Sunday, December 28, 2014

The State of Mountain Biking in Corvallis (12/29/14)

2014 started as a great year for mountain bikers in Corvallis, but ended as a terrible year.  A mild January through March provided great start and the trails dried a month earlier (June) than normal. Then in the summer Team Dirt (our local IMBA chapter) opened their grand effort in Alsea Falls (  Which is quickly becoming a mountain biking destination like Black Rock. It was the panicle of why I live in Corvallis, the riding was great and varied.

But then in the fall it all came crashing down, literally.  First, OSU scheduled thinning and clear cutting took out four major trails (Stick n Eye, Existentia, The Secret, Ladder Bridge (Two Bridges).  Then independent logging around Dunn forest took out the road to Vince's and cut three roads through Chuft (along with Tunnel Vision and Viagra).  Finally OSU closed HiLo.  If that wasn't bad enough, a heavy November rain followed immediately by an ice storm (rare) and wind covered every trail and road in Mac with downed trees and branches making everything unrideable.

With that said, Corvallis has a great mountain bike community.  The City cleared the approved trails and the fire roads and local riders have been clearing the storm damage.  But recovering from the logging will take time.  Unlike some, I'm not upset over the logging (though I wish they would have made a little effort to preserve the trails) as this is a working/teaching forest and over the almost 50 years I've lived here, I've seen trails come and go. It is a blessing and a privilege to have access to it. 

So with that thought, new trails will be developed and old ones rebuilt, and here is the point I would like to make.  I hope they retain the magic of what riding in the Mac was all about, roots and natural obstacles. The Mac isn't about flow (that's what Alsea Falls is about) nor is it about man made structures (that's what Black Rock is about).  It is about steep hills, punchy climbs and roots and it has made me a better rider because of it.  But a discouraging trend I started to see before all these trails got damaged, was the idea of "sanitizing" the trail in the name of "flow."

Bombs Away is a great example.  The first time I road that trail was at night after a rain and it was a scary ride, but one I wanted to do over and over.  From it I learned to clear logs and land log drops in all conditions. But not it is a former image of itself because someone cut the logs and worked the drops.  The result is an easier trail to ride which caused the speeds to increase which caused more smoothing and widening of the trail.

I recently read a quote about trail builders in New Zealand in Mountain Flyer Magazine (issue 39) that said "They were seeking out the gnarliest trails they could find and then, instead of modifying the trails to be easier, they were modifying their bikes (not to mention their skills) to handle the trails." I hope we don't loose what made the Mac special as the trails come back to life.  We'll all be better riders for it.


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