Mountain Biking in Corvallis’ Rainy Winter: Easier—and More Fun—Than You Think!

Winter Mountain BikingInterested in mountain biking but wary of Corvallis’ wet, dreary winters? Considering the really good weather doesn’t kick in until late June, you’ll be waiting half a year if you want sunshine—so start now! You still have time to ask Santa for those neoprene shoe covers all the serious riders are wearing.

For Corvallis’ mountain bikers there is no shortage of great trails. While most dirt paths close to bikes for the winter, there are many awesome graveled trails: OSU’s McDonald Forest is full of them. Some local favorites include Alpha, Upper and Lower Dan’s, and Ridge Trail. Grab one of the ubiquitous “Marys Peak-McDonald Forest Recreation Guide” maps for topographical maps, or visit www.theloggingroadcyclist.com or www.corvallismountainbiking.blogspot.com to get first-hand information from local bikers. Basic maps are available at the park entrances—they’re good enough to navigate by.

Before you hop on that ride (either a mountain bike or a hybrid/cross bike), make sure you’ve got your safety bases covered. You can avoid most dangerous situations if you know how to fix your bike and know your location. You don’t want to get waylaid in the cold with a flat tire, so familiarize yourself with some quick bike fixes—and ask advice from our local Corvallis bike shops. To avoid getting lost, bike with a buddy, a map, and a cell phone (although cell service can be spotty). Having a one-hour trip turn into a two-and-a-half hour trip due to maintenance or navigation issues is not unheard of, even for seasoned bikers.

It’s important to protect yourself from the elements by wearing the appropriate gear, without sacrificing maneuverability. Karen DeWolfe, a mountain bike racer, heads out in neoprene shoe covers, full-length biking leg warmers, bike shorts, a Smartwool long-sleeve under-layer, bike jersey, waterproof gloves, and a waterproof zip-up jacket. Arm warmers, chest protectors, and waterproof helmet covers are just a few other cold-weather options. Fenders on your bike will keep mud spatter to a minimum. Check out the sales racks of local bike shops to land sweet deals. And focus on quality, not appearance. As Matt Betts, another avid biker, says, “You’re going to be in the woods, who cares?”

Is it worth it? The beauty of the outdoors can’t be beat, and a trip through the woods can lead to all kinds of wildlife sightings (including bobcats and cougars), and the odd grouse attack. The health benefits of an active lifestyle can’t be underplayed, and mountain biking offers plenty of bang for its buck. Kirstin Carroll, a local biker, has a favorite ride that goes up Skillings Road to the other side of McCulloch Creek and back. “That’s like an hour climb,” she says. “Ten to fifteen minutes down, an hour up. It’ll getcha.”

Supportive groups abound for local mountain bikers. On Facebook you can find the Corvallis Women’s Mountain Bike Club, Corvallis and Area Mountain Biking Group, and Team Dirt, the local chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Many riders also log onto www.strava.com to log their GPS-recorded times and compete against other local bikers.

There’s a healthy-sized and enthusiastic mountain biking community here in town. Don’t let the cold and rain stop you from getting involved!

by Mica Habarad

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