The perfect day for Meredith Gentry is heading out to the North Fork Trail on Bend's westside with her mountain bike, shooting past Tumalo Falls and rocketing back down the Farewell Trail. Gentry said it's a challenging ride, but the scenery is more than worth it.
Four years ago, the Austin transplant started Grit Clinics in Bend, a series of mountain biking lessons and clinics geared toward women. It began when she and a partner (who's since moved on) perceived a gap in opportunity for female riders to advance beyond basic mountain biking skills.
"Bend's a really easy place for people to get in to mountain biking, because there're a lot of easy trails here," Gentry said. "But as we progressed and learned new skills and learned how to ride more technical trails, it helps a lot to have instruction."
Before moving to Bend, Gentry said that she tried mountain biking in Montana, but found that the trails there weren't "user-friendly." When she moved here about 10 years ago, Gentry would just grab a trails map and head out after work, exploring everything that she could. She doesn't have to carry that map with her any longer.
"(I) just started to get into it and continued going out and learning a lot by trial-and-error, and met a bunch of girls I ended up going out and riding with," she said.
Gentry said that frequently when women go riding with a male friend, boyfriend or husband, they just wind up chasing the pack and don't get any sort of proper instruction. Grit Clinics aim to create an environment for women who want to learn new mountain biking skills to do so—and to meet other female riders with a similar aptitude for the sport.
Gentry's perspective on riding, as well as the clinics, though, has to do more with challenging oneself than with competition.
"I think it's the competition part that I don't get as excited about," she said. "If there's a super technical section of trail or there're jumps, and I'm not able to do them, I'll keep practicing until I can. I really like the challenge of mountain biking a lot—I like skill building."
The range of skills training available through Grit Clinics—everything from afterwork sessions to weekend trainings—is supported by Gentry and seven other coaches. The season's first clinic is this weekend and another is set for June, in addition to less intensive sessions during the week. Of course, Gentry's been mulling over what the clinics will look like in the future.
"I have a couple of ideas for next season," she said, while refraining from divulging details and adding a touch of mystery to her future plans.
9:30 am.–4 pm., Sat., May 3- Sun., May 4
Register at Pine Mountain Sports, 255 SW Century Dr., 541-385-8080
Clinics hosted at Shevlin Park
Dean Cummins: 7pm., Thurs., May 1. Heli-skier, educator and filmmaker Dean Cummins is a balance between thrill-seeker and safety-finder. His documentary "Chugach" watches his first descent in the Alaskan Chugach Range. And yes, it is daring, but it isn't stupid, and he provides his list of dos and don'ts for the mountains. Tower Theater, 835 NW Wall. $12.
Spring Paddlefest: 10 am., Sat., May 3. Jump into the flow with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe annual demo of kayaks, SUP boards and, really, anything powered by a paddle. Riverbend Park. Free.
Cuba: Land of Eccentricity, Eroticism & Enigma: 6:30 pm., Tues., May 6. More travel than adventure, but really, traveling to Cuba is an adventure. National Geographic photographer Christopher Baker has been to the forbidden island nearly enough times to be considered a local (70 trips and counting!). His beautiful and colorful slide show. Tower Theater, 835 NW Wall. $10.
Outdoor Speaker Series: 6 pm., Thurs., May 8. Professional mountain guide and Bend local Chris Wright discusses his past year's pursuits—everything from taking on a new route up a mountain in Alaska to a pioneering Nepal sojourn. Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century. Minimum donation $5. Proceeds benefit the Bend Endurance Academy.