If you’ve never heard of Mountain Bike Oregon, then listen up. We’re going to give the low-down on Oregon’s premier mountain biking festival so you’ll be ready for next year’s event.
Mountain Bike Oregon (MBO) is a unique festival that happens in the Willamette National Forest bordering Oakridge and Westfir, Oregon. Shuttled mountain bike rides supported by MBO’s illustrious guide crew are the main attraction, while the evening beer and beverage garden, replete with music, raffles and “activities” are a welcomed bonus to a very packed day of trail riding.
In years past, MBO happened twice a year: once in July and then in August. This was due to the sheer amount of people wanting to attend. However, the format of the festival has been pared down to just one event occurring in July. This year's MBO took place between July 15th-18th. It’s unclear whether or not the two-event format will return in subsequent years.
Getting There:While most of the riding actually occurs within the trail systems of Oakridge, MBO headquarters is stationed in the adjacent town of Westfir, nestled beside the upper section of the Willamette River in the Willamette National Forest. Navigating to the event is easy whichever way you approach, and road conditions are paved in either direction. Expect a 2.5 hour drive from Portland, and a 2 hour drive from Bend, Oregon.
Accommodations:The majority of attendees bring adventure vehicles, while a smaller percentage bring tents. Take note that there are no hookups, so vehicles must be self-contained. With the ground being rather rocky, it can be challenging to effectively secure tent stakes. However, with high winds commencing like clockwork around 2 PM each day, it’s highly recommended that you secure your tent with either weights or tent stakes. The same can be said for pop-ups and shade structures. Beware the wind!
If camping isn’t your thing, or you don’t have an adventure vehicle, then the smart choice would be to check Westfir Lodge for availability, which sits directly across the river from the festivities. Additional space can be found in motels and vacation rentals (check Airbnb) available in both Westfir and Oakridge.
Sanitation/Hydration:Thanks to the incredible efforts of the MBO organizers, sanitation services along with hand washing stations and potable water are all easily accessible and well maintained.
Protection:Depending on your comfort levels and your MTB riding experience, protective gear should be worn when riding Oakridge. At the very least we recommend bringing a good MTB helmet (don’t forget your visor), biking shorts with a chamois, knee pads, MTB gloves, sunglasses and/or goggles (it’s very dusty!). We’ve seen riders in years past wear full face helmets, full chest protectors, as well as elbow pads, so come prepared. Our motto is: it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
Clothing:It gets rather hot in Oakridge in July, so during the daytime/riding hours we recommend MTB shorts, long socks, and tops that feature technical fabrics that facilitate cooling and reduce odor. Some riders opt to wear pants, which seems crazy given the temperatures, but proves to be a good way to protect against the absurd amount of poison oak that you’ll encounter on the trails. Speaking of poison oak, if you know you’re allergic, then consider bringing a bottle of Tecnu just in case you come in contact with the plant.
Food & Drink:
Good drink is easy to come by at MBO. This year saw Skratch labs come through with some much needed recovery drinks, while the beer garden offered a wide selection of beer vendors! It should be mentioned that the price of admission includes your beer consumption, so bring a reusable cup! A great addition to this year's drink menu came in the form of cold Humm Kombucha; However, MBO wouldn't be complete without the amazing coffee provided by Nossa Familia, whose early morning efforts kept the riders buzzing!
As for food, both breakfast and lunch are provided, while dinner can be purchased at select food vendors, which change every year. If you want to skip the dinner line we recommend bringing some food, as it's always fun cooking with friends. What’s more, breakfast can be hard to catch before your bus leaves, so consider bringing something that is quick, filling and tasty. Lunch usually consists of a meat or PB&J sandwich with a side of chips and fruit, a welcomed serving of calories when you find yourself completely depleted on the trail.
This year's format was a little different in that attendees were instructed to choose a ride package before the event. With six packages from which to choose, each package provided riders with shuttle services to the surrounding trail systems. Each morning, riders would congregate by their respective school bus (rider shuttles) and wait to load their bike on an accompanying UHAUL (bike shuttle). The process is a reminder that there actually is order in chaos...
Trails/Riding:The trail systems are a mix of incredible cross country and all mountain style single-track that will leave a permanent smile on your face. It should be noted however that these trails are for the most part rated black and double-black, with some sections of blues here and there. It’s recommended that only intermediate to advanced riders take on these trails and we absolutely agree. If you’re coming with folks that aren’t able to ride, then there’s plenty of hiking and water activities in the general area.
Please Note : It’s highly recommended that you bring your own bike; however, bike demos are available from some of the premier MTB brands, but nothing is guaranteed, so be sure you have your gear in tow.
Alpine Trail – Oh glorious Alpine! Known as the Crown Jewel, this is one wicked trail. A combination of every pleasure known to mountain biking, you can’t not love Alpine. Buff and narrow singletrack is the name of the game. Vast views, tight corners between 400 year old trees, high speed railing on steep side slopes; Alpine delivers. The trail is not highly technical, however there are many distractions for the eye and mild exposure. Everyone – from relative newbies to seasoned pros – love to roll tires on Alpine. It’s a ridiculously fast and fun ride.
Hardesty Mountain Trail – You get longer to warm up on Hardesty, as you’ll climb for a couple miles (mostly gravel, ½ mile trail) before you get to the meadow and it flattens out just before the descent into the trees. This is an especially steep trail, fast and smooth with enough rocky patches and roots to keep you awake. There’s a ton of high speed chicanes, jukes and jives on this…like flying on top of dirt. This trail is relatively easy to ride but takes big nerves and good skills to truly unlock the speed and thrills that lie within. The lower mile sees A LOT of mixed use and we’ll slow folks down at the end…but please keep your eyes wide and alert for other trail users. This ride ends at the Goodman/Hardesty parking area
Lawler Trail – Not for the faint of heart, Lawler trail is a classic Oakridge descent that will have you alternating between tight turns and straight-line steep sections. This 7.8-mile, out-and-back trail system features some varying terrain. One moment you’ll be riding smooth hero dirt and the next it’ll be loose and chunky, so be sure you’re ready for the switch. With a ton of views, your efforts are rewarded once you tackle the climbs, but the real fun comes at the lower part of the trail wherein you’ll be greeted with relentless turns down steep, exposed slopes.
Dead/Larison – Dead Mountain to Larison requires a shuttle from each respective trail, so once you’re finished with the blistering descent at Dead Mountain, expect to jump on the shuttle for transport to Larison trail. The top of Dead Mountain provides ample features, small tables and bermed turns, under the welcomed protection of the forest canopy. A few road crossings later and you’re racing through thinned woods with single track stretching in the distance. This lower section is very fast, so watch your speed. The trail eventually turns into an exposed sidehill that will keep your knuckles white and your heart pounding.
Larison trail is a classic Oakridge downhill screamer with LOTS of ridgeline exposure that will keep you on your toes. The trail itself isn’t highly technical, but there’s lots of visual distractions and it’s easy to let your speed get out of hand. Expect a few creek crossings, off-camber turns, lots of tight corners, and some loose rocky patches toward the bottom half of the trail. There’s a lot of steep exposure.
ATCA – Alpine Trail may be known as the “Crown Jewel” of trails at MBO… but add Tire Mountain and Cloverpatch…then Alpine again to the second half of your ride and prepare for epic scenery, long, steep sections of climbing and descending, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the Oakridge valley. You will have to work hard on this ride, but it’s worth every pedal stroke as you feast your eyes on breathtaking views of the Cascade mountains. You get a bit of all Oakridge has to offer on ATCA: Buff, fast, steep, rocky, tired legs, stunning views and old growth. There are many fast corners, most with good sightlines, but speed can get out of hand very easily. Bring your camera, water, and thighs…you’re going to want them all.
Shoot the Moon – Shoot the moon is the combination of Upper Middle Fork and Moon Point (Youngs Rock). The day begins with the top 12 miles of the middle fork trail. This section is full of steeps, roots, rocks, and creeks to cross. Fairly technical, and a whole lotta fun. Climbs here are short but steep and punchy. The scenery in the canopy, and out in the burn is amazing. You will rest at Chucks creek (delicious water) before a short climb out, and a quick mile jaunt down the highway to reconvene at Indigo Camp, before shuttling back up to Moon Point. This trail gets you warmed up with a mellow climb through meadows. There is a five minute detour to Young’s rock overlook which is possibly the best view in the state. The descending begins quickly after you return from Young’s rock and it gets fast…in a hurry! Moon Point is steep and tight in spots and wide open and ripping in others. Fun switchbacks, gorgeous meadows, and gnarly shale gardens are just a taste of the diversity in this trail. Plenty of clear cut to look up and let off, but your brakes better work. This is ear to ear fun.
The Double: Lawler/Hardesty – Warm up with a gravel and trail combo climb. Enjoy beautiful old growth trees and buff, flowy singletrack before hitting a brief, steep grunt up a few switchbacks, then get into some ridiculously fast, narrow and moderately exposed singletrack. There’s several tight corners and exposure but good sightlines into most. We say buff…but Lawler has enough rocks, twists and dips that you need to have your A-game on to shred this one. And with the new extension, a few extra chances to get rowdy on some playful stuff.
Heckletooth – Bunchgrass’ little brother. It’s not less primitive or rugged…or less steep…it’s just shorter. Bring your bike handling skills and nerves as Heckletooth will challenge even the best. Very few clean the whole trail, but go ahead and try, just be aware of the extreme exposure and very steep grades and sidehill action at times. There’s some of the best views in the area off of this one. This trail is a favorite amongst most of the trail guides. It’s one of the only trails folks gather at times to session technical sections. This is not for the beginner, but a must ride for sure.