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Oakridge is a mountain biker's delight

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 4th, 2012 at 11:15 am

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A view of the Cascades from
Bunchgrass Ridge Trail.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Just back from a long weekend in Oakridge, Oregon — "the mountain biking capital of the Northwest". Over five years ago I proclaimed (jokingly) that I wanted to move there and now I'm wondering why it's taken me so long to return.

Oakridge is a small and quiet former logging town situated between rivers and mountains about 40 miles east of Eugene. The timber industry once dominated, but today the local economy is all about outdoor recreation. In August 2010 even National Public Radio noticed Oakridge and devoted a special report to the town that is trying to "reinvent itself."

One could argue that mountain biking is Oakridge's biggest attraction. The town is surrounded by hundreds of miles of trails and boasts some of the best riding you'll find anywhere. And it didn't just happen by accident. The story of Oakridge is a meld between economic necessity and a network of dedicated advocates.

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oakridge-2

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The sign outside the local bike shop, Willamette Mountain Mercantile.

This past weekend I sampled just a tiny portion of the fantastic riding and I'm scheming on how to get back there before the dry season ends. There are many more trails to ride and stories to be told. Later this month is the Fat 55 race and festivities. If you needed an excuse to discover Oakridge, I can't think of a better one.

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Comments
  • SilkySlim September 4, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Hope you made it to the Brewer's Union Local 180 pub. Very comfy place to celebrate a good day of riding.

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  • 9watts September 4, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I've long wondered why the Amtrak (Coast Starlight), which passes through there twice a day, doesn't stop there. Seems odd & unfortunate.
    I didn't get any useful response from the conductors about that either. Very beautiful country.

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    • Chris I September 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      It only makes sense for Amtrak to stop at reasonably populated places. The number of people taking the Starlight down to Oakridge would be miniscule. A small shuttle from Eugene with Bike racks would make much more sense. It could run once or twice a day, and more on weekends when the demand would be higher.

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      • 9watts September 4, 2012 at 3:30 pm

        Perhaps, though the number of people who get off in Chemult (smaller than Oakridge but at a fork in the tracks) is pretty small too, and I'd wager fewer get on/off in Dunsmuir than would likely in Oakridge once folks learned about the change and started planning their travel with that in mind?

        "The number of people taking the Starlight down to Oakridge would be miniscule."

        I don't know. If this is really the touristy destination it is sounding like this wouldn't have to be true. This too is really a dynamic question: If the Coast Starlight did stop there, what could the town do* to encourage people to arrive/depart by train? For that matter, what would it hurt to add the stop (back) to the schedule?

        *maybe make taking one's bike along easy/easier?

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  • jordan September 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Heading to Waldo this weekend :)

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    • Ron G. September 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      I just got back. The skeeters are gone, and there are still some huckleberries, if you look hard. The trail is dusty, but fun as always.

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  • Caroline September 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    "The story of Oakridge is a meld between economic necessity and a network of dedicated advocates."

    What? You're not going to talk about this? That's the best part, the backbone, of the Oakridge story! Seriously.

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  • 9watts September 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Caroline

    "The story of Oakridge is a meld between economic necessity and a network of dedicated advocates."

    What? You're not going to talk about this? That's the best part, the backbone, of the Oakridge story! Seriously.
    Recommended 0

    My late uncle Dave Linsdell was, I believe, one of the founders of the Oakridge Fat Tire Festival, but that was a long, long time ago.

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  • jocko September 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Oh god Bunchgrass.......that trail will make you re-evaluate how bad ass you really are.

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  • A.K. September 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Looks great!

    I was riding (road) around Mt. Bachelor this past weekend, and kept seeing all these awesome forest service roads that my bike wouldn't have been able to navigate. A mountain bike or cross bike would be a fun thing to take there as well.

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  • J Hersh September 4, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Waldo is worth the trip.

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  • Harth@WabiWoolens September 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    A day on the trails in Oakridge, followed by beer and food at Brewer's Union (one of the best brewpubs anywhere) while sitting outside under a clear sky is one of the best things anyone can do, period. Only gets better if you make time to jump in the creek or river after the ride.

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  • Brian September 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Jonathan,

    I hope you realize the ability to have these kind of riding experiences closer to Portland is just as important as commuting issues you fight so hard for right now.

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  • Budro September 4, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    heh, I bought a house in Oakridge two weeks ago. Except for the occasional train, it's dead quiet there at night. The sky is full of stars. It's absolutely beautiful.

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  • jim September 4, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Makes you think twice before you go on that naked bike ride, better carry a snake bite kit also.

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  • Randy Dreiling September 5, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    I love Oakridge!
    But I live here and run the bike tour, shuttle service and MBO so I am a little basis.
    We have tried for years to get the train to stop. No luck
    There is a bus that runs a couple times a day from Eugene, but only Monday-Friday. Once you get to town we'll be glad to help you out.
    Oakridge trails are not very dusty, but Waldo area is, but still worth the ride. Just rode Twins today and it was awesome
    Thanks for the story.

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    • 9watts September 6, 2012 at 12:02 am

      "We have tried for years to get the train to stop. No luck"

      Interesting. Can you tell us what sort of reasons Amtrak gave? Thanks for trying. Good to know I'm not the only one who thinks it odd/should be changed. I mean, what good is living on a rail line if the trains don't stop?!

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  • Randy Dreiling September 6, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Reason have changed year to year.
    Have to have a standard building that the city can't afford to build.
    Must have people staffing the stop..intersting since other stops are unmanned.
    UP wouldn't allow another stop
    There are no funds
    Your stop work not create enough stops
    Bikes can't be unloaded or loaded unless it a staffed stop and we couldn't have enough traffic to pay a staff person
    God knows we have tried

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    • 9watts September 6, 2012 at 12:22 am

      Such a shame no one over at Amtrak (apparently) has the authority or inclination to look at this from a different angle, ask constructive questions:

      What could we do to make this work? Who could we partner with? What information would we need to understand the financial risks and benefits we'd be taking/getting by adding (back) a stop in Oakridge? Who would share those risks/benefits? How can we make bike unloading (if this stop is anticipated to favor those who travel with complete/not disassembled bikes) work?

      Maybe in addition to the docent who gets on in Klamath Falls to tell those of us in the Observation Car about the Indian Wars and track maintenance travails, Amtrak could identify someone who gets on at Oakridge and talks about the history of mountain biking there, explores the level of interest among the passengers to stop there in the future? Oh, but that would require a stop.

      So frustrating. Sorry to hear it has been such a drag with them.

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  • Ayleen September 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Here's some background on Oakridge that I wrote for Ride Oregon/Travel Oregon a few years ago:
    http://rideoregonride.com/mt-bike-oregon-bringing-worldwide-mt-bikers-to-oregon-to-experience-our-love-of-bikes-beers-and-beauty/

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