Ticket to Ride (copy)

A group of mountain bikers make their way along the Ticket to Ride trail near the U.S. Forest Service’s Cascade Lakes Welcome Station west of Bend.

Remember the heady days of falling in love with your favorite sport? You’re getting your gear dialed, your skills are improving at a furious pace, and every outing is a huge adventure.

I fell in love with mountain biking over a decade ago. I remember riding down Lower Whoops and wondering why the dirt was piled into mounds. Fast forward a year or so and, now knowing those piles of dirt are jumps, I recall sessioning those jumps until I could get some air between my tires and the dirt. I remember getting lost and realizing, “oh, we’re not on Storm King, we’re on Funner, and our car is … quite a bit farther away than we thought.”

Today I love mountain biking every bit as much, but now I’ve ridden all of those trails hundreds of times and the experience is, well, different. I’m also now the executive director of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance , so I’m usually thinking about what trail maintenance is needed as much as I’m enjoying the ride.

But there is a (maybe not so) secret way to recapture those wide-eyed adventurous days of falling in love with your favorite sport: Take your out-of-town visitors mountain biking! I have done this with family and friends, and it is a blast.

The first was with my cousin and her husband, Kathy and Ryan, from New York City. They do not bike, so we were careful to plan a short ride with essentially no uphill pedaling. We shuttled from the bottom of Lower Whoops to Phil’s trailhead via Phil’s Trail, a 6-mile ride rated blue (intermediate). We also made sure to have them ride the bikes around in the driveway before we set out so they could get comfortable shifting gears and using disc brakes.

It was great fun to see them marvel at the trail and point out things in the forest I barely even notice anymore. We stopped regularly for water breaks and to warn them when technical sections were coming up.

They gained confidence quickly, and my husband and I cheered when they managed to slowly but successfully bump their way down the rocky section of Phil’s canyon. Ryan did careen into two trees along the way, but good on him for going for it, and luckily, he was not hurt.

Next up was my friend Mary from San Francisco. She rides bikes regularly and is very fit, so I took her on Ticket to Ride. This 6-mile loop is rated green (beginner) but includes a good amount of uphill pedaling and a couple of technical rocky sections. She is also a photographer, and we stopped often to take pictures of Pandora moths and flowers and other forest features I often forget to marvel over as I speed along this well-known trail.

As I did for Kathy and Ryan, I was careful to let Mary know when technical sections were coming up, and she chose to walk most of the technical sections. There were a few features she watched me ride and then was courageous enough to try herself and did a great job. No way she was going to let herself run into trees the way Ryan did!

They had a blast, and I had such fun slowing down, taking in the forest around me and seeing the trail as if for the first time. I felt such pride when they tried and succeeded at riding a difficult feature. For the full Bend experience, we topped it off with dinner at a brewery where all we talked about was the ride. And of course, when and where we could ride next!

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Emmy Andrews is the Central Oregon Trail Alliance executive director.

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