BANDON — Neither rain nor wind could stop hundreds of bicyclists from gathering and participating in the first Whiskey Run Mountain Bike Festival held Saturday in Bandon.
The event, which celebrated the recently-developed Whiskey Run Bike Trails, offered visitors the chance to ride the trails and familiarize themselves with its route and new signage.
Volunteers from the Wild Rivers Coast Mountain Bicycling Association and local riders from Coos County presented festival goers with three different guided rides. The rides ranged from beginner to advanced and lasted up to two hours, depending on the trail mileage covered. Erin Kessler, a WRCMBA board member, said the organization had been volunteering every Wednesday leading up to Saturday’s event to get the trails cleaned and ready for the festival.
“We were clearing the trail from the winter riding season and picking up down branches to make them safe and fun for people to use,” said Kessler. “We really wanted our local bike enthusiasts to be the guides because it gives people that are visiting connected to them and they can get the scoop on the new trails.”
The first ride of the festival was the advanced, “Full Flight,” ride which featured over 12 miles of trails going both up and down hill at an accelerated pace. It also went through all of the completed trails with the exception of a portion of the “Hollerback Trail,” which was closed due to weather conditions. Followed right behind was the intermediate, “Whiskey Sampler,” ride which covered about seven miles of trails and the beginner ride, “Break the Ice,” which went a little over four miles and wrapped up the day’s events.
Kessler lead the beginners ride and said she approached it as a teaching opportunity for riders who are interested in getting into the sport. She encouraged her group to go at a comfortable pace and stressed the importance of safety while riding.
“We worked on bike handling, breaking, shifting gears and what to expect when on the trails,” said Kessler. “We also worked on pumps, how to do turns and how to ride a trail properly.”
Bandon High School teacher Calan Taylor attended Saturday’s festival with his wife and two children, Lynden and Bailey. He also rode with the advance group and was one of the first riders to make it back to the trailhead.
“The trails are really well designed,” said Taylor. “It was muddy and greasy, but it felt great.”
In addition to the guided rides, booths on local bicycle resources and clubs were also in attendance as well as mechanical support provided by South Coast Bicycles. Riders with pedal assist electric bikes were given the OK to use the trails, but throttle and motorized bicycles were not.
Karl Maxon, owner of South Coast Bicycles, said pedal assist bikes gives those riders who normally don’t go long distance the chance to do so. Maxon said right now there are some misconceptions about this type of electronic bike that people often mistake with increasing one’s speed and damaging trails.
“With the pedal assist bike, you have to pedal it in order to propel it by any electric power,” said Maxon. “It doesn’t make sense to worry about an electric bike going way faster because its speed is limited.”
Last year, Coos County partnered with Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, Travel Oregon and other local agencies to create the trail system as a way to promote tourism to the area. The trails were funded through grants from the Oregon State Parks Recreational Trails Program, Business Oregon and the Southern Oregon Workforce Investment Board.
“I hope people get excited to come back next year because we’re going to build 10 more miles,” said Kessler. “The whole point of this event is to get people aware and to realize this could really be an awesome mountain biking destination.”