A few mountain bike brands have stepped up to support trails and riders at the grassroots level over the past couple of years, and we hope the trend endures. Two recent examples include the Santa Cruz Bicycles Paydirt program and the Specialized Soil Searching initiative, along with numerous efforts form other bike companies to better support female athletes, younger riders, and to fight global issues like cancer and the mounting climate crisis with a piece of their profits.
Specialized Bicycles recently teamed up with two riders from Portland, Oregon, to support their gravity racing efforts and their trail building work near the Pacific Northwest capital-of-cool. Julie Baird and Chris San Agustin love to dig nearly as much as shred, and they have been working hard to rebuild their closest trail network in the hills above the sleepy bedroom community of Scappoose, Oregon. There have been trails around Scappoose since anyone can recall, but a timber operation a few years back saw many of the storied tracks lost to clearcutting. Local riders have since been working hard to rebuild the network. Baird and San Agustin have their hands deep in the famous “PNW loam” of those singletrack efforts.
This trail system in Scappoose is on private timber land, and the property is managed through a lease agreement with the Northwest Trail Alliance. To use the area, riders can simply join the NWTA and sign a waiver.
With their full-time work, training, and dig organizing schedules, Baird and San Agustin are a wicked busy team. Baird works as a veterinarian supply sales agent, traveling around the northwest to visit various animal docs and inform them of the latest innovations in the industry. San Agustin is an art director, motion designer, and founder of a quarterly mountain bike publication called Broken & Coastal. Baird is also a former roommate and cherished shred buddy of mine, and she now owns the house we shared before I moved to Italy. I sent the pair of them a list of questions to learn more about how Specialized will be supporting their racing and community trail efforts. Check ’em out below.
How long have you been riding mountain bikes, and what originally inspired you to start racing gravity?
Baird: I rented my first mountain bike four and a half years ago in Moab with a group of cyclocross friends and had so much fun riding there. The Whole Enchilada and Captain Ahab were incredible. I bought my first bike a month later and was racing in the same year! I tried an XC race first and then an enduro a few months later. The enduro race was similar to what I liked about ‘cross. It was very inviting and inclusive. There was this pro racer, Porsha Murdoch, who took me under her wing for the race and would wait for me at the bottom of each stage, give me tips on the next stage, and she was overall just super welcoming. I loved the overall concept of enduro racing. It’s not an easy day of climbing, but you’re not all out XC racing the climb sections which gives me the ability to enjoy the other racers’ company and then I am racing against the clock on the downhill. It’s amazing.
San Agustin: I started riding mountain bikes in the summer of 2014 while living in Santa Cruz, California. My good friend Jorge was tired of me riding my cyclocross bike on trails and set me up with a Bronson. I had been riding BMX bikes my whole life so jumping on a mountain bike was new yet familiar at the same time. For me, mountain biking is just an extension of BMX.
I signed up for my first Enduro series in 2019 because I had heard such amazing things about it. Plus it was a really good excuse to ride my mountain bike more, travel to cool places and meet new people.
What is one significant way that mountain biking has directly or indirectly influenced your life?
Baird: It’s a form of therapy for me. Being in the woods gives me so much clarity and adds to my happiness. There’s always something to improve on with this sport, I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of it and I love accomplishing new things. I can see improvement and always have things to work on and new goals and fears to conquer.
San Agustin: Reconnecting with nature has been the biggest influence for me. A lot of times I am in the woods by myself and I really enjoy that stillness you experience out in the forest.
What do you personally get out of racing?
Baird: I absolutely love the community it has brought me, along with being introduced to so many different mountain bike areas. It’s such a great way to get into a sport. You just throw yourself all in! And I also really love that racing pushes me. I’ll maybe go over something I wouldn’t normally or go faster than I would normally (up or down the mountain). It gives me the feeling of being scared, nervous, excited, and fulfilled. I learn new technical skills and want to work on things to become a better rider whether its fitness, jumping, technical skills, or just staying calm and collected. It also helps me overcome fears or a lack of confidence when I have crashed or just feel off some days. The learning curve is incredible in mountain biking and racing. I think it also helps me in my day-to-day life to be more productive and energetic. I am a happier person and more engaged in life.
San Agustin: For me, racing is a platform to explore new trails, meet new people, create content, and push myself on the bike. The community is amazing and if it weren’t for that there is no way I’d be racing.
How did you two get connected with Specialized for the 2020 season?
San Agustin: When Julie and I sat down to start a team for 2020 we made a list of companies that we wanted to work with. Specialized was the very first company on that list and the first and only bike company we reached out to. Ultimately our goals for the year aligned with what Specialized was trying to do and we were fortunate enough to get in touch with the right person.
Baird: And that person I met through friends that I have because of bikes. I actually kicked it off with them as friends from single speed cyclocross worlds. Then I got to help them at one of the events they run called Roam Fest, which is this cool, all-women’s mountain bike festival in Sedona that is supported by Specialized and a whole bunch of other amazing mountain bike companies.
Apart from sending you bikes to race, how is Specialized supporting your competitive campaigns?
San Agustin: Without going into the nitty-gritty, Specialized has played a huge role in setting us up for a successful year on the bike. As ambassadors for the brand, we will be riding the new 2020 Enduro with Roval wheels.
Additionally, we are getting support from WTB, Giro, The Athletic, Lolo Racks, and Cascade Bikes.
What races or series do you plan to enter this year?
San Agustin: Julie and I will be racing the Cascadia Dirt Cup which is the big Enduro Series in the Pacific Northwest that takes place in Oregon, Washington, and a bonus round in Idaho. Specialized is setting us up with some passes to the NW Cup which is a DH series out here. We also have plans to do one big race somewhere in North America. Maybe Mexico? Another personal goal of mine is to race the enduro in Thailand and film a documentary on the mountain bike culture there.
Baird: Yes to Thailand!
You both are involved in some trail building and related community-building work. Can you tell our readers what you have planned in terms of dig and ride events this season?
Baird: The goal is to bring the MTB community closer together in Portland. It’s so exciting to have a mountain bike network close to Portland and I would love to utilize that as best as possible to strengthen the community. I’m all about not re-creating the wheel and going off of other successful mountain bike communities. And what I’ve seen are communities that have organized ride days to bring people together. The local trail association has big goals with this area and if we can help encourage more people to dig where they ride then hopefully we’ll have a community built around long term efforts.
San Agustin: I grew up building dirt jumps but it wasn’t until 2018 that I started getting into trail work. Huge shout out to Trailboss for teaching me the way. All it took was one day of work to get me absolutely hooked on trail work and trail building. Our local trail association got a lease to 300 acres just outside of Portland and I personally have built three trails that exist in this network. A lot of time is spent maintaining and tweaking those trails but a lot of work goes into helping other crews with their projects. With 300 acres there is so much potential. We’re still ironing out the details but we’ll be hosting dig and ride events through the rest of the winter and spring.
What does the MTB scene in Portland currently look like, and what are some things that would make it better?
San Agustin: There is a huge mountain bike scene in Portland but no actual legal trails within the city limits. The city itself has over 100 miles of trail but basically all of it is closed to cycling. Having legal singletrack in the city limits would be a huge win for mountain bikers in Portland.
So what you have are a bunch of mountain bikers that get in their cars and drive 40-60 mins to ride their bikes. We don’t have a central space for people to gather. Things are changing and access to 300 acres just outside the city limits is huge. I expect that in the spring and summer of 2020 Rocky Point [Scappoose] will be the central place for Mountain Bikers in Portland.
How much trail currently exists at the site in Scappoose, and how much was there before the logging? Do you know what the Northwest Trail Alliance has planned for the site?
San Agustin: Don’t quote me on this but I believe there are a little over 20 miles of trail sprinkled throughout the 300 acre parcel. A few trails were taken out by logging but more have popped up since then so if anything there are more trails now than ever before.
The Northwest Trail Alliance has big plans and they are setting themselves up for the long run. I can’t speak on their behalf but I think a lot is riding on this place to work. Portland needs it and it would be a huge win for the community.
What is your personal approach to trail building?
Baird: Trail building is new to me and I’m still just learning what all goes into it. My top priorities are making a trail sustainable, fun, and technical. I want to be respectful of the land, replant as it comes up, and utilize the land without disrupting the ecosystem as best as possible.
San Agustin: I’ve always set out to build a trail that not only I would want to ride but something my friends would too. For example, the Coastal trail features a technical jump line up top that leads into a steep technical chute into a 30-foot step-down. From there you have some more technical corners into the last big jump before skidding down a tricky root-filled fall line. A trail like this uses all the arrows in your quiver. You need to be dialed in all aspects of mountain biking. I guess that would be my style but I’ve been learning so much from Trailboss, Ben, and the whole rest of the Scap crew. It’s actually really interesting to work with different trail builders. Everyone has their own styles and methods that you can learn from.
You both have stated interests in bolstering the efforts of women and youth in your local scene. What are some of the ways you aim to do so?
San Agustin: When Julie and I sat down to form this team we came to the conclusion that not only did we want to race bikes but we wanted to give back to the community and play a role in getting more women riding mountain bikes. We have plans to host women dig days, women’s skill clinics, mock enduro races, and ultimately becoming a resource for women interested in mountain biking. One of the things I am super excited about is working with the Cascade Dirt Cup to give the opportunity to some new women racers to try Enduro. Julie and I will be there to support them leading up to the races and hopefully get them super stoked on the sport!
What’s your favorite gelato flavor?
San Agustin: pistachio
What is the “can’t ride without it” component on your bike?
Baird: A dropper post and good brakes. It’s a game changer to have good brakes.
San Agustin: WTB tires and a dropper post.
You can keep up with these two community-conscious gravity nerds on their respective social media channels, as well as the Broken & Coastal website. I wish them the best of luck this season!