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More trails being added to Spence Mountain

Photo by Lee JuilleratPaul "Kiwi" Lissette uses a small tractor to remove a large rock from the under-construction Speed King Trail on Spence Mountain off Highway 140.

What do the crews building new trails at Spence Mountain do when their work day is done?

Hop on their mountain bikes and ride the trails they’ve built in previous years and test the new trails they’re building this spring.

“We got to test that out yesterday,” said Tom Lyons, one of the trail crew, of Speed King, a new 2-1/4-mile “flow” trail that may open in late May or early June. “It will be a great beginner-intermediate trail.”

Lyons is helping to develop Spence Mountain trails for the first year, but others with Dirt Mechanics, the Bend-based company that’s been building trails on Spence since 2014, have been part of the process for several years.

“We ride it every day,” said Paul Thomasberg, of Terra Velo Consulting, who has worked in partnership with the Dirt Mechanics team at Spence from the beginning and is credited as designing the mountain’s entire trail system.

Another person who’s been involved at Spence since 2014 is Paul “Kiwi” Lissette, Dirt Mechanics owner. He is pleased and proud of work done over the past eight years. “Kiwi” said Speed King, a one-way downhill route, will have at least three alternate entrances to allow bikers the option of avoiding the half-mile upper section, which will be rated black diamond, or most difficult. Because it can be accessed by the nearby South Ridge Trail, a blue or intermediate trail, he envisions bikers doing laps.

Although it’s still weeks from completion, the trail already features tempting rows of berms and carefully graded turns along its undulating terrain through a section of Spence’s mixed conifer forest.

Robert Roberston, another Dirt Mechanic crew member who’s spent portions of other years at Spence, is particular about how Speed King is designed and takes pride in creating berms and rollers and the opportunity for jumps. He noted the trail’s width varies from 24 to 48 inches to give bikers the option of going over or around jumps.

Lyons terms Speed King a “gateway trail” for bikers wanting to improve their riding skills, saying, “You can still have fun without having to do jumps.” When it opens, he expects people, especially young, learning riders, will say, “Hey, that was fun — and I want to do it again!”

On Wednesday, While Lyons, Robertson and Lissette were working on Speed King, Thomasberg was using hand tools and a small tractor helping to develop Red Rover, a mile-long easy loop trail being designed for beginning mountain bikers and casual hikers.

“I like building a trail that’s more difficult,” admitted Thomasberg, who rides black diamond trails. “But I have a grandson. And my wife likes to ride green trails. ... It’s non-intimidating, but you still get that element you love about Spence — the beautiful scenery, the trees, the lake. I think it’s going to be a nice addition.”

As in past years, Spence’s ongoing trail development and maintenance is being funded and coordinated through the Klamath Trails Alliance.

Unlike some years when the KTA has funded up to 11 miles of new trails, this year’s additions have been reduced because of reduced grants stemming, in part, from the pandemic, according to Drew Honzel, KTA’s treasurer, who helps coordinate Spence Mountain projects.

Adding three-plus-miles will up the total miles of Spence trails to 45, with more planned in coming years on the 7,400-acre parcel of land owned by JWTR 15 miles west from Klamath Falls and about 50 miles east of Medford. Honzel notes the developing trail system has drawn heavy usership from Rogue Valley mountain bikers.

KTA is also partnering with the city of Klamath Falls to complete a mountain bike skills area in Moore Park. The trail will be inside of the main walking loop above the Gingerbread House, next to the park maintenance area. The skills course will include jumps, bumps, drops, corners and obstacles appropriate to all skill levels of riders, “a good place to hone your riding skills or just to have a little fun.” Work should begin later this spring or by early summer.

For more about the KTA and its various projects, visit its Facebook page or website at www.klamathtrails.org.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.