Epicenter: Central Oregon’s Mountain Bike Capital

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With ample sunshine, an eye-pleasing high desert landscape, and a boatload of singletrack accessible from town, Bend is one heckuva place to get in the saddle.

Over a post-ride beverage, professional mountain biker and long-time local Serena Bishop-Gordon summed it up best: “There is something for everyone, no matter your ability or fitness level. We've got big high country rides for those hard-charging folks and tons of shorter, more mellow rides accessible right from town. So you can enjoy your coffee and pastry, hit the trails and then return in time for lunch!”

If there’s any fault to this Central Oregon town, it’s that it's far from undiscovered. It makes perfect sense, though. Bend living is pretty dreamy–and more than worth adding to your lifelist. 

–5 Great Rides in Bend–

Phil's

Phil Meglasson is a local legend who's been instrumental in the development of much of Bend's singletrack, so it's no surprise that his namesake trail makes a great centerpiece for any ride in this area. Phil's is a directional, downhill-only trail, and it flows fast---like a slalom track through the region's quintessential towering pines. For a short loop, pedal up the incredibly smooth singletrack on Kent's Trail, hang a left on KGB, and bomb back down Phil's. Consider tacking on Ben’s and Lower Whoops if you're looking for more mileage.


Mrazek

Called "nirvana" by some, Mrazek is a great way to experience high country riding in the eastern Cascades. Long-time Bend local and MTB Project contributor Katy Ryan calls Mrazek a "long, beautiful cross-country trail" For a classic Bend loop, combine Mrazek with Farewell, Skyliner, Whoops, and Ben’sFrom extended twisty downhills through dense pine and open meadows, to ridge-line views of Paulina Peak and Mt. Bachelor, this ride has it all.

Tyler’s Traverse

This downhill-only trail throws the best of Bend’s flow and technical experiences at you. On the upper end, test your technical chops on plenty of rocks and a couple of stiff climbs. For the experts in the group, don’t miss the optional black diamond line that features a five-foot drop. The views from Tyler’s aren’t bad either---from up high, look behind you for an eyeful of Mt. Bachelor and the Sisters, and enjoy the green and brown textures of the Oregon desert, which extend as far as the eye can see. Shuttling this trail is a great option. Park one car along Conklin Road and another at Edison or Wanoga.

Deschutes River Trail

This rolling trail overlooks the Deschutes River for most of its 13.4-mile length, making it a must-do ride purely for the aesthetics. Along the way, you'll soak in the many moods of the Deschutes, from calm, pristine pools to noisily rushing rapids. Start from the Estrada Lodge near the COD trailhead, pedal over the ridge, and drop in parallel to the river's west bank. In between brief technical sections of lava rock, you'll cruise some mellow singletrack through a mix of pine forest and dry meadows.

One of many cool rock features along the Deschutes River Trail. | Photo: C.R. John

Funner-Tiddlywinks Loop

If you're not having a blast on a trail called Funner, you're probably doing it wrong. When combined with Tiddlywinks, this is a grin-inducing loop in either direction. As mapped below, ascend the baby-bottom-smooth singletrack of Tiddlywinks as a means to access Funner's rockin' and flowy downhill. This trail fully embodies what the locals call "flow-gnar," fast-flowing berms and straightaways with plenty of technical lava rock moves mixed in for spice. In general, stay left if you're interested in some bigger drops or trend right for the easier lines.

–The Best–

Eats

In a town that caters to visitors, it’s hard to narrow down the best places to eat and drink because they're everywhere. From coffee at Backporch Roasters to carrot cake at Zydeco Kitchen, this town will both satisfy and surprise when it comes to culinary delights. A word to the wise: Summer tends to be the busiest time in Bend. Bishop-Gordon shares her strategy to beat the crowds and enjoy the small town feel of Bend, “Don't go to breakfast at 10 a.m. on Saturday, you’ll wait in line forever. Instead, head to the Sparrow Bakery early and grab an Ocean Roll with coffee to go on the way to the trails. At that time of day, you’ll have the riding all to yourself.”

It goes without saying that your thirst will be paramount after (or possibly during) a day on trails. Lucky for you, Bend has 22 breweries that pour just about any flavor of barley pop your taste buds could be after. There are so many breweries, in fact, that you'll probably want to consult Beer me Bend!, a website that exists solely to help you navigate the town's purveyors of liquid courage. If you’re keen to tackle the beer like you do the trails, the Bend Ale Trail, a tour celebrating the town’s craft breweries, is a worthy endeavor in and of itself.

Camping

Bend has a number of camping options that allow you to live that dirty mountain biker lifestyle. Most locations offer the luxury of pedaling right to the trails directly from your sleeping bag. On the north end of town, you’ll find Tumalo State Park and its posh heated bathrooms, water, and showers. Toward the south end of Bend, there are more primitive squat-in-the-trees options near the heart of the trails, including Phil’s. Venture out along Conklin Road or Skyliners Road to find dispersed campsites on U.S. Forest Service land, complete with the fresh (and strong) pine tree scent.

Shop

Crow’s Feet Commons combines the standard bike/ski shop with the coffee bar/tap room into a collaborative space that draws people in like bees to honey. It’s not uncommon to see people sitting at the bar in the bike shop, sipping a Deschutes draught and reading the latest news while waiting for their drivetrains to be tuned. This community-friendly space in the heart of downtown Bend is located on the Deschutes River, just a few blocks over from Bond Street. And hit the stunning REI Bend in the Old Mill District for a one-stop solution to any and every gear need from chain lube to tent stakes. 

Coffee. Beer. Bikes. What's not to love? | Photo: Leslie Kehmeier

Rest-Day Activity

Bend is a true recreation paradise. An off-day can take you to pursue a number of other outdoor endeavors set within world-class venues. Smith Rock is less than an hour north of town and offers some of the region's best rock climbing. If paddling is your thing, the Deschutes River runs smack dab through the middle of town. Historically known for kayaking, the Deschutes has also become a magnet for stand-up paddle boarding. Check in with Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe to rent equipment or take a lesson if you’re new to the SUP scene.

Smith Rock's famous cliffs | Photo: Mountain Project user Chris treggE

If you really want to relax or have the kids with you, check out the High Desert Museum. It’s a sensory-engaging experience that combines regional wildlife, culture, art, and natural resources. It’s a chance to learn about the high desert landscape while getting up close and personal with some of its characters.

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