Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mountain Biking in Moab

The weather was cool, but clear this morning, so the mountain biking trip was on. I went out with Fred of Rim Tours of Moab ( Fred, who is originally from Canada ( pictured above) was a great guide; the Sidney Crosby of mountain biking. Fred is a racer, who used a single speed 29er, compared to my fully geared rental Cannondale. The bike they provided was a brand new Cannondale Prophet, which had over 5 inches travel from both the back and front suspension. The bike had SRAM components. Unfortunately it also had Cannondale brand components. Because of these, I learned that Fred is also a very skilled bike mechanic.

We did the Klondike Bluffs Trail. This trail is several miles north of Moab. The trail climbs through sand, dirt and slick rock ending at the back side of Arches National Park. The sand was tough. When it became to loose, you stop and can't start. The slick rock was very different to ride on. There are large sheets of rock. The challenge is riding from sheet to sheet. Sometimes they drop off. You need to pick your spot at just the right place or you can have a problem. At one point I didn't follow where Fred crossed. My front wheel stopped between the rocks, causing the shock to compress. My momentum continued causing me to flip over the handlebars. I wasn't hurt (except my ego), but the bike had a problem. Even though we were going at slow speed and I was off the bike, when the bike fell to the ground the brake lever snapped. Clearly it was a defective part. Fred took a lever off of his bike, put it on my bike, and did the rest of the tour without a front brake. Above is a picture of a dinosaur footprint. Several of these prints were in the slick rock. People have placed rocks around the tracks to protect them. People drive jeeps on the trails. The weight of a jeep can destroy the tracks.

When we reached the end of the trail we hiked a short distance into Arches National Park and had this awesome view of the region. We were able to see the Fiery Furnace and Salt Valley. the Salt Valley was created by the earth, below where we were, sinking.

The ride back was a totally different ride. down hill riding slick rock was a different experience. The bike seemed totally in control. Overall the ride was a blast.

If you are going to Moab, I highly recommend using a guide. Even if you are a good and experienced mountain biker from the east, this is different. So many things can happen to you if you go it alone. A guide finds the best trails for your abilities and transports you there. Even though slick rock trails are marked by white paint it is hard to follow the trail. You can accidentally follow a dried out river bed or abandoned mining trail and get seriously lost. On the slick rock everything looks the same. Similarly, if you are not experienced with the terrain it's easy to misjudge drop offs. The dull color of the slick rock can deceive you.

Guides point out interesting features that you would otherwise miss, like the dinosaur tracks. They tell you about inside local information: places to eat or shop, or other sights of interest. They also teach you techniques to improve your riding.

If you are injured, a guide can either take care of you or get you to safety. If you have a problem with equipment, the guide will take care of you. For example my broken brake lever, would have left me high and dry miles from help. A guide makes sure you have an enjoyable experience. If you tried it on your own and something went wrong you might be living a nightmare.

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