Winding through stands of giant ponderosa pines while pebbles and mud scatter in your wake. Gliding over slick rocks as your bike responds to each element of the trail. Bombing aggressively through canyons as you navigate smooth, narrow singletrack.
Sound familiar? Yes folks, it’s that time of year again; time when we emerge from our winter caves, squinting up at the bright orb in the sky like a long lost companion; time when we move our skis to the back of the closet and dust off our fat-tired-friend that has been patiently waiting in the garage all winter. Spring is in the air, and it’s time to ride.
The warmth and sunshine have a way of pulling us like a tractor beam back to our favorite two-wheel haunts – those little pieces of packed-dirt paradise in the woods. But before you saddle up and click in, read on to get the most out of the spring riding season with trail ideas, training tips, and events you can’t afford to miss.
Explore a Few New Trails
With every new riding season, there are always fresh trails being built and old trails being redefined. The passionate riders at Evergreen East, the Eastern Washington Chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, have continued to work hard this last year, hosting skills clinics and events to rally the local mountain biking community, and trail work parties that made significant improvements to several of the region’s most popular riding spots, including the Bluff/High Drive trails, Mount Spokane, and Beacon Hill/Camp Sekani. Maps for the latter two riding areas are available at many Spokane area bike shops. You can keep track of Evergreen’s typically ambitious schedule of trail building, education and advocacy activities at evergreeneast.org.
To encourage you to explore some new trails this spring, we wanted to highlight 3 newer trail systems that you may not have heard of that lose their snow and typically dry out early in the season. While none of them are “epics,” they all provide close-to-town riding with their own special surprises for all levels of riders.
Wyakin Park: The group, Friends of Wyakin Park, has been busy busting out singletrack in this densely wooded urban sanctuary for the last 3 years. For folks living on the Northside of Spokane, it’s hard to beat Wyakin for a quick after-work singletrack fix. Short and sweet, Wyakin is situated on 27 acres of city park land in the Balboa/South Indian Trail neighborhood.
“Last September we had a re-dedication of the park following the completion of the trailhead with the installation of a kiosk and entry feature,” says Ted Moon, one of Wyakin Park’s lead ambassadors. From the trailhead, a wide, mostly rock-lined trail loops through the park for half a mile. Southwest of the trailhead is an area with a few dirt jumps and the start of the singletrack that winds in and out of the ravines until it reaches the northern boundary of the park proper, notes Moon. Directions: Head west on Francis from Maple Street and turn right on Assembly at the multi-street intersection, just as Francis starts to head downhill towards Riverside State Park. Go about a block past the Avista substation on Assembly to the trailhead on your left.
Holiday Hills/Saltese Flats: This trail system is part of the Saltese Uplands Conservation Area near Liberty Lake, WA. This 552-acre area was acquired in 2011 with Conservation Futures funding. A mile south of I-90 about halfway between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, this property features over 7 miles of trails that were built by local real estate developer and mountain biker Mark Pinch (who also helped broker the conservation land deal) and by volunteers including members of the Washington Trails Association.
The trail winds in a loop throughout the property, dipping into canyons and climbing ridge tops with views of Liberty Lake, Mica Peak, Mount Spokane, and Saltese Flats. “This is one of my favorite early season rides because it thaws very quickly in the spring,” says Simon Hartt, one of Wheelsport East’s lead mechanics and a year-round mountain biker. Directions: For a map and directions, visit the Spokane County Conservation Futures website at spokanecounty.org/parks/content.aspx?c=2832.
Sherwood Forest (Syringa, as the locals call it): Sandpoint has an awesome loop trail system with up to 9 miles of riding that has all the elements you would want in a perfect mountain bike trail. That’s probably because it was recently built by the Pend Oreille Pedalers, a local group of bike enthusiasts who work tirelessly to maintain many of the Sandpoint region’s trails. It is important to know that the Sherwood Forest trail system is located entirely on private land that is under a conservation easement with the Kaniksu Land Trust. The landowners are passionate about maintaining “non-motorized” trails and have worked closely with the local bike organizations to create it. For more information about the trail system, stop by Greasy Fingers Bikes and Repair at the corner of 3rd and Pine in Sandpoint and talk to the owner, Brian, who is also the president of the Pend Oreille Pedalers. Directions: The trailhead is located on the west side of Sandpoint at the end of Pine Street.
Start Training for the Spring MTB Season Now
For some of you, transitioning from an active ski season means you’re closer to being “bike-fit.” But for those of you who spent your winter months surfing Netflix and chugging No-Li’s Imperial Stout, you might consider doing a little pre-season road work here before you go kill it in the mud.
Building back your endurance is obviously going to be the most critical element. But if road riding isn’t your cup of tea, jogging, hiking up hills, or stationary biking are all highly aerobic activities that will help build your endurance levels so you can crush those killer climbs without having to do the walk of shame. Gaining a higher level of fitness before you hit the trail means you’re going to have quicker reflexes on the bike, go longer distances, have less ride interruptions, and have a better, more enjoyable ride overall. For a complete pre-season mountain bike workout, check out bikejames.com/strength/off-season-mountain-bike-training-workout.
Spinning classes are also a great way to get back into biking shape. Gyms like the YMCA, Oz Fitness, Precision Pilates and The Union in Spokane offer spinning classes and The Bike Hub has a “Spin Room” in its Spokane Valley store location.
For newbies, or even veterans looking to find mountain bike specific training, Evergreen East offers several skills clinics and women’s specific clinics each year. Their 3 hour basic skills class explores the fundamentals of mountain biking. This class features demos by instructors on proper form and control and practice time where the participants are given tips and pointers on how to improve their skills.
For gaining confidence and skill as a rider, there really is only one classroom and that’s the trailhead. “The best way to improve as a mountain biker is to just go ride as much as you can with people who are strong riders,” says Kevin Dentler, owner of This Bike Life in Spokane. “Getting comfortable with your bike’s gearing is one of the most challenging pieces for newer riders. Spending lots of time on your bike is the only way to deal with that,” he adds. Starting in April (weather permitting), This Bike Life will be hosting Wednesday evening rides strait from their South Hill location to the High Drive trail system on the South Hill “Bluff.” These rides are open to all levels and are a great opportunity to improve your skills and meet other riders in the area.
Don’t Miss These Fat Tire Events
There are many mountain bike events happening throughout the year, but the following 3 spring events kick off the season in style – and you can’t afford to miss any of them.
Hub-a-Palooza: For the competitors out there, this early season event hosts two separate races happening Saturday and Sunday March 22 and 23. The Double Down Hoe Down 6 is a downhill-style, two-day race on a designated course starting from the top of Spokane’s Beacon Hill. This year, the organizers also added The People’s Enduro race to the mix. This race is a conventional enduro (both downhill and uphill riding), where riders are timed only on the downhill stages. For more information check out allgravityseries.com.
The Bike Swap: The Spokane Bike Swap is a non-profit event that provides a great venue to buy new and used bicycles and accessories. Similar to a ski swap, anyone can sell their bikes at the event. Local bike shops and other vendors will be at the event as well. This is a one-stop shop to get ready for the bike season. The event takes place April 12-13, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center (404 N. Havana St.). More info at spokanebikeswap.com.
24 Hour Race: The weekend of May 24 and 25, Round and Round Productions hosts its annual event that has become a tradition for many riders in the region. It’s a crazy event to simply go watch and even more fun to participate in. This round-the-clock, 24 hour event takes place at Spokane’s Riverside State Park and is primarily a team relay mountain bike race (although some riders race all on their own), beginning at noon on Saturday and ending at noon on Sunday. Teams compete for medals, prizes and bragging rights. More info at roundandround.com. //