Ride Report: Reno Flag Bear Deadman's

by Laurel Runcie

Ride Report: Reno Flag Bear Deadman's


by Laurel Runcie

“You only say that because it’s the coolest ride ever!”
This was the shouted response from Tom after I yelled out, “This is the coolest ride ever!” as we rode down the switchbacks of Deadman’s trail last weekend. At about mile 19 out of 19.4 and close to five hours into my biggest mountain bike ride to date, I was as happy as I’ve ever been on a bike. Just buzzing. I’ve been hearing about Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman’s for years. Three climbs (totaling 3,464 feet of vertical gain) and three descents. As you ride the loop the climbs get shorter and the downhills get longer. Plus, the Deadman’s switchbacks are among the best switchbacks ever. Our plans for this ride tentatively started to come together when I learned in May that the Forest Service was planning to put in a bridge across the creek at the bottom of Deadman’s the week of July 5, requiring them to close the trail for a bit. I decided I was going to ride a bunch this spring so I would be ready to ride the Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman’s loop before they shut the trail down for the bridge install. stream crossing on Reno Flag Bear route Last week I didn’t spend nearly enough time on trail and my window for RFBD was disappearing. I figured it was time to ride the 19.4 miles that made up the RFBD loop on the 4th of July. We finalized plans on Friday evening and were lucky enough to run into a visiting friend who used to live here. El was in town with her friend Elinor and we invited them to join us, me explaining repeatedly that I’m much better on my bike now, but still very slow. They’re both coaches for VIDA MTB and they told me that they didn’t care how long it took, they just wanted to ride with me. We made plans to pick them up the next morning. After a few delays getting the truck loaded up, we turned onto Cement Creek Road to head up to the Deadman’s parking lot. Then it was time to spin up Cement Creek Road to the Reno Road. riding up the reno climb I had been warned that the Reno Road climb was tough and not to spend all of my energy on the first climb. The climb certainly wasn’t easy, but I was able to keep my cadence up. We took a couple of breaks so we could drink water and chat about how absolutely glorious the ride was so far. Reno Road Selfie At the top, we stopped for a snack and I put on my borrowed knee and elbow pads in preparation for downhill 1: Flag. It was a nicely contoured, smooth ride through a glorious meadow of wildflowers. We saw tons of monument plants, scarlet gilia, sunflowers, and the tail end of the lupine for the season. Being from the northeast, Elinor was shocked at how long the descent was. Even our shortest downhill of the day seemed long compared to what she was used to riding. Elinor Wesner riding FlagAnother shot from flag After finishing downhill 1, we got ready to climb Bear. Bear is a singletrack climb, something that I’m still not that great at. Luckily, I had my two coaches there to give me pointers. Elinor would ride ahead and then pause at the top of challenging sections to shout encouragement. El was riding behind me the whole way calmly reminding me to look ahead and slide my butt way forward on my seat on steep sections. At the top of the Bear climb, it was time for lunch. Then Elinor and Tom went ahead to shoot some follow-cam and El decided she wanted to follow me. After a little contouring in meadows, Bear gets a bit steeper and has some really fun rocks and roots to ride over. I felt like I was in the fall line and like my bike was an extension of my body. Thinking back to it, it’s the first time I’ve ever felt like I was skiing while on my mountain bike. Tom Runcie follows Elinor Wesner down Bear   By the end of the Bear downhill, my muscles were starting to cramp. I was worked. But it was time for the shortest climb of the day. I pulled off my kneepads and clipped back in to climb some more. Then I bonked hard. I hadn’t eaten enough and this was already the longest I had spent on my bike. I was two-thirds done with a loop and I had no option but to just keep going. The climb was pretty mellow except for the last little steep part, which I pushed my bike up. I was so happy when I topped out in the dark timber and I was done with climbing for the day. We ate our last snacks, drank a bunch of water, and got ready to go down one more time. After letting a few former Enduro racers go ahead, we dropped in to Deadman’s. At that point, I was in love with the flow of Bear Creek and expected to tolerate Deadman’s. Switchbacks have never been my thing. Instead, I was hooting and hollering within a quarter mile. Yes, it’s switchbacks. But the switchbacks aren’t exposed like they are on the Caves or on Doctor Park. They’re wide and banked and they each have their own tiny little rock garden going into it. They’re like little riddles you have to solve. Deadman's Trail follow Cam   About halfway down, Tom and I had our exchange about it being the coolest ride ever. I stand by that 5 days later. In more great news, the Forest Service let me know that they finished the install of the new bridge. I’ll probably do a few other rides before I tackle Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman’s again. But before too long I’ll be out there again with a great big smile on my face and a few extra honey stingers in my pack! Get out here and get some for yourself while the getting is good.