Gradual climb, fast descents on Oregon mountain bike trail

Gradual climb, fast descents on Oregon mountain bike trail
In this May 9, 2013 photo, Mark Morical rides his mountain bike over a rock obstacle on the upper portion of the Mrazek Trail west of Bend, Ore. The Mrazek Trail west of Bend is one of those singletrack paths that can suspend time for mountain bikers. The gradual, sustained climb through the Deschutes National Forest, followed by a fast-and-flowing downhill on the way back, can make four hours seem more like two. (AP Photo/The Bulletin, Dustin Gouker)

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Sometimes, two hours on a mountain bike is as long as I can go before I am basically spent, physically and mentally.

Other times, four-plus hours seems like no problem. Often, how long you can ride and how long you want to ride depends on the trail.

The Mrazek Trail west of Bend is one of those singletrack paths that can suspend time for mountain bikers. The gradual, sustained climb through the Deschutes National Forest, followed by a fast-and-flowing downhill on the way back, can make four hours seem more like two.

Such was the case when my riding partner Dustin Gouker and I spent four hours riding and might have been able to go a bit farther. (Dustin went for a run afterward, but he obviously has a problem with exercise addiction.)

DIRECTIONS

From Bend, drive or ride 3.3 miles on Newport Avenue as it turns into Shevlin Park Road. After crossing Tumalo Creek, turn left into the park and look for the trail on the left. Ride the Shevlin Park trails to the south end of the park, where Mrazek begins by following Tumalo Creek and then turns up and out of the park.


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TRAIL FEATURES


A long singletrack trail that includes a gradual climb when ridden westward, and a long, sustained descent when ridden eastward.

LENGTH


The trail itself is 14 miles, but it can be linked to other trails in the upper Phil's Trail system for a much longer loop.

RATING

Aerobically intermediate, and technically intermediate.
I rode from my house in southeast Bend to Dustin's on the west side. From there, we took Skyliners Road west on our bikes to Forest Road 4606 on the right. (This is a green version of Mountain Bike Trail Guide. Too often, us east-siders drive our cars to the trails west of Bend.)

We found some singletrack that led us back to FR 4606 and Tumalo Creek. By staying on the forest road we were able to avoid the tricky technical portion of Mrazek as the trail climbs out of Shevlin Park.

We made a left turn onto the singletrack and began our climb. I usually bike Mrazek as an out-and-back ride, and that was the plan this time — ride as far as we wanted and then simply turn around and head back. Those looking for a much longer ride can link Mrazek up to other routes in the Phil's Trail system for a loop back to Bend.

Mrazek is a 14-mile-long trail that connects Shevlin Park to upper-elevation areas such as Happy Valley and Trail 99 on the edge of the Three Sisters Wilderness, which are likely still covered by snow.

We continued steadily climbing through open areas of manzanita as well as thick ponderosa pine forest. Dustin and I were both able to stay in our middle chain ring for the entire climb, as the going never got extremely steep.

The lower portions of the trail were a little dusty, but the path became more firm and tacky as we gained elevation.

Eventually, we came to a small ridgeline where we could see Paulina Peak to the southeast and Mount Bachelor to the southwest. There, the climbing became a bit more challenging. But we pedaled on, as Dustin called off the mileage from the GPS on his smartphone, which he had been doing since we left his house.

At 13 miles, we made the decision to stop and turn around.

Dustin had ridden Mrazek just three days earlier and had turned back at that same point. He noted that what had been a swath of snow 10 feet in diameter in the shade just off the trail was now a melting slushy patch of just a few inches. It reminded us that the warm spring will make for snow-free, upper-elevation trails earlier than normal this year.

We mounted our bikes again and prepared for nearly 2,000 feet of descent. The Mrazek Trail descends gradually, making for an entertaining, sustained downhill that never seems to require a prolonged clenching of the brakes. Well-placed turns give the trail a flowing rhythm that never gets old. Most of the trail is smooth singletrack, with no exceedingly technical sections.

We eventually came to a swooping, downhill-only section. Designed by Phil Meglasson, of Phil's Trail fame, this portion of the trail cuts through a ravine, with dips and rises all the way along a constant session of steep ups and downs while turning through the trees.

Meglasson was largely responsible for getting Mrazek built, beginning construction of the trail nearly 25 years ago. With the help of the U.S. Forest Service, Mrazek was completed up to the Metolius-Windigo Trail about 10 years ago.

The Mrazek Trail got its name from Mrazek Cycles, a company formerly based in Bend. According to Meglasson, when the trail project was just getting started, Mrazek Cycles would help with the work and would give locals good deals on bikes.

The descent into Shevlin Park went quicker than expected. The portion of trail closest to the park — which we had skipped on the climb up — is notoriously challenging and technical, a grueling combination of steep slope and rocks, but it does not last long.

From the south end of the park, we took trails back out to Shevlin Park Road and cruised back to Dustin's house. By the time I arrived back home on my bike that evening after a few hours in the office, I had ridden 33 miles for the day.

But when most of that mileage is ridden on a trail like Mrazek, 33 miles is easy.
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The original story can be found on The Bulletin's website: http://bit.ly/17jCcfW

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press