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- Oakridge, OR

Derrick Bell - The Rebuilder

One of the most respected proverbs in mountain biking - and one of the most loosely followed - is “no dig, no ride.” When your favorite pastime relies on manual labor to sustain itself, it’s often the work of the dedicated few that benefit the many. One of those few is Derrick Bell, a lifelong mountain biker and trail builder from Oakridge, Oregon. Over the last 25 years, Derrick has wielded chainsaws, pulaskis, shovels, and rakes in order to help grow his local mountain bike community. Constantly searching for more efficient ways to dig in the forest, he now transports his tools and fuels with the assistance of an e-mountain bike and bob trailer.

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Over the years Derrick witnessed the transition of Oakridge from “loggers with chainsaws, to mountain bikers with chainsaws and loggers on mountain bikes,” a stark comparison to the railroad boomtown where timber floated the local economy for the majority of the 20th Century. All that changed in the 1980s, when the town’s largest employers — the two local sawmills — shut down and laid off all their workers.

 

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The sudden shift in economic stability left many local residents disillusioned and uncertain about their futures. When Derrick moved to Oakridge he learned the art of chainsaw in order to clear deadfall and combined that with his burgeoning trail building experience, he began rebuilding and repurposing local trails for mountain bikes.. The result was more trail, that more people could ride, more often. Few people acknowledged it at the time, but expanding the trail network — and the resulting influx of mountain bike tourism — was exactly what Oakridge needed.

 

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“In my mind, trail work and owning a mountain bike kind of go hand in hand,” says Derrick, referring to the culture of stewardship that now permeates the local recreation scene. “I’m hoping the e-bike can be a bit of a positive wedge into a little more trail access and trail-maintaining in this area. It’s made my life easier, and I’m OK with that.”

 

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Throwing a leg over his Pivot Shuttle - fully-packed bob trailer in tow and his dog chasing him excitedly - Derrick is more than comfortable with a solitary day spent in the woods. But with a community of volunteers rallying behind him and following the example of “you play, you give back,” Derrick sure to leave a lasting legacy of trail stewardship for the next generation to embrace.

 

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The buzz of chainsaws in the forest is now louder from the trail builders. There are more visiting mountain bikes rolling through town than logging trucks. The town’s economy has been forced to evolve, but few can argue with the benefit of getting more people outside.

 

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Two-wheeled recreation was not always popular in Oakridge. It wasn’t that long ago when unemployed loggers resented the environmentalists that threatened their livelihoods, with the assumption that mountain bikers fell into the same camp. But from a negative opinion has sprung positive change, much like Derrick’s e-bike.

 

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