Adventures on Dirt: Making the Most of Summer in Bend
Joel Fletcher grew up in the Seattle area riding mountain bikes and working in bike shops through his formative years. He started racing in college and worked hard to move up to racing at the elite level on the road. These days he lives in Bend, OR, and spends most of his time exploring on dirt, racing gravel and mountain bikes, and working for the Oregon Bike Racing Association as their Marketing, Development, and Junior Racing Director. He sported Eliel’s signature Diablo Collection on his latest summer rides around Bend and joins us to share tips from his adventures.
Summers in Bend, OR mean the weather becomes hot and dry, the days are long, and you have unlimited access to all the gravel roads and singletrack which are normally covered in snow for most of the year. How do I survive the heat of summer in the high desert, you might ask? I have a few recommendations to combat the heat, be it in Bend or any other hot city during the summer months.
1. Find as many routes as you can near bodies of water. Any kind of water will do as long as you can take a mid-ride dip or head-dunk.
2. Wear an Eliel Diablo kit. I didn't try the Diablo jerseys or bibs until I moved to the desert. Now they are my go-to summer kit and allow me to ride in the heat every day without overheating or riding with a normal jersey unzipped and my chest hair flowing for the entire ride.
I have spent most of my life in the woods and around bodies of water. There is something special about riding your bike beside a stream or river. Listening to the shifting gears, heavy breathing, and the sound of rushing water provides a certain calm only found riverside. Here are a few of my favorite “waterside” rides in Bend, OR:
The Deschutes River Trail is one of the best spots for river access in Bend. Technically the trail is considered a green mountain bike trail, but you should not let that deter you from riding your gravel bike with 40c tires. This is by far the most fun way to ride this trail while building confidence and skill on your drop-bar bike.
The river trail runs from Sunriver to Bend along the Deschutes river while sneaking in views of the mountains. There are many great spots to stop and dunk your head in the river or go for a full swim if that is more your style.
The Phil's Trail System (a 10-15 minute ride from downtown) gains you access to endless amounts of gravel roads and singletrack worthy of a gravel bike. I usually start on singletrack, but will start to ride Forest Service roads as I dive further into the Deschutes National Forest. If you are planning a ride here, make sure to stick with four-digit Forest Service roads that begin with the number "4” – that will almost always ensure a decently maintained road. No promises though; it can get quite loose and dusty in the dry months!
From the Phil's Trail System, you can cut over to Skyliners Road, which dead-ends at a gravel road (Tumalo Falls Road) where you will have endless options for dirt riding mixed with some water stops and waterfall views. Staying on the main gravel road will bring you to Tumalo Falls.
Tumalo Falls is around 100 feet high and is just the beginning of a long trail of waterfalls as you make your way up Tumalo Creek. You can ride up North Fork Trail, which is uphill only, and stop at as many falls as you'd like. The further up your ride takes you, the fewer people you will see. A gravel bike might be pushing the limits on North Fork, but who doesn't like to test the boundaries of their equipment?
Cycling in 2020 is being re-thought. There is no racing and there are no prizes or podiums. While Everesting records are being broken and Strava KOM/QOM hunts are the new racing, trying a more relaxed approach to the year is a great alternative. If you're thinking of taking a break from structured training, you can venture out to new forest service roads or singletrack. What are the routes and rides you've always dreamed of riding? Get out there and explore them! You won’t regret it, especially if you take time to stop and splash some of that water you find on your face or take a full plunge. But, if you're wearing a Diablo kit, you might not have to because you'll already be so cool.