Last week I found myself laying in my sleeping bag in my own personal tent surrounded by 99 other mountain bikers in their own personal tents at a campground somewhere near Oakridge, Oregon. Each one of us was there to experience the Pacific Northwest riding that is featured in every bike company’s product release videos as well as the party and good vibes that Trans-Cascadia has earned a reputation for since it started two years ago.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what I was in for. I have spent most of my mountain-biking life in Idaho riding our dry, loose, sometimes rocky trails. I’ve also ridden in places like Moab and Fruita, better known for their technical terrain. And I spend my fair share of time riding and racing skinny tire bikes as well. So I figured, I’ll be fine, right? I’m basically just going to a big camping and riding party with a bunch of rad people who also love to shred, eat delicious food and enjoy a few libations.
Well yes, but not exactly. Trans-Cascadia is a “blind” enduro race, meaning that the stages and transfers of the next day are only announced to us the night before. Blind is one thing, but if you’ve never ridden the steep, rooty, loamy, rocky (and everything in between) terrain of the PNW, blind is a bit of an understatement. I started off the first 2 stages on Day 1 getting to know the feel of this amazing dirt, testing out just how hard I could lay it down in the corners and pushing my speed, just a little bit. Then Stage 3 happened. The following is my internal monologue as I descended the 3,194 ft and 3.7 miles of Eula Ridge:
Clip in, pedal, pedal, pedal, shift up, shift up shift up, pedal. Alright, I’m starting to get the hang of this. Let’s push the pace a little. This is SO sick! Loam is everything I ever imagined it to be! Oh sh** I just came way too close to clipping that tree. That could have been bad. Alright, focus. Stay loose. SHIT. BRAKE. Brake more. Woah, that is a corner and I literally almost just launched all the way off it. Okay, slowly turn your bike all the way around. Clip in, pedal, pedal. Get back up to speed. Dammit! Again? What are these hairpin turns that keep almost killing me? Awkwardly get completely off bike, turn it around 180 degrees. Get back on, clip in. Pedal, pedal. Okay when is the next one of those things coming up? Here it is. Brake a little, unclip inside foot. Look around the turn, weight forward, roll through. SICK. I made it. That was so enduro. Clip in, pedal pedal. Holy crap this place is beautiful. No, stop looking around. Focus on the trail ahead. Shit I think my fingers are permanently glued to the brakes. When did it get so steep? My back tire is fully locked up. What if I stop losing traction in the front too? I’m literally not going to be able to stop. My weight cannot be back any further. Yep, that was my tire that just rubbed my butt. I’m practically just skiing down these loose rocks on a bike. Is this how its supposed to feel? Over the handle bars. F***! I saw that coming. Get up. Bike looks fine. Get back on. No, sh**. It’s way too steep, I can’t even start rolling here. Okay pickup bike and run. Just like cyclocross? Oh god, I can’t even run down this. Is this an enduro race or a downhill race? Awkwardly slide down on two feet using bike as a crutch. Jump back on bike. Thank god, a little flowy section. You know how to do this. There’s the finish tape! Finally! Wait, no! Don’t look at that, eyes on the trail. Roots, lots of roots. And off camber roots? Slam awkwardly into root, lose all momentum. Jump off bike. Carry it through off camber rooty section and through the finish. *Sigh*. What in the hell was that? Wait, am I okay? I crashed pretty hard. Oh… there’s a nice cut on my shin and some blood dripping. Oh well. That was f****** epic!!
Not every stage went like Stage 3, but each one had its unique qualities and every single one was a muddy, loamy, rooty blast beyond belief. If you want to read more about the rowdy time that Trans-Cascadia was (or see some rad videos) click here.
*Cover Image by Chris Hornbecker