ADROIT AT DOWNHILL: Kendall Smith, a sophomore at Imbler High School, captured the Oregon Super D mountain bike racing series for the age 18 and under division. TERRY BLANKENSHIP photo
Summerville bicyclist wins prestigious race seriesSUMMERVILLE — Kendall Smith’s “Specialized’’ model mountain bike has many snappy looking features but it lacks a speedometer.
Not that he needs one. At least Smith does not need one to prove he belongs in Oregon mountain bike racing’s fast lane.
Its very fast lane.
Smith, a sophomore at Imbler High School, recently won the prestigious Oregon Super D mountain bike racing series for the age 18 and under division. He clinched his title by winning the final race of the series, a 6.5 miler, earlier this month at Sandy Ridge just west of Mount Hood. Previously this year he won an 8-mile Super D race in Bend, an 8.5 miler in Hood River and placed second in a 14-mile Super D race in Oakridge.
Super D races are downhill mountain bike competitions that take 20 minutes to an hour to finish. Most downhill mountain bike races take two to six minutes to complete. The Oregon Super D series is considered by many to be one of the most prestigious downhill mountain biking series in the United States.
The Summerville resident won the series’ final race on the Sandy Ridge Trail System with a time of 23 minutes, 52 seconds over a rugged 6.5-mile, roller coaster-like course that included 300 feet of climbing.
Smith, 15, has been seriously involved in mountain bike racing for just two years. A key to his quick rise is hard work.
“He rides everyday all around the area. He is very dedicated,’’ said Smith’s uncle, Terry Blankenship of Summerville.
Smith rides his bike over roads and difficult trails, some of which are in the Mount Emily Recreation Area. .
Blankenship also said Smith’s success is a credit to good instincts.
“He has natural bike handling ability,’’ he said.
Blankenship introduced Smith to mountain bike racing. Smith credits his uncle with providing excellent advice and being an important calming influence.
“He keeps my nerves down,’’ Smith said.
The IHS sophomore has had a few mishaps since starting racing but has never been seriously hurt. Once he flipped over his handlebars.
“I have washed out. My helmet has saved me quite a few times,’’ said Smith, who plans to later get a speedometer for his mountain bike.
Super D racers are tempted to ride their brakes down steep hills, but this is not a good idea. Smith explained that bikes used in Super D races have disc brakes. They heat up if cyclists use them too frequently. The brakes are not as effective after they heat up.
“It is important to keep them from overheating,’’ Smith said.
The bikes Smith and other Super D races use weighs about 30 pounds, which is more than many road bikes. The added weight helps because it prevents the bikes from from becoming airborne.
“The more you keep your wheels on the ground the faster you go,’’ Smith said.
Good mountain bike racers are not only grounded, they also know when to take pressure off their pedals. Smith explained that there are times when you travel faster by letting gravity and centrifugal force, not pedal power, propel; you around course features like curves.
“Sometimes you travel faster by not pedaling,’’ Smith said.
Mountain bikers get their share of flat tires because of the rugged terrain they ride over. The ability to repair a flat quickly can on occasion be a real plus. It was for Smith earlier when he got a flat just 10 minutes before the start of a race. He was able to repair it in time for the start.
“You learn to fix flats quickly. I always have my tools right there,’’ Smith said.
Those who have provided important assistance to Smith in addition to Blankenship include Whit Hartz, owner of the Mountain Works Bicycle Shop in La Grande. Hartz loaned his Trek Remedy bike to Smith for at least two Super D races because it was better suited for the courses. Hartz also has let Smith work on his bike at his shop.
Smith has enjoyed mountain bike racing from day one. He speaks like he will be mountain bike racing for decades to come.
“It has kind of become an addition, I like pushing myself,’’ he said.