Paradise Valley: Where mountain bikes are free to roam

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Last night, as temps hit 94 in Bellevue, I went out to ride with IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) and EMBA (Seattle’s Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance) at Paradise Valley, the recently reopened Conservation Area past Woodinville near Maltby.

Back in the day I rode Paradise occasionally, recalling it as a cross between an Appalachian firing range and county dump. The hard work of Evergreen and the mountain biking community has really dressed the place up. Trails are buff, not yet suffering from overuse, there are a few techie stretches, and you can ride forever and never quite seem to retrace your steps. Of course you are retracing, but the 11-mile combination of loops and forwards-backwards-traversewards makes an endless series of permutations available.

Paradise found... Evergreen gang at the trailhead
Paradise found... Evergreen gang at the trailhead

To cram all this into a fairly compact riding area requires the Duodenal Technique first mastered on the Worm outside of Renton, where you take a small flat section of land and fold trail in with switchbacks, turns and near-circles so the leader of a 20-bike ride can practically brush handlebars with the sweep. It can be tricky, in fact, just keeping track of where you’re going. You tend to use the rider ahead as your guide, so when you see another rider directly in front you think the trail is going in a straight line. In actuality, the rider ahead of you is somewhere off in the ferns to your right.

We used to do night rides on the Worm just to get the serpentine illumination effect of bike lights in a row, winding around loops like some kind of alien spaceship landing. Wonder what that would look like from Google Earth!

IMBA's Inga and her multiple rides
IMBA's Inga and her multiple rides

Anyway, Paradise Valley (directions here) is a must-ride if you haven’t already. Thanks to Brian Crowley for leading a suddenly ballooned turnout of 20 mtbers through the twists and thickets, and to Jason Van Horn and Inga Beck of the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew for coming out with their Team Car and great stories!

IMBA's trail Subaru...you can't miss it!
IMBA's trail Subaru...you can't miss it!
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