The Black Rock trails have become a popular destination for traveling downhillers and freeriders from all over, with the growing reputation as the best freeriding Oregon has to offer. Along with the Post Canyon Trails in Hood River, riding Black Rock is now a “must do” for riders traveling north on their regular pilgrimage to visit the Whistler Bike Park. Located approximately 25 miles west of Salem, Oregon near a sleepy little town called Falls City, the trails have been showing up in bike videos all over, including sections in New World Disorder 9 that showcase Cam McCaul and Kirt Voreis shredding trademark features like the log ride to wall ride, and the Cheese Grater.
An overview of the drop line options found in the Basic Training Skills area. Photo: Jason Van Horn
The trails and features at Black Rock are well thought out and constructed. Built to an agreed upon standard with the permission of the Oregon Department of Forestry, riding the trails for the first time is a great experience, as they feature both good sight lines and predictable trail features. All the trails are well signed with difficulty ratings posted, with go-arounds on all TTFs(technical trail features).
Izaak Van Horn pauses by the trail head of Sicter Gnar. Photo: Jason Van Horn
Getting to the start of the trail takes some effort- while it is free to ride the Black Rock Trails, the gates are closed and locked, making shuttles by vehicle impossible except on special shuttle days organized by BRMBA. It’s not a small push up either. Just to get to the staging area (complete with a skills practice area and bike parking) known as Basic Training, it’s a 15-minute ride up.
Today I was meeting up with Dan and Sheldon, two dirt-jumping-downhill-riding shredders from Eugene, Oregon, for a photo session and tour. As I had only visited the area once before briefly while passing though, I was looking forward to riding the trails with some locals that knew their way around. After meeting up at the staging area, we began the trek up the access road.
Fortunately for us, (especially me, as I was carrying over 20lbs of camera gear) a trail crew was doing some recon, and offered us and our bikes a space in the back of their truck for the ride up to the top of Granny’s Kitchen. As it takes over 40 minutes to hike-a-bike it up to the top (about 1,50 vertical feet), we were obviously very stoked. While the pedal up is do-able on a freeride or all mountain bike with a two-ring set up, it would have been miserable geared up with full body armor and dedicated DH bikes.
Once we reached the top, we were presented with several different options for routes down. With names like “Granny’s Kitchen”, “Sicter Gnar”, “Banzai”, and the jump line notoriously known as “Brake Check”, (due to the need to slow down between certain hits, in order to prevent overshooting the landings), the area houses a number of memorable runs. Having only seen images online of the wall ride feature up top, we opted to run down the Black Diamond level trail Granny’s Kitchen, to hit up the features there.
The descent en route to the wall ride is littered with features. A mellow balance line starts you off, sending the rider into a series of ladder drops and gap jumps until you come to the log rider roll-in to the wall ride. The nice thing about the trail is that members of the group that aren’t ready for the big time are able to join in the fun; go arounds are present on each of the man made features. After we all sessioned the wall ride, we headed for the infamous Cheese Grater.
A long way down: the view from the top take-off point on the Cheese Grater. Photo: JVH
The Cheese Grater is a ladder structure that ends in a huge step-down with two take-off points and a nice long run out. The shorter take off point is great for riders not quite ready to take it to the next level. Dan and Sheldon were nice enough to indulge me, pushing their bikes back up repeatedly while I tried shooting from different angles. It’s a heck of a steep push, and after we bagged a few good shots, we moved on down the trail.
Dan W. launches off the Cheese Grater. Photo: JVH
There was so much to ride, and so many skinnies, features, drops, ladders and gap and hip jumps, it is impossible to remember them all. From entry level to advanced, built as table tops and gaps, the jumps are littered with jumps. It’s impossible to not have a great time riding these trails. Again, the only downside is the reality: unless its shuttle day, you have to earn your turns.
One line in particular was especially fun. A wood ramp built with a split cedar/fir runged ladder top, (marked as a black diamond feature with a spray painted black diamond on the transition) floats the rider to a fairly long wood elevated platform. At the end of the platform, it gaps down to a landing ramp, in turn sending right into a gap jump. (with a go around for riders not quite ready for it) Due to the width of the feature, it’s unintimidating for intermediate riders transitioning to advanced riders, and yet, it was fun enough we just had to stop and session the entire ramp and the following section of trail repeatedly.
Sheldon Lebow enjoys a particularly fun section of trail. Photo: JVH
After a full day of riding, sessioning and shooting photos, we had only tapped into a fraction of what the trails had to offer. After hearing about the special shuttle days, I vowed to myself I would return, with the shuttle days getting priority on my calendar.
Dan W. lets a no-footer over solid sized gap while Sheldon pushes back up for another run. Photo: JVH
This article originally was published on mbaction.com