BEND, Ore. — The prime mountain biking season is upon us here in Central Oregon.
Rainfall and cooler weather will take those dusty singletrack trails and pack them down into perfect shape for the fat-tire crowd.
A clear, sunny day after significant rain the day or night before is the ideal time to hit the trails.
Even in subpar conditions, the trails in Central Oregon are almost always a blast. This is especially true for singletrack that has been built in the last 10 years or so, including the Wanoga complex.
As mountain bikes have evolved from cross-country design to more all-mountain (full-suspension with longer travel), trail design has followed suit.
Many trails in the Wanoga system — built and maintained by the volunteers of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance — have technical features, which include man-made jumps, natural rock obstacles and bermed corners. The trails are the epitome of modern-day mountain biking: something for the younger, air-seeking generation, but tame enough for most spandex-clad cross-country folks.
Funner and Tiddlywinks were the first two trails in the system, built in 2008 and 2009. It is hard to believe those trails have been there that long, as they seem so new and modern every time I ride them. Over the last six or seven years, COTA has designed and built numerous other state-of-the-art trails in the nearly 30-mile Wanoga complex, including Kiwa Butte, Larsen’s, Dinah-Moe-Humm, Tyler’s Traverse and Duodenum.
On a dry day in late summer, I chose to climb Funner and ride Tiddlywinks back down, but the route can be ridden in either direction. Hike-a-bike is required on several of the steeper rock sections along the Funner climb.
After about an hour’s riding, I reached Wanoga Sno-park for a few laps on the pump track in the parking lot there.
Tiddlywinks starts next to the restroom building at the snow-play area at Wanoga. I cruised through tight forest on tacky singletrack, then through an open, logged area.
Yellow “Y” signs indicate where the trail breaks into two separate singletrack paths. These areas were built to serve as passing areas during races. Riders complain about doubletrack, but also that they are unable to pass others during a race on singletrack. Passing lanes solve both problems.
Tiddlywinks is dotted with boulders built into the design of the trail. Many of the big rocks appear daunting on approach, but the drop-off is never severe, and riders can choose to either catch some air or ride the rock back down to the trail on the other side. Intermediate bikers can roll over the boulders fairly easily. At some of the bigger rock features, a trail option has been built so riders can take a smooth route around.
The 13-mile ride took about two hours, but I’ll be back for more soon, when ideal fall conditions will make the mountain biking even, uh, funner.