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Oregon Mountain Bike Trails Adapted for Accessibility

An anonymously donated grant allowed 100 miles of Bend, Ore.’s mountain bike trails to be assessed for adaptive users in May.

After breaking his back six years ago, Skye Chaney was determined to enjoy the outdoors in the same way he had before the incident through kayaking, skiing and mountain biking.

So, he adapted a kayak, enrolled in mono skiing lessons and purchased an adaptive mountain bike (aMTB) to get back on the trails.

Chaney is a regular rider on Bend’s mountain bike trails, 100 miles of which were assessed for adaptive users in May, thanks to a grant from an anonymous donor. The grant specified hiring aMTBers Quinn Brett and Joe Stone of Dovetail Trail Consulting to perform the assessment with the support of Oregon Adaptive Sports.

Brett is an avid hand-cyclist after suffering a fall as a professional climber in 2017, and Stone is an experienced aMTBer, hiker and civil rights activist for people with disabilities. They participated in the project to break down a critical barrier preventing adaptive athletes from accessing the outdoors: readily available information.

100 Miles of Accessible Trails

“There wasn’t anything published or public that was targeted specifically for adaptive mountain bikers so they could learn how to get outside with or without our support,” said Pat Addabbo, executive director of Oregon Adaptive Sports.

The 100 miles of assessed trails are now listed on the Central Oregon Trail Association’s (COTA) website, with information on the trail’s character and the likelihood of requiring the assistance of a support rider. The first goal of the grant is now complete, with 33 videos uploaded to COTA’s Vimeo account to provide adaptive riders a feel for the trails.

Bikers of all sorts visit YouTube to watch videos of trails they want to ride to get a feel for what it’s going to be like before they head out there, said Emmy Andrews, executive director of COTA.

“Now you have that specifically with adaptive bikes,” she said.

The remainder of the grant money will be put toward trail work that will make the trails rideable for adaptive users, with time spent adding those routes to Trailforks, according to a press release. Trail work is expected to be completed by the fall and the routes will be added to Trailforks by the end of 2023.

Bowhead Reach Adventure E-Bike

Chaney rides a 100 percent electric Bowhead Reach Adventure e-bike, an adaptive trike with full suspension and two wheels in the front and one in the back, which retails for about $15,000. It’s outfitted with a harness, allowing Chaney to get back up after tipping over and an articulating front end, giving him the ability to control the bike with his upper body.

“What (the bike) did is it allowed me to do the same things I could do before I broke my back,” Chaney said.

Chaney regularly receives encouragement from fellow riders, but occasionally, an able-bodied person doesn’t recognize his bike as a mobility device. During an interview with The Bulletin in the parking lot of the Cascade Lakes Welcome Station last Tuesday morning, a rider said to Chaney, “I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that (trail) is closed to motorized vehicles.”

Chaney’s bike meets the definition of a wheelchair under The Americans with Disabilities Act and is specifically designed to allow him to gain access to the outdoors.

“(The aMTBs) are allowed on all the trails, they’re technically even allowed on wilderness trails if those folks wish to go there because obviously, without those bikes, there would be no way for them to access those trails,” Andrews said.

“We’re trying to help continue to educate the community that this is what adaptive mountain biking looks like,” Addabbo said.

Lifting All Boats

Adaptive mountain bike riding is intended to level the playing field. And with the completion of the assessment of 100 miles of Bend’s mountain bike trails, the playbook for accessible mountain riding is taking shape. As a result, knowledge has increased in the community surrounding what types of trails work best for aMTBers and which do not, Andrews said.

“One of my professional goals is to lift all boats,” Andrews said. “I always tell people — if I have solved a problem (that you are facing), please call me. I will tell you everything I know so that your path can be easier.”

Andrews said she looks forward to becoming a resource for other communities to ease their burden in developing new trails with universal design, allowing access that is universal to all user groups.

©2023 The Bulletin (Bend, Ore.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
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