Off Season Rides

I retired early from 2017 season…I got sick and things fell apart from there. I did head out to Bend to race but was not “in it” from a fitness level. I finished way down in the 2/3. I just could not lay down the watts and recover like before.

So I am taking November “off” so to speak. I’m riding for fun or not at all really. When December comes, I will be more diligent in getting base fitness going. For now…I get to go on rides like this:

Deschutes/Sunriver Lava Butte + Blackrock Return

I’m in Sunriver, OR for Thanksgiving week, and I’m lucky that its soggy here. Yep, its soggy, and I’m thankful for that because I don’t have a fat bike. If it were snowy all over the place, I would not be able to ride! I hemmed and hawed about bringing a bike since its officially “the off season”, but I really wanted to ride, so I brought my trusty cross bike along for the trip.

I headed out at about 9am towards Lava Butte. I have been coming to Sunriver/Bend Oregon 2-3x a year for my entire freaking life but never gone to the top of Lava Butte. For about two years now I’ve been wanting to get up there, but I’ve never been sure if its gravel or paved and usually I have my road bike with me. This time, I had my cross bike. We can go pretty much anywhere, so Lava Butte it is!

I headed out and it was damp. The spray was real. #asssavers would be good right about now but I had none. I got toget me some of them.  Once I got out of Sunriver though, the amount of needles on the path increased dramatically and road spray was not as much of an issue. There was nobody out, and the forest felt calming to me. There was a lot of new growth on the trees and things were really quiet.

Lava Butte

Eventually, I made it out to the Lava Butte recreation site which was closed to cars, YESSS.  However, my heart dropped when I approached the gate to Lava Butte. It was more of an 8ft fence which extended beyond the road on both sides enough that you couldn’t really go around. I approached the wire door, and looked for a lock but I didn’t find one! I passed through the chain link door and felt my spirit suddenly lift!

The road out to the Butte was wrought with apprehension. The massive mound of lava protruded from the earth and a slim road held to its sides at an 8% grade. It was steep for me…especially in the kind of shape I was in, but it was sweet. As I ascended, I got a glimpse of a rainbow to my right, then a foggy section and finally a face full of wind until I reached the top. The view was amazing. I crested the top and took the view in, 360 degrees.


I descended and rode the brakes hardcore. I’m a wimp when it comes to going fast on wet pavement, and especially with cross tires. Once I got back to the visitor center I seemed to be having trouble clipping out of my right shoe. When you suddenly have trouble getting out it means your cleat is loose but when I looked it was much worse. I had a screw missing! Ah..buggers. I pulled it off the path and took the other screw out so that I wouldn’t loose everything all together and pressed on. I had wanted to take a mountain bike trail back but without my right foot cleat I thought about just heading back on the pavement. I knew it would be mostly downhill and easy for me to get home.

Blackrock Trail

As I cruised out of the parking lot I noticed to my right a sign which was the Blackrock Trailhead. It looked inviting, and I felt the impulse to just do it. Pretty soon I was screaming down some singletrack on my cross bike and trying not to slide off the pedal! Toe overlap got me once but what a great decision this was! Single track, all to myself, nobody around, through the woods. It was just super fun.

I found an offshoot trail and headed to the unknown. Curious? You bet. It took me out into the lava flow on a trail that was barely noticeable. I stopped and snapped a pic before I had gone too far to get lost then turned around. I had time…but not that much time.

I hit the single track once again and I kept me grinning like a little kid. I just couldn’t help it. The cross bike followed the lines pretty well and there wasn’t anything too hairy I couldn’t manage to roll through.


I continued the fun, ripping through the turns.  I thought to myself two things:

  1. I need a 650B “Adventure/Gravel” bike.
  2. This is great cyclocross practice!

With regards to numero uno, Christmas is coming. If you’re reading this, consider this a subtle hint.  And with regards to the second item? Man, maybe for a training weekend we just do gravel and easy single track. This really got me thinking. I come out here every year and hammer myself up these long climbs to Bachelor and Paulina lake in 90+ degree heat and why exactly? I have a week off from work so I’m going to train 12+ hrs. Ok yeah, I get it but man…maybe I need to just chillout when I come here in the summer, rip through some of these trails and enjoy the gravel roads. Things to consider…and then I found a railroad track laid down in the lava bed.

On instagram there are always these epic pics of adventure bikes on railroad tracks, or a trestle in the middle of nowhere, and you double tap that image because you know they are out there…just out there enjoying the great outdoors. So I took a pic, because I’ve always wanted to take a pic like this. I put my bike horizontal across the tracks but it didn’t fit. I leaned it up on one side and well things just looked awkward. I knew this wasn’t going to be that EPIC PIC. So I just shot the handlebars. I wished I had my “nice” camera, but this will do. In the end, its a nice pic…heading out into the lava, with lava on each side. It is a cool spot, and I was adventure cycling. This is what it feels like, huh?

I pressed on, and the trail was long. I started to think this was not going to wrap around to where I wanted to end up, but with every turn feeding my confidence, was there really a problem? Did I really care if I had to ride farther? I had seen absolutely nobody on the ride yet. Nobody. I was out here, tearing it up, just me and the trees. I felt good, still, my bike was working seamlessly with me. I just enjoyed the moment. I left my thoughts to themselves and moved to the moment.

Eventually, I came to the Deschutes River Trail, which would take me back to Sunriver. The mile marker said only three to go. I pressed onward, pushing the limit a bit, sliding the rear wheel out in some of the corners. It was fun.

Sunriver Return

Finally, I hit the Sunriver trail system. I hit a little jump onto the trail, shoved the handlebars forward and sat up. I rode no hands and yelled a little, “YEAH”. If you were around at that moment in time you would have seen someone with pure joy spread across their face, a soggy kit, and a black bike with “Professor” written across the top bar.

This is why we ride.


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