I seemed to have set the precedent of injuring myself within the first couple of days of a riding vacation, thereby nullifying the fact that it was truly a vacation. July’s trip to Sun Valley resulted in surgery to clean out a deep elbow wound, and in January I slammed my ribs into my stem on day one of fat biking in the Methow Valley. Luckily, neither injury kept me away from riding for long, but it certainly put a damper on my ability to enjoy the time off from work.
Take 3…in Moab.
We took a full 11 days off from work, to account for the day and a half drive each way. Don’t be fooled. Google Maps makes it seems like you can pull off the trip from Seattle in a day, but that would be excruciating. Do yourself a favor and get at least 8 or 9 hours under your belt the first day. With gas and pee stops, it’s about 18 hours.
In a nutshell, here’s what we accomplished:
Day 1: Slickrock Trail and Moab Brand Trails (M Bar Trails)
Day 2: Klondike Bluffs
Day 3: Hymasa & Captain Ahab
Day 4: Porcupine Rim (from Lower Procupine Singletrack) and Klonzo Trails
Day 5: Road 18 in Fruita, CO
Day 6: Magnificent 7 (Bull Run, Great Escape, Little Canyon, Goldbar, Golden Spike, Gold Bar Rim, and The Portal Trail)
Day 7: Dead Horse Point State Park
Day 8: Navajo Rocks then touristing in Arches National Park
Day 9: Slickrock Trail
We rented a condo, and shared it with friends, both old and new. Here’s to Scott, Kristin, Kent, Trevor, and Jared!
Here are the pics to tell the story:
Day 1 (AM): Slickrock Trail Slickrock is anything but slick. I was warned of this. The superfine sandpaper texture holds tires at unbelievably steep angles. What I wasn’t told is that you need legs and lungs of steel to get yourself up the excrutiatingly steep, punchy pitches. No climb lasts longer than a few short minutes, but in that little bit of time, you’ll blow your HR out of the universe. It didn’t help that we are Seattle low-landers, and had high altitude added to the mix.
Day 1 (PM): Post shower, lunch and nap, we headed out to the nearby Moab Brand Trails, which would soon be overrun with the Outerbike bicycle demo event during the weekend. Some of the trails here are sandy, smooth, and completely non-technical. But you can also explore oceans of white slick rock, like in these photos below.
Day 2: I got my ass kicked at Klondike Bluffs. The opening section of Jurassic and Dino-Flow is beautiful smooth, red dirt, but before long, we found ourselves climbing up and down steep, sustained pitches of technical sandstone. Alaska, Mega Steps, and EKG (like the name implies!) require full body effort to negotiate wheeling up ledge after ledge after ledge. Before we knew it, we put in 20 miles over 3 hours and about 3500ft of elevation. It was a longer than expected day, but it’s spectacular terrain that I would have enjoyed more had I known what I was getting myself into. I was always taking up the rear…waaaaay back there!
Day 3: Everyone touts the virtues of Captain Ahab. The night before we got super stoked on this video https://vimeo.com/63329681 which shows the construction of this famed trail. The drive in alone is stunning, with tall sandstone cliffs butted up against the road. Hymasa and Upper Ahab combined are about 5 miles of strenuous and technical ascending. Again, like Klondike Bluffs, there was ledge after ledge to negotiate. I was honing in this technique, though, and was starting to feel more accomplished on this terrain. Once the trail turned downhill, though, my confidence vanished. There are a lot of drops and steep rocky ramps, and I just don’t have the skill level to attack the unknown. Most of the time, I’d stop on top of the tricky section to preview it, then I’d push my bike back up the hill and turn around to ride it. But this is exasperating to do time and time again, so I just started walking the difficult sections. This is exactly the kind of trail I’d love to have frequent access to, because I could work on it over time. It was all do-able, but I’d need to practice it. I was not willing to get hurt on day 3 of my vacation.
Day 4: We took a shuttle to the top of Lower Porcupine Singletrack (LPS) to ride the classic Porcupine Rim Trail. From LPS, we rode a little bit up Upper Porcupine Singletrack (UPS), but ran into impassable snow before long.
After our shower/lunch/nap ritual, we headed out to Klonzo Trails in the afternoon. These are located adjacent to the well known Sovereign Trail System, but we chose this area because there are no motos allowed. We enjoyed putzing around here, but in the end, it was probably the least memorable riding. The coolest thing and most memorable non-riding thing here were the dinosaur tracks along Willow Springs Road! A must see!
Day 5: We nicknamed the Moab terrain “Jackhammer Trails” because of the abuse your whole body would take on the bumpy sandstone. Yeah, Slickrock Trail may be smooth, but actually, that’s an anomaly. In search of a “rest” day, we drove over to Fruita, CO to explore the buff trails of Road 18. We also wanted to escape what we thought would be a hectic Saturday in Moab (with Outerbike going on), but it turns out Fruita was just as slammin’! We first stopped in Over the Edge Sports to get beta on the area. Their staff are fantastic! They all greeted us when we walked in, and despite how busy they were, they always made time to follow up with us. Road 18 was rippin’ fun. It’s a really well planned area. Even though the parking lot was packed, we rarely ran into riders on the trail. They have one uphill only trail called Prime Cut, which is used to access all the descending trails. This eliminates the need to “share the trail” which is impossible with too many riders at once. Our favorites were PBR and Zippity Do Da.
Day 6: Riding Magnificent 7 was our most epic day. On the maps for this area and along the trail itself, signs are posted “expert riders only: do not attempt without having 3 liters of water, food & advanced technical skills and fitness. Be prepared to walk portions of this trail.” Captain Ahab didn’t have this warning, so what were we in for?!?!? We took the shuttle to Gemini Bridges Road off of Hwy 313. The first single track is Bull Run, over 5 miles of fun, flowy, moderately technical descending. That connects with Little Canyon where there is a bailout to the highway. Our plan was to access how we were feeling here to determine if we should go on or bail. We all felt great, so onward was the only option!
Goldbar becomes more technical and begins the ascending. Then, you transition to the Golden Spike 4×4 route. We followed the “black road” of tire marks up steep, technical pitches. Up and up we went, sometimes walking and pushing the bike, but mostly able to grunt it out. The top of Golden Spike has one last sign posted, warning you of the dangers that lie ahead. We stopped to enjoy the views, refueled, and then embarked on the Gold Bar Rim descent. The trail was really well built. Like Ahab, it was scary to attack technical sections when you couldn’t quite see the exit, so I took it conservatively. But for the most part, I found it to be easier to read and ride than Ahab, and I really enjoyed it! Part of the trail goes right to the edge of the cliff; it gets the blood going! The last segment is the infamous Portal Trail. For some sections of the trail, signs are posted requiring you to dismount and walk your bike because three riders have died here before. There are technical spots where a mishap would send you 400 ft down the cliff. This was a very loose and technical trail overall, so I walked a lot of it, but at only 2.5 miles long, it didn’t slow us down too much overall. In the end, we did the 26 mile link up in 3 hours and 50 minutes.
Day 8: Navajo Rocks is one of the newest trail systems in Moab. It’s amazing how much new trail is being built in Moab. Although Navajo Rocks are “easier” trails, they meandered along cliff sides and took full advantage of the unique slick rock terrain and were a ton of fun. Jared wanted to ride it in the shape of a butterfly (or infinity symbol) so we started on Big Mesa-Big Lonely-Coney Islands, and then looped Ramblin’ to Rocky Tops. We lucked out and picked the best direction for all the trails. Coney Islands was a huge sand bog, but since we were riding in the descending direction, we managed fine. And then Ramblin’ has sweet slick rock terrain that is best ridden west to east, so you can enjoy the downhill flow and careen down the bowls and curves of the trail.
That afternoon, we met up with Jared’s dad and drove into Arches National Park. We were true tourists, taking pictures out of our car windows and walking only as necessary.
Day 9: To give closure to the trip, we went back to Slickrock. It was still difficult, but we were much less winded and didn’t have to stop nearly as much to catch our breath. After lunch and showers, we packed the car and began the trip home.
Logistics & What to Bring (that you might not think of, because I didn’t):
-50+ SPF sunscreen (we brought 30 SPF, and I ended up buying 75+!)
-Sun sleeves (The Pearl Izumi elite sleeves were awesome. They actually had a cooling effect and prevented the onset of a sun rash from getting any worse)
-A bike with low gearing (Trevor almost showed up with a 36 tooth front chainring! I think he ended up with a 34, but probably still wished for something smaller. There are sustained climbs and also short, super steep punchy climbs that are all more enjoyable if you can pedal comfortably up them)
-Recoverite (recovery drink) and foam roller: I drank Recoverite after each ride (so sometimes twice a day) and foam rolled each night. That allowed for 9 consecutive days of good riding!
-Full suspension bike, ideally 130-150 mm travel. I brought both my Marin Rift Zone and my Cannondale Jekyll. The Rift Zone has 100mm in the rear and 120mm in the front with a 32-tooth chainring on a 1x set up. It’s relatively steep geometry was perfect for me for the intermediate trails. Once things got gnarly, I needed more travel for more confidence. Leave your hard tail or rigid bikes at home.
-If you go to Fruita, CO, you must eat at the Hot Tomato. It’s the cyclists’ hangout, and their beer and pizza are really really really delicious.
-Twisted Sista in Moab is very good. Moab Brewery is not so good. For the rest of the meals, we cooked in our condo and ate like kings.
– Chile Pepper Bike shop is awesome, especially if you’re a lady looking for lady mtb clothes (their buyer is a woman). Also, they only had women working the floor, and they were all knowledgable of the trail conditions and were mt bikers themselves. Rare experience. Oh, and there’s an espresso stand inside too. Nice touch.