Grand Slam-COD loop

Directions: Accessible off Century Drive west of Bend near the Entrada Lodge, or farther southwest from the Cascade Lakes Welcome Station. Grand Slam and COD are also accessible via other trails from Phil’s Trailhead.

Length: About 15 miles out and back; several loop options of varying distances available when combined with the Marvin’s Garden, KGB, ELV, Storm King and/or Deschutes River trails.

Rating: Technically advanced; aerobically intermediate to advanced.

Trail features: Several technical rock sections, sustained climbs and fast downhill highlight this singletrack loop on the southern edge of the Phil’s network.

Season: Spring through late fall

Mountain bikers in Bend no longer have to worry about trail closures near town stemming from the U.S. Forest Service’s West Bend Project, making riders free to zip around all singletrack in the Phil’s Trail network.

The Grand Slam and COD trails, the trails that were closed during weekdays the longest by the project, are now open seven days a week, giving riders another good loop option for fall.

“We don’t have any current closures in place in west Bend,” Kassidy Kern, public affairs specialist for the Deschutes National Forest, said this week. “Those trails (Grand Slam and COD) are open right now, and they will remain open for the foreseeable future. The only thing that would change that is if a contractor called and said they want to move back into a section. We don’t foresee that happening any time soon, so it’s a good fall to be riding your mountain bike as much as you can in that general area.”

The project includes restoration work (logging, thinning, mowing, and prescribed burning) near the Phil’s Trail area to help improve tree health and wildlife habitat, and to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire, according to the Forest Service.

The work has opened up the forest with better views and longer sight distances. In some places, the trails have a much different feel from just a year or two earlier, now that they roll through a more open woods.

This past Sunday I made the short drive west of Bend to a small parking area just west of Entrada Lodge. I crossed Century Drive on my bike and found the COD singletrack trail. I turned onto the ELV Trail and after about a mile linked up to Grand Slam.

My plan was to ride Grand Slam, Storm King and COD trails for about a 15-mile loop.

The Grand Slam Trail is typically in good condition and hosts smaller crowds in the popular area. The trail begins at its east end at the junctions with KGB and ELV trails. The start of the trail runs along a rock wall, where riders must negotiate a fairly lengthy technical section.

The Grand Slam-COD loop features a few challenging rock-strewn sections where mountain bikers can practice their technical-riding skills and bike handling — but the majority of the loop is smooth, rolling singletrack with intermediate technical sections.

Much of the approach to riding technical terrain is mental. When I make a quick decision to pedal fast over such areas, I can usually make it over most rocky sections. But hesitation will force me to walk my bike — or worse, fall over onto the rocks.

Advances in mountain bike technology have made it easier for riders to negotiate such challenging terrain. Full-suspension bikes and 29ers (bikes with 29-inch wheels) help absorb more impact along rugged, rocky trails.

When I ride technical sections, I try to remember what I have learned over the years from various mountain biking experts. One important strategy is to lean back coming into the rocky section, and then lean forward when riding over it. This helps to move the front wheel up, and then the back wheel up, making it easier to roll over jagged rocks and roots.

Maintaining speed is also critical, as riders need enough speed to keep their balance without having to steer.

Once I made it through that first technical section on my recent ride, Grand Slam became smooth, rolling singletrack west all the way to its connection with Storm King.

The climb was long, but relatively flat, and riders can find a nice rhythm as they cruise that section through the ponderosa pines and dry grass of the Deschutes National Forest.

From the Grand Slam/Storm King intersection, several loop possibilities are available, including riding COD back to the trailhead, or Storm King north and Whoops Trail back.

This time, I took Storm King south for about 2 miles, then rode the 7½ miles down COD east back to my car. While COD is known as an extremely challenging technical trail, much of the trail is actually rated as intermediate. Those sections are a thrill to bike, some of the best-designed singletrack in the Phil’s network, in my opinion.

I picked up speed as I tore through the fast corners along the singletrack, which was in prime shape with fall conditions.

A particularly challenging section of COD is located near the U.S. Forest Service’s new Cascade Lakes Welcome Station, where the trail includes sections of fist-size rocks and sharp basalt. I rolled over them with relative ease on my 29er bike, but I was forced to dismount and walk in a few places.

The trail back down was fast and curvy, taking me through various tight turns and features, including small jumps and logs to take on. I made it through one final technical section before reaching my car.

The 15-mile ride took about three hours, a perfect way to spend part of a Sunday on a challenging, but doable, loop ride through the Deschutes National Forest.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,