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Primo Dirt: Ski season is just around the corner, but now is no time to hang up the bike 

If you're a dirt junkie, chances are you've been eagerly watching the skies and the weather forecast, hoping for rain. Although real rain, not the kind that seemingly disappears before it hits the ground, has fallen in the past few weeks, and the trails are being described as "money" and "tacky-licious" on Twitter, we're due for more.

"Fall's basically the best time to ride in Central Oregon," says Lev Stryker, the owner of Cog Wild Bicycle Tours. "All the high elevation trails in the Deschutes National Forest are awesome right now because we've gotten some good moisture, the trails are smooth and fast, and you can ride with your friends because it's not dusty. Even the lower stuff right out of town is riding really good."

Guidelines for riding wet trails can be confusing for some people who are accustomed to being cautioned against riding on them, according to Don Leet, a co-owner of Sunnyside Sports. He says riding on wet trails in the fall does not damage them.

"When it rains like this, it enhances the trails," says Leet, a hardcore mountain biker. "Not like what happens in the spring when the ground is frozen and water sits."

Leet agrees with Stryker about getting some high-elevation riding in while you can, and suggests a ride around Bachelor if it's not under snow. Gauging whether a high-elevation route is open can be rather low tech.

"You can just look up and see," says Leet, who also recommends glancing at Lookout Mountain from Bend's north side to see if it's ride-able.

Other rides to do this fall are Metolius-Windigo, Mrazek, Flagline, Paulina Peak and Newberry Crater according to Leet, who also likes to hit the McKenzie River and Umpqua River Trails for "spectacular" fall colors.

The window of opportunity for most of the riding to the west of Bend will last until mid-November, says Leet, who then heads to Horse Ridge, which he says is good until late December. Meanwhile, Cog Wild continues to provide shuttles for bikers who want to simplify logistics and focus on the ride.

"We're still running strong until it's too snowy to ride," says Stryker.

Whether you're watching the skies for white stuff or wet stuff, being somewhat spontaneous pays dividends to those who are flexible.

"A friend of mine from Trek Bicycles came at Thanksgiving to go cross country skiing, but it didn't snow," says Leet. "We ended up riding Mrazek, Farewell Bend and the Umpqua River Trail. He turned his ski vacation into a mountain biking vacation."

And that's what it's really about; taking whatever the Central Oregon weather throws your way and riding it.

Five Fall Rides

Flagline - Get this epic local ride before the snow hits. Deschutes Forest, 20-plus mile loop.

Umpqua River Trail - A great multi-day ride paralleling the North Fork Umpqua river that can also be broken into shorter sections. Umpqua National Forest. Info: http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/roseburg/recreation/umpquatrails/

McKenzie River Trail - Avoid the crowds and bask in the amazing fall colors along this legendary trail that tracks its namesake river from Clear Lake to McKenzie Bridge. 25-plus mile shuttle. Willamette National Forest.

Paulina-Newberry - Another route that will soon be inaccessible, but may offer a window for great fall riding and amazing views of the caldera and national monument. Deschutes National Forest, 20-plus mile loop.

Horse Ridge - A recent reconfiguration of access points and trail improvements have bumped this ride up list of shoulder season options for many local riders. Millican Valley/BLM. 10-15 mile loops.

Photo Credit: Lev Stryker

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