Not long after last Memorial Day—and a month after the popular Chainbreaker Mountain Bike Race—the Two Bulls Fire swept across several thousand acres west of Bend, pushing as close as seven miles from the city's edge. Over one weekend alone, some 250 residents living at the outskirts of town were evacuated from their homes.
Ultimately, the fire that burned for three weeks did not claim any lives and, while it temporarily chased some residents from their homes, it did not burn down any houses. But the fire did leave one local tradition homeless: The annual Chainbreaker Mountain Bike race (so classic Bend, it even has a beer associated with it). With nearly 95 percent of the course for the race burnt and largely off-limits, the beloved event was without a venue.
Traditionally, the Chainbreaker race has been held in Skyliners Forest during Mother's day weekend—partly as an opportunity to encourage families to come out to the forest and be outside with their families. In particular, the race was purchased—for a dollar—two years ago by a local nonprofit, Bend Endurance Academy (BEA), from the ski and bike shop Webcyclery, to raise funds and awareness for BEA, which currently hosts 600 children in athletic and outdoor programs.
"This is one of the oldest and largest mountain biking races in Oregon," says Ben Husaby, BEA's Executive Director. Husaby also explained that the fire—and the loss of the course—presented some obvious logistical challenges.
But mountain bikers are not feeble in spirit, and this Saturday, the 19th annual Chainbreaker MTB race will host several dozen mountain biker riders, with a slightly new twist to a nearly two decade old tradition: It will start from the same location, but will travel through a patch of land west from Shelvin Park and north of Tumalo Falls; adjacent to the burned zone and occasionally skirting through the charred area.
The expert course is a 23-mile technical loop with lots of singletrack and doubletrack to allow for plenty of passing, while the junior course will be a 13-mile loop with minimal hills to make the course fun for beginners.
The race begins on mainly doubletrack, allowing racers to establish their positions. Long stretches of new singletrack have been added through burned areas. Much of the course traverses through private property (with permission from the owners).
"I think it's going to be a little more challenging," says Husaby. "It is fun to ride through some of the burned sections and see the change."
Chainbreaker Mountain Bike Race
Saturday, May 9
10:30 am elite/sport waves, $40
Noon beginner/youth, $15
Online registration closes Friday, May 8.