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Stoked on Singletrack

Five locals share their passion for mountain biking

Long gone are the days when mountain bikers were a renegade bunch, riding their modified “clunkers” down old dirt roads and game trails for a cheap thrill in the forests outside of Bend. Mountain biking is now a way of life, and Central Oregon is a hub for all things “singletrack”—off-road trails only wide enough for one bike at a time and generally believed to be the most the most challenging and exhilarating type of mountain biking. Meet five locals who live, eat and breathe bikes and trails.

Lev Stryker – Co-owner – Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours – Bend, Oregon

He’s called “The Levenator” for his knack for flying through the air on two wheels. Lev Stryker has deep cycling roots, beginning when he first hopped on a mountain bike at age 15 in the hills outside of Santa Cruz, California. “My friends and I would go get lost in the woods on bikes. I would have one water bottle that was supposed to last for the entire day’s adventure.”

Twenty-five years later, that feeling he gets when pushing his limits on a new trail, finding adventure and riding with confidence is what keeps him amped about mountain biking. “One of my favorite things is riding behind someone who knows a trail well and being able to quickly read the trail and find the lines to keep up with them.”

As co-owner of Cog Wild, Stryker’s job really is to ride a mountain bike, so he has to stay in shape and keep up on his skills. “It is definitely part of my job as a Cog Wild owner to ride hard.” Every season, he guides intrepid tour guests on everything from short family rides to epic multi-day adventures. His favorite is a three-day tour called “Lev’s Choice,” a mix of big rides, handpicked by Stryker each year.

For Stryker, mountain biking in Bend is unique because the trails are so accessible, and we have hundreds of miles of them. “The trails are so close to town and accessible to all rider levels.” Stryker does his part to give back to the trails, too. If you’ve ridden down South Fork Trail or Lower Whoops Trail, you can thank him for providing the fun. Each spring, Stryker works closely with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance as a “trail adopter” to ensure that the trails are cleared of downed trees and brush so they are ready to ride. “There is truly something for everyone here, and everyone can feel like a good mountain biker on our trails.”

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Casey Meudt – Co-owner – Blazin Saddles – Sisters, Oregon

A Sisters native, Casey Meudt grew up on a bike, riding the local dirt roads and trails and taking trips to Moab at a young age. “As soon as I could ride a bike without training wheels, I was looking for singletrack. Ever since I had my first job at a bike shop when I was 14, it’s been my dream to own my own shop.”

His shop, Blazin Saddles, is the newest bike shop in Sisters and is celebrating its fifth year in business. It is bright and airy, and evident of a growing mountain biking scene. Many locals, including Meudt, see the Sisters area as a having huge growth potential.

“The Peterson Ridge Trail network has grown significantly, and the older trails on Cache Mountain have been rehabilitated,” says Meudt. Sisters is also a prime place for gravel road riding. “We’ve sold five times as many gravel-specific bikes as we did last year. From Sisters, you can head in any direction from town on a gravel road and find awesome scenery.”

Meudt’s latest passion is working with COTA to design and build new trails, from conception to actual trail. “One of the coolest things is to walk in the woods and flag where you want to build a trail, then see it come to fruition. Then ride it!”

Meudt also sees a future in a new type of trails called “flow trails.” Rather than the older style of narrow, more primitive singletrack, flow trails are usually wider and include big sweeping berms, jumps and rollers. “I think these trails are the future for mountain biking around here because any rider can enjoy a flow trail at their own level. Novice riders can roll everything, while more advanced riders can jump and fly through the air on the same trail.”

Top pick for an all day ride:

Cache Mountain is in great condition right now, with amazing views, lakes and a great downhill.

Favorite ride fuel:

A variety of energy bars.

One thing you always have in your pack:

Eyedrops. Wearing contact lenses in this dry climate is challenging.

Uphill or downhill?

Uphill.

Current mountain bike:

BMC Speedfox 29er. 

Favorite post-ride meal and beverage:

The Cottonwood Café, formerly Jen’s Garden, is awesome for breakfast and lunch with mimosas, Bloody Marys and great beer on tap.

Jody Jacobson – Employee – Sunnyside Sports – Bend, Oregon

jodyJody Jacobson shreds with the best of them and loves looking for new and interesting terrain on her mountain bike, as well as challenging herself on technical trails. “For me, it’s about finding focus in life. When you challenge yourself in rowdy terrain, you have no choice but to focus. That’s what I love about mountain biking.”

Jacobson lived the city life in Cleveland, Ohio until she moved to Bend in 1997. She was trying to quit smoking, so she started riding a Raleigh hardtail mountain bike on dirt roads as a distraction. “I bought the bike for $350, which at the time was a lot of money for me. But I needed a way to pass the time! Soon mountain biking became a huge part of my life,” she says with a laugh.

Jacobson has been known to wear Doc Martens and listen to loud punk music, but when she’s helping a customer at Sunnyside Sports, she is all ears. Hearing customers’ needs and making people feel comfortable in a bike shop is something she takes very seriously. It is important to her that mountain biking is accessible to everyone.

“I love interacting with customers and taking the complicated bike jargon and making it digestible for average cyclist,” she says. “The industry changes so quickly, but it is important that people remember that it’s all about having fun on the trails.”

Jacobson sees an exciting future for mountain biking in Central Oregon. “It will be an interesting progression here as new trails are built. It’s exciting to see new, more progressive trail networks such as Mt. Bachelor, and hopefully soon, Black Butte. The potential is amazing.”

Top pick for an all day ride:

Ollalie and O’Leary Trails, near the McKenzie River.

Favorite ride fuel:

My ideal ride food is beef jerky, Good & Plenty candy, and a mini Coke.

One thing you always have in your pack:

A windbreaker and a hat, because bad weather can happen at any time around here.

Uphill or downhill?

Definitely downhill.

Current mountain bike:

Yeti SB5. Out of all the bikes I have ridden, it is my favorite bike.

Favorite post-ride meal and beverage:

A big juicy burger and something hydrating, like coconut water. Or two 7-Eleven hot dogs.

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Dan McGarigle – Owner – Pine Mountain Sports – Bend, Oregon

When Dan McGarigle landed in Bend in 1995, he was the quintessential ski bum who was living in his van—which sometimes started—and had $150 in his pocket. But he had a bike that was more important to him than the van. “Many of my bikes have been worth more than my car,” he says. His first bike shop gig was at Hutch’s Bicycles, after a rigorous hiring process—“My interview for Hutch’s literally took place in the turnstiles at Mt. Bachelor.”

Long before that, at an early age, McGarigle knew he would own a bike shop someday. Growing up in Indiana, he and his friends would pile into his friend’s mom’s van and go to BMX races or spend hot summer days jumping their bikes into the pond across the street from his house. Today, McGarigle rides because he still can’t imagine his life without bikes. “It reinforces that I’m still a child stuck in a 44-year-old body.”

As a shop owner, husband and father, McGarigle is a busy guy, but he still tries to log 1,000 miles on his mountain bike each year, exploring new areas when he can. McGarigle recently rode in the Ochoco Mountains outside of Prineville for the first time and loved it. “It felt like Phil’s Trail and Moab (Utah) trails had a baby. I loved the rocky, technical switchbacks, the scenery—all of it was awesome.”

For McGarigle, biking is also about community. As owner of Pine Mountain Sports, McGarigle knows that he has a huge opportunity to be not only a business, but also a resource for locals and visitors. Through various programs, Pine Mountain Sports donates regularly to local non-profit organizations such as COTA and Deschutes County Search and Rescue. “I truly believe that we are blessed here. The future is bright for mountain biking in Bend. It is up to us to shape it.”

James Good – Owner – Good Bicycle Company – Prineville, Oregon

James Good may be a newcomer to Central Oregon, but he has quickly established his niche as the owner of the only bike shop in Prineville, the Good Bicycle Company. Good sees many advantages to being the first bike business in a Western-town-turning-bike-town, and the reception has been mutual. “This is the shop where you can come in your cowboy boots and test ride a bike. We recently had some cowboys come in on their way to a cattle branding,” says Good.

Opened in October 2014, the shop quickly filled a need in a growing cycling community, both with mountain biking and bike touring. Situated on two established bike touring routes, the TransAmerica Route and the Oregon Outback Route, the shop provides goods and services to bike tourists going for the long haul. True to Central Oregon standards, they also have a beer tap for thirsty riders.

The Prineville area is also hailed as the next big thing in Central Oregon mountain biking. Lower 66 Trail is a recently completed 3-mile loop adjacent to town, and the Ochoco Mountains east of town have hundreds of miles of remote singletrack and gravel roads. Good also sees Prineville as a jumping off point to access rides to the east—John Day, the Steens Mountains and beyond. Bikepacking, the multi-day adventure riding that is likened to backpacking on a bike, is becoming very popular. “Eastern Oregon has amazing country to explore for that type of riding.”

What gets Good fired up? “I love riding from town and spending all day on a mountain bike adventure. Long grinding climbs in remote areas. Cruising through deep forests. That’s what it is all about.”

Top pick for an all day ride:

A big ole’ all-day gravel ride in the Ochocos. I love exploring new ground.

Favorite ride fuel:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Snickers bars.

One thing you always have in your pack:

A chain tool and spare chain links. Breaking a chain on a ride is a big drag, so you better be prepared to fix it!

Uphill or downhill?

Uphill.

Current mountain bike:

Surly ECR 29+ bikepacking rig.

Favorite post-ride meal and beverage:

Tastee Treet burger and a Boneyard RPM.

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