When asked if it is cheating to have a chair lift carry your bike (and you) to the top of Mt Bachelor, and then just let gravity do the work, Mike Shannon, manager for Bend Cyclery, laughs. "Not at all," he says. "There is still a lot of cardo and physical workout that comes along with it. It is not cheating by any means." He adds, "It is cheating the sport of downhill to say it is easy."
A week ago, the first run of the much anticipated Mt Bachelor Downhill Bike Park opened—and along with it, a formal start to a new sport and industry in the region. Much like the difference between cross-country and downhill skiing, the sport eliminates the uphill portions of mountain biking, and replaces them with faster and longer trails than most standard trail riding offers. And much like alpine skiing came on the heels of cross-country skiing a century ago, downhill mountain biking is beginning to take root as its own industry separate from standard trail riding.
Shannon says that his obsession with mountain biking started with downhill biking and, until the trails at Mt Bachelor opened, he had to travel to Canada, or a park near Salem for his rides. "As a shop," continues Shannon, "we have downhilling in our hearts; (Bachelor) is a big treat for us."
"It definitively helps to have the right equipment," cautions Shannon. "All of the geometry changes," he explains, specifying that basic elements like "wheel travel"—the amount of suspension—doubles from four or so inches for the standard trail bike to seven or eight inches. Shannon also ticks off additional safety equipment, "full-faced helmet, knee pads, elbow pads," and, adding somewhat ominously, "neck braces."
Although the Mt Bachelor Downhill Bike Park isn't fully open yet, the new park adds to Oregon's two other downhill parks and, with customized lifts to carry bikes, the new park also marks a step forward for the industry. Currently, the Mt Bachelor park offers two complete runs—Rattlesnake and Blade Runner—with a third section, Lava Flow, to be completed by month's end, which will allow an uninterrupted (beside your falls) four-mile run. The full park should be operational by 2015.