Mountain Biking Mecca|
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
|Courtesy Hans Prosl
|Moab's Famed Slickrock
You've heard it all before. Moab is America's premier summer mountain bike destination. But why? Because Moab encompasses the best of all worlds. If you're an urban road rider who sticks to slicks, you won't have to change your tires for the infamous Slickrock. If you come for the scenery and want to hike as much as you ride, it's second to none. If you want to sweat out all the evils you've been compiling, the dry desert will squeeze you like a sponge.
If you really like to get scared, there are trails with nice, several-hundred-foot exposures. The Poison Spider trail has seen its share of fatalities. So, if you're like me, you'll be scared enough to walk it. No big whoop. The exposure isn't why humans on wheels flock here. Nor do people come for long climbs or descents. It's the fossilized Navajo Sandstone that forms a labyrinth of canyons, caves and depressions that makes Moab so attractive. Add to this a lifetime of stone pile trails, two amazing National Parks, a dusty little town with plenty of campsites and motels, all sitting in the middle of the Utah desert, and you have the Mecca that is Moab.
So, when to go? The spring and fall are the most popular. Are you looking to join a group or go solo? Are you bringing your riding posse and a couple extra bikes just in case? Here's the deal, just make sure you have a place to stay or reservations if you're planning on camping, especially if you're headed for a National Park campground.
Having said that, get yourself a fat bag o' hy-dra-tion and hit the trail. Start with Slickrock. It's famous for a reason. It offers straight up servings of the famous stick-to-your-rims, 200-million-year-old fossilized sandstone.
Just a bit south of Moab, on Sand Flats Road, 2.3 miles east from its intersection with Mill Creek Drive [check the map], the parking area at the entrance offers restrooms, info boards and a dumpster...but no water. That was at the store you passed at the bottom of the hill.
The first thing you'll notice is the white dashes you follow and the sun burning down on you...easy enough. There's a practice loop that's a breezy 1.7 miles, but the whole enchilada encompasses some 9.6 miles, not counting any replays or cave inspecting. It's mainly lots of rolling red stone dunes, but that's not saying Slickrock shouldn't be ridden with respect. Once out there, you are, well, out there...and help would take a while to find you. Hazards are marked with yellow dashes or black diamonds indicating narrow ledges or sudden drop-offs. Due to deep exposures, you must be acutely aware. There's plenty of knobs for you to challenge yourself on without trying to clear the canyon.
So let's review...wear a helmet, bring too much water, get your bike checked out in town while there's still a mechanic around and bring some skills to make it worth the effort by riding a few days in a row. Stay off the pinyon trees, cactus, peyote, fragile soils and out of the potholes. Those little puddles are complete habitats ya know... if you can't bunny-hop them, you better just ride on around, cowboy!
Then you head back into town and hit the brewery and do the silly American test to "prove once and for all that this Utah 3.2 beer doesn't affect me." I mean "you." Well, it does and crashing your bike can sometimes be more painful than your car. So walk home all bloated, claiming it didn't work until you wake up under the picnic table with your bike shoes still on your feet.
Don't leave your house without a map of the area. I recommend the region's most detailed map by 40 degrees Latitude. It comes complete with trail descriptions and elevation gain and anything else that might concern you. Bring a camera. This place will make you look like you knew what you were doing with that little disposable. Then ask around. The asking got me on an all-day tour from the Gold Bar Trail straight into the Poison Spider, complete with huge views, exposures, teeth chattering stone stairs and spinning singletrack that burned my legs all day. The trails (too numerous to mention here) offer lengths and levels for all abilities.
If the Mecca that is Moab finds you wondering "Where's the Beef?", go vegan and ask for "the fruit." (Hint: It's not in Moab and it sounds like Fruit. But I've been sworn to secrecy on my bike's soul that I wouldn't publish any information on this other oasis, so that's all you get.)
The pilgrimage to Moab must be made once per bike lifetime to allow the soul to transfer from sweat to bike to sandstone and back again. The red dust will permeate your being, the dry desert will burn out all your bad bodily humors and the sights will haunt your dreams until you return.
Come one, come all. Paint your face zinc, change your tires to slicks and bring your well-oiled bike and body because Slickrock doesn't like rookies and Moab doesn't sell fresh legs.