Rad riding, if you’re up to it

Redmond Radlands features rocky, technical riding

By Mark Morical / The Bulletin / @MarkMorical

Redmond Radlands

Directions: From Bend, take U.S. Highway 97 north to Redmond. Turn right on state Highway 126/Evergreen Avenue. Turn left on Ninth Street. Turn right on Negus Way. Stay straight to go onto Maple Avenue. The High Desert Sports Complex and the Radlands trailhead are on the left.

Length: About 10 miles of singletrack bike trails, with several loop options. Plans call for 30 miles of trails, eventually.

Rating: Technically intermediate to advanced; aerobically easy to intermediate.

Trail features: Trails range from easy to advanced. Many of the trails include technical riding over lava rock. Views include the Cascade Range and Smith Rock State Park.

REDMOND —

Riding over rocky, technical terrain on a mountain bike is usually all about mind over matter. Those who have the confidence and make a quick decision to just go for it will often ride a challenging section without incident.

Hesitation can cause problems.

It reminds me of what my dad told me over and over when teaching me how to drive some 20 years ago: “Hesitation causes accidents.”

Biking at the Redmond Radlands trails last week, I focused on riding fast and continuously through the myriad rock gardens, using my momentum to carry me through the rugged terrain. Braking hard or stopping can be disastrous, as that can lead to a loss of balance or tipping over to crash onto the rocks.

Currently made up of about 10 miles of looped singletrack trails in northeast Redmond, the Radlands is the ideal place to develop technical-riding skills. Lava rock is incorporated creatively into much of the singletrack, designed by volunteers with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance over the last three years.

Plans call for about 30 miles of trails to eventually be built east of Redmond. Existing singletrack starts from a trailhead at the High Desert Sports Complex on Maple Avenue, home to the Smith Rock BMX racetrack. That marks the north section of the trail system that is planned to reach as far south as state Highway 126 in years to come.

The project is a collaborative effort of COTA, the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District, and corporate sponsors Trinity Bikes, REI and Altrec.com. The current trails are located on Deschutes County land, where the western portion of the Radlands will be built. The eastern half of the trail system is planned for BLM land.

The COTA website (www.cotamtb.com) calls the scope of the project “massive, on par with the Peterson Ridge Trail in Sisters and the Wanoga Network near Bend.”

The Radlands area also includes 7 miles of horseback riding trails, built and maintained by RAPRD and Oregon Equestrian Trails.

The biking/hiking portion of the Radlands currently includes two loops north of Maple Avenue that will make up the upper-left quadrant of the future 30-mile complex, and a loop south of Maple Avenue that leads to a free-ride jump park. Posted signs rate the trails as “easy,” “more difficult” or “most difficult.”

According to COTA, the area also holds “endless miles” of doubletrack to explore.

Redmond is home to dramatic views of the Three Sisters to the west and Smith Rock State Park to the north. The flat, open expanse of the Radlands makes the most of these views, as the mountains are visible most anywhere in the network.

Twisty old juniper trees dot the barren landscape, much like the Badlands Wilderness Area east of Bend. But while biking is prohibited in the Badlands, the Radlands were made for mountain bikes. The rock-riddled trails push the limits of the latest in fat-tire technology, including full-suspension bikes and 29-inch wheels that are designed to smooth out a ride.

Indeed, I was thankful for my full-suspension 29er as I rolled over the high desert lava rocks, letting my bike do the work.

Much of the rock built into the singletrack at the Radlands is flat slab rock that is relatively easy to ride over. But some rock sections are particularly tricky, with the rocks jutting up sharply for several feet at a time, similar to the Horse Ridge trails east of Bend.

Several well-placed turns provide more flow to the trails that are not inherently flowy because of the lava rock. A short, easy loop features fewer rocky, technical sections than a longer, intermediate loop.

I rode the longer loop twice around, first clockwise then counterclockwise to increase the variety. Then I crossed Maple Avenue to ride the south loop of the Radlands. There, more singletrack led to the dirt-jump park. I also found some smoother trails south of the jump park that weaved through juniper trees, and I noted more terrain that was pin flagged for future trail construction.

The variety of the trail features in the Radlands is pretty unique, from continuously rock-strewn trails to smooth, flowing high desert singletrack. The area has little elevation change, so mountain bikers need not worry about hellacious climbs or teeth-chattering downhill sections.

The technical rock challenges are enough, and they make the Radlands a good destination for any mountain biker, not just those from Redmond.

The area is a perfect winter/spring option when other trails near Bend are still mired in snow or mud. But last week the trails were already becoming somewhat dusty, and as summer approaches, those conditions will only worsen.

So don’t hesitate to get out there.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, mmorical@bendbulletin.com

Editors note: Mountain Bike Trail Guide, by Bulletin sports and outdoors writer Mark Morical, features various trails in Central Oregon and beyond. The trail guide appears in Outdoors on alternating Wednesdays through the riding season.