Dirt Lab Evo: Q1’s Build Out


Earlier this year, we wrote about Travel Oregon’s Forever Fund underwriting NWTA’s evolution of the Dirt Lab at Gateway Green. This quarter, Jason Van Horn and Joel Armstrong guided crews of two to 15 on weekday evenings and Saturdays, 246 hours in total. Soil moisture and the lack of a dirt stockpile for rework elsewhere kept the focus on Dirt Lab’s singletrack. Here’s what our teams accomplished:


Cliff Trail

Cliff Trail is the most advanced at Gateway Green. Jason’s vision was to import a bit of Sandy Ridge, specifically the flow features found on Flow Motion, Laura’s Line, and Lower Hide & Seek. The “tech” features (rock and log gates) in Cliff Trail’s middle third have been replaced with well-spaced rollers that advanced riders can “double” (span in air) but allow anyone to roll through, allowing for skills progression while not impinging on safety.


Here are the first of the paired rollers on Cliff, which are located just above the skills area. Two approaches are illustrated— doubling the rollers, given the speed and skill, and the lower speed roll-through.


Just beyond the first pair of rollers is this jump, also progressive in its approach. Stay to the right, and with speed, you’ll loft the bike. To the left, skilled riders can gap to a landing berm-and-ramp combination.


The subsequent flat and straight section has been punctuated with — you guessed it — paired rollers. Get air if you have the speed, pump to gain it, or just pedal through to the next feature …


… which is this progressive jump. As before, stay to the right, and you’ll loft with speed. To the left, skilled riders can gap to a landing ramp.


The final rework to Cliff Trail retains a bit of its previous tech — a “booter” rock to launch from — and adds in a berm that helps keep speed up while holding progressing riders on course. (Prior to making this change, there was evidence of riders overshooting this corner.)


Toe Line

The northernmost third of Toe Line has been reworked, its features reshaped and respaced into table-tops and paired rollers, allowing intermediate and above riders to continuously pump-and-jump down to the skills area, and for beginners to progress their skills. Beginners first develop their pumping technique on Gateway Green’s pump track and wooden rollers in the skills area (or on the Green Line at the Lumberyard), taking this skill to Toe Line to develop it further. Toe Line (and the skills area) provides opportunities to couple pumping with jumping.


In this side view of one of the table-tops along Toe Line, it’s easy to see the progression that’s available. A less skilled rider will roll onto the table and, as their confidence (and speed) increases, can loft off the backside kicker. As they progress, the table is cleared completely, with a proper landing on the backside ramp.


This set, designed for progression, implements a smaller second roller, decreasing the risk of “casing”— where a rider falls short of fully clearing the second roller, instead landing on the roller’s face. It’s a fine set on which to begin practicing gap jumps.


Fenceline Trail

The changes to Fenceline Trail are very modest at this point. Two pairs of doubled rollers (with only the second set shown here) have been dropped in. Positioned near the beginning of Fenceline, they provide a bit of spice — and the opportunity to gain speed via pumping — to an otherwise flat section. But pause here for a moment and look south, and you’ll see a rogue launch ramp (which could connect to the future south hill gravity line), giving skilled riders the speed to double-double the four rollers.


Linda’s Line

As with Fenceline Trail, the changes to date on Linda’s Line are very modest. The corners of this double switchback just below the entrance to Linda’s Line were overly pinched — all speed gained above them had to be scrubbed off — and blown out into sandy pits. They’ve been reconstructed to allow riders to maintain a bit of speed into the following, flatter section.


Finally, the speed possible on this sweeping, downhill berm on Linda’s Line had been spitting riders off trail at the exit. That trail, including the pre-existing rollers, was relocated to the right a few feet to better align with the berm’s exit, keeping riders on course. Sweep and jump, or roll and pump.


Get Involved

On June 2nd, the spring’s work at the site culminates in the Gateway Green MTB Festival. If you’d like to help evolve Gateway Green, keep an eye out for work party event postings here on nw-trail.org, or contact the Local Stewardship Team (LST) via [email protected].

We’d like to acknowledge the tremendous level of support we continue to receive from Portland Parks & Recreation, Friends of Gateway Green, and Travel Oregon, notably Ross Swanson and Scott Domine of PP&R, Linda Robinson and Paul Dickow of FoGG, and Andrew Grossmann.

And there’s NWTA’s often-unsung volunteer heroes behind the Dirt Lab: Tom Archer, Chris Bernhardt, Will Heiberg, Susan Rotvik, and Jason Van Horn. These folks have invested many personal hours of sweat equity and continue to quietly bring Portland’s finest bike park to life. Please join us in thanking Tom, Chris, Will, Susan, and Jason …