A quick reflection on when I raced back east. After you ride Blue Marsh for the thousandth time it’s nice to go out and do a race series that basically forces you to ride new places – especially those races held on private land (I miss the Cat Classic). Even when I lived in West Virginia I only raced three WVMBA races and two were in Davis. I did go to a lot of collegiate races. The point is when living at a new place that has so many new trails, I think it is ok to cast aside racing and start exploring.
I did plan a whole race season scheduled around Enduro racing – where you still have to climb but only the downhills are timed. But schedule conflicts and expensive entry fees pretty much kept me out of all of the races I wanted to do. So I explored the wonderful state of Utah and thankfully my job facilitates that.
There’s plenty of riding within a short drive from my house – and really great trails with sick downhills. City Creek, Mueller Park, the Bobsled Trail – just to name a few. And I’m quickly finding out why everyone out here rides a trail bike that climbs well – closest rise is an 8 mile loop, 4 mile climb of 1400 feet. You can shuttle some of these but the climbing is still there. I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to grunting climbs on my Cannondale Moto. Leading me to one of the worst crashes I ever had. The day after my sister’s wedding at Solitude (which I rode some lift chair runs in the rain the morning of the wedding) I took Jarkon Anderslammer for a quick Bobsled shuttle. Climbed up to the top, and as we started coming down I heard a noise like tire rub then the next thing I knew the front wheel CAME OFF. No time to brace for impact, I went tomahawking down the trail with the rest of my bike. In fact, when Jarkon rode down he saw only my front wheel and nothing else. Only to discover I was down the trail, blood everywhere, with my bell rung. All he could say was expletives, and the only first aid we had was some toilet paper I fastened to my arm with a zip tie and a rubber band from a tube. Long story short I rode the rest of the way down with my cracked helmet, and the nurse found a pebble in my arm. I walked away with lots of road rash, two puncture wounds in my arm, and my neck and back feeling like I was hit by a car. To this day I’m not sure how my front axle unthreaded itself.
The crash put me out for a month of prime riding time. I still managed to get some sweet rides in. Elsewhere along the Wasatch Front there’s an awesome set of IMBA built trails down in Draper called Corner Canyon that has one-way downhill trails (my favorite part). There’s Mill Creek which has the Pipeline – I swear it’s the only flat trail in Utah – which has one of my favorite downhill options called Rattlesnake Gulch. I also got to ride DH runs at Deer Valley on my Scalpel with Andy during the Cannondale sales meeting. But the highlight of all the front is the Wasatch Crest. It’s a massive shuttle ride that starts at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon and finishes in Mill Creek Canyon. Ryan and I rode it for 3 weekends in a row trying to get it in before the snow comes. Of course I take the Moto and suffer up Puke Hill and the rest of the 1000 feet of climbing, but oh my the downhills. The iconic section of this trail is “The Spine”, a super rocky section featured on the label for Squatter’s Full Suspension Pale Ale. Check out this video of it when I had Ryan’s GoPro on my seatpost - The Spine
Vernal, Payson and Jenn’s Century
Work does take me to places in the middle of nowhere, so I usually will try and find a middle of nowhere trail – the Corkscrew outside of Vernal in northeastern Utah. I am one of 7 people who have ridden it and recorded it on Strava.com. How did I find the trailhead you ask? GPS coordinates and the hubcaps and bike shoes nailed to the fence. It was a fun, sandy trail, and I can’t wait to check out this area more next time I am sent out for work!
Jenn did the Wonder Woman century in Payson, UT which sits at the southern end of the valley. She bravely signed up for the 100 mile ride, even thought she had never ridden anything that length. While she was out riding, I was going to head up Payson Canyon with the Scalpel to check out the riding up there. I should have had the Moto and a shuttle vehicle. And just a tip, if you ever go to a place that is best setup for shuttling, you are shuttling with a big pickup truck and only 2 guys, and you talk to a guy in the parking lot who’s by himself and has never ridden here – offer that guy a shuttle. 4 hours, a clif bar, and 70oz of water later I got back to my truck. I was beat. I talked to a guy, by himself, unloading his bike and offered him a shuttle. He turned it down. I told him, I thought I would ask since I could of used one and continued to describe him my ride – his response “Wow, yeah, that’s a lot of climbing.” Once I got to Subway and housed a foot-long I saw my Strava results – 4506 feet of climbing in 23 miles. I just laughed. By the time I got back to the start/finish for Jenn’s century and got a text that she was already at the 70 mile mark. I just hung around and waited for her to finish. I was so proud to see her roll in at around 9 hours despite getting 2 flats!
St. George vs. Moab
Despite being here almost a year, I’ve only made one biking trip to Moab so far and it was for Ben’s bachelorish weekend before the wedding. Jason, Ben, and I went “patches deep” in the Whole Enchilada – 4+ hours, 5 tubes. By far that is my favorite ride. Jason’s first time down, he reflected on the experience by saying “If this isn’t your favorite trail, you haven’t ridden it yet.” Truer words have never been spoken. But I got to ride another southern Utah mountain bike hotspot….
On the other end of Utah in the very southwest corner is a little place called St. George. Nearby town of Virgin hosts the Red Bull rampage. I thought of checking out the rampage area but I took the Scalpel down again, because I did have to work during the day so my riding time would be limited. On the first day, I rode Gooseberry Mesa, probably the most famous of all the trails down there. It is just south of Zion National Park, which paints a beautiful skyline for most of the ride. Gooseberry is similar to Moab’s Slickrock Trail, but in my opinion is a better ride. The trail is just more fun and has unique tricky areas and more play areas with names like “God’s Skatepark”. Also has areas of singletrack scattered about. This area alone makes me want to forego taking visitors to Moab and instead take visitors to St. George. The next night I had to race against the sunset and pound out another quick fun loop called Barrel Roll. The next day was the most disappointing, because I started on another St. George classic –Bearclaw Poppi. This trail at the bottom has a million different lines and is confusing especially to a newcomer like me. I ended up taking Stucki Springs and got lost a little bit and finished it as an out-and-back. I’ll try it a second time before I bash it completely, but so far I see why Moab still remains on top. St. George is less than 2 hours from a major airport – Las Vegas, compared to 3.5-4 hours from SLC like Moab. But the trail systems like Gooseberry and Santa Clara (Barrel Roll) require decent vehicle clearance and can be tricky to drive to (especially with a rental car). There are trail markers in both areas, but in all the times I rode in Moab I think I took one wrong turn. ONE! I struggled to stay on track in St. George, even using the same UtahMountainBiking.com one page ride-guides. St. George has potential, I just need more time and another trip down there for work.
With all these places I’ve ridden and only riding every now and then, I have been pretty happy being a weekend warrior. I appreciate you reading this long post, so I’ll try to keep the blog updated with more individual riding adventures.