Before I left for my trip, my friend David had recommended that I read “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey. I’m about halfway through it and can strongly suggest it to my literate friends. Edward Abbey was one of the founding fathers of environmentalism. In the book, he recounts his time spent as a Park Ranger in Arches National Park in Moab. He spent 3 seasons there taking in the varied and natural beauty of this ridiculous place.
Event though its right in the Desert, I’ve seen what Abbey is talking about. The terrain and life is rugged and dramatic. It’s a stark contrast from the manufactured, manicured, and frenzied beauty of NYC.
On day 1 we were met with beautiful desert singletrack and some stunning geological formations. Today was completely different. Even though we were maybe 10 miles away from where we rode yesterday, we might as well have been on a different planet.
More specifically, Mars.
Today we rode the slickrock trail, which is known for its, well, slickrock. I was pumped as hell to give it a try. The slickrock landscape looks like something the Mars rover must have set eyes upon while on its death march. Swooping, rolling dunes of solid rock litter the landscape. The only giveaway that you’re on earth is the beautiful desert life that’s peppered across the land.
Our guide today was Heidi. Heidi’s an avid athlete who’s keeps busy by kickin’ ass at trail running when she’s not taking fat, spoiled New York cyclists out for pity rides. Needless to say, Heidi put us through our paces for the next 4 hours of Mars rovin’.
So how does it ride?? Like a Martian rollercoaster.
Riding slickrock is quite a departure from the singletrack that you’re probably used to. The biggest difference is grip. It’s Grippy. Super grippy. Grippier than my hands are around a Bacon cheeseburger. While the name “slickrock” may seem to imply differently, it earned its name because it is quite slippery when we’re talking about horses and cows. Horseshoes and slickrock= bovines sliding around like your mother in a Jell-O wrestling match.
So what does that mean? It means you can ride slick rock at ridiculous angles- up, down, sideways, off-camber, and probably upside-down. You can ride straight across a 50-degree off-camber that would make a cx-racer weep.
The Best part of slickrock is the swoopy stuff. You come to the crest of a slope, fly down 50 feet and slam right up the incline of the next. You’ve gotta have the granny gear on hand to get up these inclines. each of those climbs is a 20-30 second V02MAX effort that forces you to sit so far forward that you’re practically straddling the steerer tube like a stripper pole and spinning your legs around in your 32X22 (the 32 is in the rear, roadies). I may have earned a new nickname due to my overzealous spinning while going up these things…
Each of these aggressive efforts is like a little interval that you end up repeating about 30-50 times. We have essentially signed up for a week a daily 4-hour long anaerobic interval workouts. Coach roger would be so proud…
Understandably, some of those rises were too steep for us and we ended up dumping out a few times and walking. This leads me to a very important tip for all of you northeasterners coming to ride slick rock up here: TAKE OUT YOUR TOE SPIKES BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK OF RIDING SLICKROCK. Sure, toe spikes are great when you’re knee-deep in mud at Granogue or tap-dancing on a street corner, but on a steep slickrock incline they are about as useful as a Bacon AT-AT in a synagogue.
Around the midpoint of the ride we came across a bit of a playground- it was akin to the empty pools skateboarders do tricks in, but naturally formed. it was a blast to swoop in and out and take some banked turns. Naturally this was the perfect time for a far superior rider named Kyle to show up and demonstrate how terrible we actually are…
The whole slickrock trail is situated high above Moab. Depending on where you were you could overlook the whole town or the mighty Colorado River. What better place to sit down and enjoy the view then on the edge of a sheer 1000 ft cliff face.
I can say without hesitation that romping around on this Martian terrain was one of the best bike experiences I’ve had in my life. Who knows what planet we’ll end up on tomorrow?
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