- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Last summer I took my wife’s uncle, Mark, on a classic mountain bike ride west of Bend. We had already ridden several miles when we arrived at the top of the Lower Whoops Trail.

Just before we started down the singletrack trail with free-ride flavor, I told Mark - an extremely fit Eugene resident in his mid-50s - that I prefer to simply roll over the big tabletop jumps and maybe try to get a little bit of air on the much smaller jumps.

He took that to heart. After maybe a minute or so of fast, thrilling riding, I heard a cacophonous grunt some distance behind me that seemed to echo through the Deschutes National Forest.

Suspecting something had gone wrong, I stopped and hiked up through the woods a few hundred feet. Mark was sprawled in the pine needles on the ground and in obvious pain. I asked him what happened.

“I tried to get some air on a smaller jump, like you said,” he replied.

He toughed it out for many more miles and we eventually made it back to the car. But days later, after he had visited a doctor, he texted me this cryptic message: “three broken ribs.”

Mark is fully recovered and plans to ride with me some this summer, but the incident serves as a reminder to not attempt anything out of your comfort zone when riding a trail like Lower Whoops.

The course

Tucked into the Phil’s Trail network, the downhill-only Whoops Trail has long been a favorite among area mountain bikers. Located about 5 miles west of Bend, Lower Whoops is about 2 miles long and includes some high tabletop jumps, a number of smaller jumps and several bermed corners. Upper Whoops, about 1½ miles long, is a tamer, downhill cross-country trail.

Last week, on a partly cloudy and windy day, I started out from Phil’s Trailhead. The plan was to ride up Ben’s Trail to Lower Whoops, then descend Phil’s Trail back to the trailhead.

Per the Central Oregon Trail Alliance’s (COTA’s) new directional trail system, Ben’s Trail is now restricted to uphill riding and much of Phil’s Trail is restricted to downhill. I like the effect of the new rules since they were implemented in early April. Now I can ride from the crowded Phil’s Trailhead and not encounter masses of oncoming mountain bikers - even on weekends.

But, man, I sure get passed frequently by other riders when I’m ascending Ben’s Trail. Still, on my ride last week I managed to make decent time climbing to Lower Whoops. From the bottom of the trail, I started up a doubletrack road to reach the top. The climb required about 20 minutes. Many bikers will park along dirt Forest Road 300 off Skyliners Road and then bike continual laps up the access road and down Lower Whoops.

After climbing up the road, I started down Whoops, cruising through the bermed corners and catching a minuscule amount of air on the smaller jumps, Mark’s broken ribs constantly on my mind.

The bigger jumps are a little too intimidating for me, so I braked to roll over the tabletops rather than launching through the air.

Finally reaching the bottom, I was worn out - not in an aerobic way, but my body just felt beaten up from speeding down all the jumps, bumps and turns.

COTA has been improving the Whoops Trail for the past 16 years. The area near Whoops was logged in the 1930s and ‘40s, according to longtime COTA member Kent Howes. To help replanted trees grow, the U.S. Forest Service built furrows - grooves in the ground that collect rain and snow.

The Whoops Trail (named for the up-and-down “whoop-de-do” nature of the furrows) was built in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s along these furrows, which were transformed into small jumps along the trail.

About eight years ago, Bend’s Lev Stryker, owner of Cog Wild Bicycle Tours in Bend, took over as the trail steward for Lower Whoops, adding bermed corners and even more tabletop jumps.

The evolution of the Whoops Trail is part of COTA’s dedication to adding more free-ride opportunities in Central Oregon. The Lair free-ride park, west of Bend, is also an example of that new focus.

While Upper Whoops does not include the free-ride features of Lower Whoops, it does have a fast, downhill flavor and its fair share of whoop-de-dos from the original furrows.

After descending Lower Whoops, I pedaled down Phil’s Trail through the canyon and back to the trailhead. The entire 14-mile loop took about 2½ hours.

I’ll be back to cruise the Whoops again this season - but Mark might require some persuading.

If you go…

Whoops Trail

Directions: The Whoops Trail can be reached by bike via the Phil’s Trail Network west of Bend. Bikers can also drive west on Skyliners Road from Bend to Road 300, where Lower Whoops ends. A doubletrack road, just to the north of Junction 24, can be ridden up to Junction 29, the top of Lower Whoops and the bottom of Upper Whoops. (Lower Whoops is downhill only, but Upper Whoops can be ridden both ways.)

Length: Upper Whoops is about 1½ miles long and Lower Whoops is about 2 miles long.

Rating: Technically advanced, aerobically easy.

Trail Features: Fast singletrack with a variety of free-ride features, including small jumps, large tabletop jumps and banked turns.

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The original can be found on The Bulletin’s website: https://bit.ly/SgvgeB

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com


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