to get involved.
One of the coolest things about COTA is the opportunity for members to take on more of a leadership role if they choose. Through their Adopt-a-Trail Program, members can become a Trail Steward and choose a trail that they are responsible to maintain. Of course, there are specific guidelines one is expected to follow, but this gives members the power to design trails as they envision it.
All the above elements lead to results that can easily be seen and appreciated. The trail network is still expanding, and COTA’s vision of creating a world-class trail system is being realized. The evidence is not only in the sheer number of trails available to ride, but the variety of high quality, sustainable trails, as well. Riders of all levels can find trails to their liking. There is no doubt that older favorites like Phil’s Trail and Whoops Trail will always be there. Now, newer trails like Tiddlywinks are being built with bigger berms and jumps, where you can carry higher speeds safely for maximum flow.
(Lev Stryker is the steward for the Whoops trail. He is one of the riders in this video and one of the owners of Cog Wild Tours)
Mountain bikes are still evolving, and the way people think about trail building will likely evolve, too. The biking world is indeed run by the people who show up. In Central Oregon, you can bet COTA will show up.
Learn more about COTA at their website: https://cotamtb.com/