For James Williams and Laura Winberry, right now is the best time to be biking.
"Trails are prime right now. They're as good as they get," said Williams, an avid cyclist. "There's fewer people, good dirt, pretty colors in the woods as we get deeper into fall."
"Usually this time of year's a lot colder and we have a lot more weather, so this is actually enjoyable right now for training and racing," said Winberry, a competitive cyclocross racer.
Like many other locals, the Bend couple is getting in a few more runs before the snowy season arrives. "It will stay this way usually until the first week of December, which is when we get enough of a snow dump that we can't ride the trails anymore," Williams said.
In a bike-loving town such as Bend, though, the winter season isn't the end of activity for many cyclists. The time before the first snowfall is designated for repairing trails damaged over the season. And some cyclists even keep those wheels turning right through the accumulating snowflakes.
Fixing the Trails
Before that snow accumulation hits, bike enthusiasts do a lot of work to clean and maintain the trails for next season. This commonly involves smoothing out brake bumps, improving corners and building drainage channels to keep the trails rideable. Williams says several groups in Bend spearhead these projects, and recognized the Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) for its recent work on the popular Whoops Trail.
"They just had a work party and did some good work there," he said. "I think they do it this time of year because the soil's good, it's getting less traffic, and you want to get it in good shape so that, when it does get snowed under, what get's frozen into shape is a quality trail."
According to the group's website, COTA members have already logged over 3,000 hours of trail work this year alone. The group is organizing another work event at multiple trails the day after Thanksgiving. They also recommend that riders avoid muddy and recently worked-on areas to better preserve the trails for next season.
A Cyclocross Winter
Once the trails are cleaned and the snow is falling, most cyclists will trade in their wheels for skis or an indoor trainer. An elite handful, however, refuse to put their bikes away.
Several Bend cyclists compete in cyclocross events during the winter. The sport's competition season typically runs in the middle of some chilling weather.
"You definitely go out on rides that are pretty cold, wet and snowing at the end, which I end up enjoying," said Winberry. "I like that kind of weather. As crazy as that sounds, I prefer it over the heat and the sun. It's partly why I'm drawn to cyclocross."
In fact, these steeplechase-styled races become more frequent later in the season, culminating with the national championships in January. Winberry hopes to pedal her way there by competing in multiple races sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). This includes a few races around Oregon and the West Coast.
"The Cross Crusade just finished up this weekend. That's the series in Oregon, and one of the biggest in the country, actually. It's the biggest, most competitive and longest running series, and it's eight races, two of which were in Bend that Halloween weekend," Williams said. "And then a big thing that people across the Northwest and the country are really fired up for is Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships (SXCX). That started in Portland years ago, and it's as much a big party as it is a competition."