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Mountain Bikers Riding Bikes Talking Trails #4

Mountain Bikers Riding Bikes Talking Trails #4

Bandon, Oregon

Posted: April 9, 2024
Author Brice Shirbach riding at Whiskey Run Trails.

Oregon’s Southern Coast, which is effectively defined as the region between Reedsport at the northern edge and the California state line to the south, is a land of stark contrasts.

Here the North Pacific clashes ceaselessly with the Coastal Mountain Range that flanks the Pacific Northwest’s coastline, creating a landscape with an allure that very few places on the planet can rival. It is, in my opinion, as beautiful in the rain as it is under blue skies and offers up no shortage of adventures for outdoorsy folks of all stripes, from deep sea fishing off of the coast, to paddling any number of “Wild and Scenic Rivers” (as designated by the National Park Service), to surfing, and of course mountain biking.

As magnetic as the Pacific is, the mountains that they collide with carry their own gravitational pull. As mountains go, the Oregon Coastal Mountains are relatively young, having formed about 65 million years ago. They’re not especially tall, with an average elevation of around 1,500 feet above sea level, but they are steep, rugged, and receive ample amounts of rain, particularly along their western flanks. The proximity to the largest ocean on the planet helps to regulate the climate throughout the range, meaning cool and often dry summers and mild winters with ample rain. In a state famous for its numerous world-class trails, Oregon’s coastal region offers relatively scarce opportunities despite the favorable year-round climate and staggeringly pretty landscape.

One of the main reasons behind the seemingly limited trail resources is the limited population numbers in the region. Coos Bay is the largest town in the southern portion of the Oregon Coast, and aside from that community, there simply aren’t a lot of sizable population centers to speak of, and without people to build and care for the trails, there just aren’t going to be a whole lot of trails to ride.

Fortunately for local riders who call Oregon’s coast home and the rest of us tourists who look at them with pure envy coursing through our veins, the trails that are found throughout the region are a direct reflection of the beauty and vibrancy of the surrounding landscape. One such spot in particular, the Whiskey Run Trails in Bandon, have set the standard of excellence for coastal shreddery.

The Wild Rivers Coast Mountain Biking Association is tasked with the maintenance and development of the Whiskey Run trails, as well as several other networks throughout the Southern Oregon Coast region. It’s quite a lot of space to cover for a single mountain bike association, but there simply aren’t a lot of people around, so it’s on them to get things done.

The Whiskey Run Trails (named after a “whiskey run” during the Prohibition Era on what was then a mining camp and what is now a trail system) are built on Coos County-managed land, which also sees heavy logging throughout the property.

“We have 32 miles of trail after completing our third phase of the build-out,” Eddie Kessler says during a break in our ride. “Once things start being logged and transitioned, we’ll build and restore more trails. Thanks to the Oregon Coast Visitors Association as well as Travel Southern Oregon Coast, we have annual maintenance funding in addition to our volunteers. That’s been very important because it allows us to keep a high quality of trails at Whiskey Run.”

Eddie was a founding member of WRCMBA, and is the current Trails Programs Coordinator, which effectively functions as an executive director-type with a focus specifically on trails. He also owns a trail building company: Ptarmigan Trails.

The other Kessler in these parts and Eddie’s better half, Erin, is the owner and wrench at Pineapple Express: a small but mighty bike shop in nearby Port Orford. Erin is also a skills coach and is the current Secretary for WRCMBA. “With phase one and two, we designed those in a way that would allow for everyone’s feet to get wet so-to-speak”, she says of the Whiskey Run layout. “We wanted the first two phases to be open to families or travelers who might not be familiar with the trails. With the third phase we wanted Ptarmigan Trails to open things up a bit with bigger features and creative trail designs.”

The result of the hard work from people like Erin, Eddie, and the rest of the WRCMBA crew is a trail system that brilliantly showcases the natural beauty of the Southern Oregon Coast while providing riders with an incredibly diverse offering of trails, from hyper-speed flow, to off-camber loamers, to easy pedaling cruisers, and everything in between. It’s a remarkable place to ride, and it wouldn’t be possible without a small but mighty contingent of riders working in concert to do something special.

“There’s a ‘technically correct’ way to build trails,” Eddie says as he describes his approach to the third phase of Whiskey Run. “But technically correct isn’t always what the trail wants to be for mountain biking. We figured that out with this. Technically something might work, but what does it feel like when you’re riding it at speed? It was a cool and unique learning experience to really see those principles come to light while building these trails.”

About the author

Brice has been a professional mountain biker since 2012 and a contributing writer and photographer at as well as various other mountain bike print and online publications.

Brice is currently a brand ambassador for several mountain bike companies, including Pivot Cycles,…

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