To the more than six dozen youths who comprise the Corvallis Composite Mountain Bike Team, the McDonald and Dunn research forests aren’t just a convenience but rather a lynchpin to the team’s existence and excellence.
“The research forest is a fantastic resource,” said the team’s director, Matt MacClary. “We also practice on Starker forest land and have a great relationship with them, but the research forest is totally critical to what we do.”
Seventy-five riders from Corvallis-area middle schools and high schools participate on the five-year-old team under the guidance of 39 coaches. The team is growing “as fast as we can train coaches,” said MacClary, noting membership numbers are governed, for safety reasons, by coach-to-rider ratios set by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
“Some of our coaches are parent volunteers and others are just mountain biking enthusiasts who donate their time,” MacClary said.
The Corvallis team is a founding member of the Oregon Interscholastic Cycling League, a collection of 19 teams that compete in a series of four or five racing events each summer and fall.
The races are a cross country format involving laps of about 3 miles; younger riders’ races are two laps, older riders’ are four. All of the riders in each race start at the same time.
“It’s a rapidly growing sport,” MacClary said. “If someone is riding with us in the summer and fall, more likely than not they’ll bring a friend back with them the next year.”
Central to the Corvallis team’s efforts are twice-weekly practices on the research forest, spread over four days to keep the numbers smaller.
“We’ll meet at a trailhead, get in some stretching and education and then get out on the trails,” MacClary said. “The kids learn about trail stewardship, sharing the trail, how to dismount and listen to instructions from horseback riders. And we make sure kids get the chance to work on the trails, building and maintaining trails.
“We’re always moving around so kids get to see different parts of the forest,” he added. ”Having the good riding opportunities available has shown up with good results – Corvallis won the state championship this year and last year as far as the overall team result.”