Friday, August 22, 2014


Moab, Utah. 

If you ride a mountain bike, you have heard of it. You have dreamed of it. A place so legendary bike companies name models after the town, and the trails. 
White Rim. Porcupine Rim. Amasa Back. Back of Beyond. Burro Pass. Kokopelli's. Gold Bar.  Slickrock. Hazard County. Portal. Behind the Rocks. Poison Spider.  

Every one of those trails is on a mountain bikers bucket list, and that's about 10% of what's there.  Mountain biking may have been invented on the Repack on Marin, but it's heart is on Moab. Sure, the new school guys are all in Whistler, Vancouver, Revelstoke, Ft William, and other lift served parks. But all still hear the call of Kokopellis flute. 

For me the call is strong. 20 years ago I scraped some money together, signed up with a guide company I found in the back of Bicycling magazine (20 years ago one did not simply Google anything...) and rode the White Rim Trail over 4 days with 3 nights of camping.   I have wanted to go back ever since. 

Finally, through a combination of luck, persuasion and incredibly accommodating families, the stars aligned, and for three days in May, we rode Moab.  Me and five friends spent 3 days and 4 nights riding, drinking beers, talking about riding...drinking whiskey...eating..and that's about it. If you look at pictures, you can see me with a massive stupid grin in every single one. Why?  I was in Moab. On a mountain bike.

Here's an example of the silly grin:

Moab sits at about 4000' flanked by the Colorado and Green rivers to the north and west, and the 11400' Lasalle mountains to the South and East. Snow caps on one side, desert cactus to the other. You get to ride from Alpine glades to the desert floor in one go.  Did I mention it's awesome?

Once we had the trip dates locked in, it was time to figure out what trails to ride.   I really wanted to ride White Rim in One Day.  I proposed this to my riding companions, and there was a healthy debate.  (I am lying.  The debate went something like this): 
  Me:  "hey, how about we ride White Rim in one day"
   Friend 1:  "uh, no". 
   Me: "really, it's one of those rides.  It's life defining"
   Friend 2:  "uh...have fun, I have enough definition in my life"
   Me:  "it'll be a great way to motivate ourselves to get in shape over the winter"
   Friend 3: "no"
   me:  "but...there's all--"
   Friend 1:  "no"

That settled, we decided to ride the Magnificent 7, Whole Enchilada and Amasa Back.  I will now attempt to describe riding these trails with my limited writing skills.  I apologize in advance

The day before the riding started, we took a drive out to Mussleman arch while awaiting the later arrivals.  The three guys I drove out there had never been to Moab. It was like being at a fireworks show.  Oohs and Aahs...and wows never stopped.  Obligatory Mussleman and White Rim Road pics:

Mag 7

The Magnificent 7 trails sit on a mesa above Moab and Canyonlands national park near the Gemini Bridges arches.  The system is mostly desert rock, sandstone looking slabs that provide enormous grip for any kind of mountain bike tire.  Riding them is a bit dangerous, because you keep looking up at the LaSalle mountains above or the Colorado river below.  Trouble is, look around like that too much and you put your wheel in a rock.  ouch.

We spent about 2/3 of a day riding these trails, taking pictures, and getting used to our rental bikes.  Our guide from Rim Tours, Dave,  was probably very sad to be stuck with us for 6 hours of riding.  Dave did an amazing job showing us lines, routes, views.  For those in the group unfamiliar to desert-like riding (not me...I'm lucky enough to live 200m from a tailhead with access to 40 miles of desert singletrack) he showed us how to set up the bikes, clear rocks, and generally not break Rim Tours rental bikes.  While his instructions were good, Dave eminently failed on the last point, as we managed to break stuff anyway.

There's about 100 descriptions fo these trails online, so I won't attempt to describe them inch by inch.  These trails really are all they are cracked up to be.  Actual singletrack in addition to slickrock.  Exposures, tricky moves, tough but not insane climbs...really could not ask for a better set of trails.

Our group also shook out interestingly during the day.  Discovered Dave (not the guide) is a heck of a lot faster than he claims, Conrad has even more endurance than we thought, and a few of the group are really scared riding anywhere near a cliff edge.  And a few of the group are scared riding next to Cliff.  Some of us also did not spend a whole lot time getting in shape for the trip, and some of us got in shape for the trip by riding our brains out since January. 

We also discovered what a great time we were having!  Phones were not really used except to figure out if Strava was working.  Anxiety over being "in shape" for Moab was lost -- what we were riding was a whole lot of fun, not a whole lot of lung busting.  You can tell because even in all the pictures, everyone has a gin on their face.  Maybe not as big as the grin on my face, but a pretty big grin nonetheless.

I like this trail sign
Mountains, Trail, Canyon...and a ton of fun

This post was intended to be all about the Moab trip. I got through part of day 1, and finally decided to post it. Will do the other days soon. 

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