We have a grand tradition at Cycleshack – since 2013 we’ve been going to Utah for our staff mountain biking trips most years, of course for extremely vital staff training in mountain biking, not just because we like to! Moab is widely known as one of the world’s best locations for biking, with its stunning desert landscapes and amazing trails from rocky canyons and cactus covered desert to high alpine pastures.
This year’s trip saw four of us from Cycleshack Eastbourne flying to Los Angeles in March for a two week tour of Sedona in Arizona, Moab, and Hurricane in Utah.
A quick paddle in the Pacific for an intro, then Day 1 saw us drive to Sedona where we camped in nearby Cottonwood. Sedona is to the US what Glastonbury is to the UK – a bit of an ‘alternative’ lifestyle centre. But it’s also known for the spectacular red rock scenery and amazing bike trails including the world famous Hiline Trail.
The next day we awoke to – well, not the sunshine we’d hoped for. Normally warm and sunny, the weather was distinctly British! But being true Brits we decided we hadn’t come all this way to sit around in Starbucks, so we’d get out there and get on with it. This proved to be a great decision as we had one of the most enjoyable, if soaked to the underpants and muddy, days of the trip. Starting at Bell Rock we tried some of the intricate trails north of there towards the chapel area and came back thoroughly enthused by the great riding to be had.
The next day better weather meant that Hiline would be possible so with a little trepidation from the group we went for it. A straightforward if annoyingly fiddly ascent leads to the top of the hill, a viewpoint over the amazing red rocks scenery of Sedona. From here a swooping downhill section leads to rock shelves and fantastic slickrock trickery.
The Hiline Trail is an expert level trail, but we’re pretty intermediate level riders to different degrees so had decided to exercise some caution along the way – by carrying on the most tricky sections on my part at least!. Actually the really technical sections are fairly short and you can still have an amazing ride without feeling you have to tackle everything and defy death or certain broken bones.
The trail climbs some fiddly singletrack up a hillside, ascending until you come to a great viewpoint and opportunity to righteously eat food in anticipation of some gnarly ‘stuff’. This is followed by a quick bit of easy trail down to a slickrock area on the back side of the hill, which winds through rocky stream beds and along ledges on grippy rock surfaces. The slickrock isn’t slick at all – that’s the idea. Whether the name is ironic I don’t know, but it’s super grippy and a real pleasure to ride on.
The rocky bits of Hiline completed, on foot or by bike, we retired for tea and buns (or the US equivalent) to Bike and Bean in Oak Creek Village, a legendary bike shop with really hospitable staff and nice sofas! A barbecue followed that evening on the Cottonwood campsite before we headed for Moab the next day via the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, just because they’re there.
Arriving in Moab and campsite installation complete, we chose as our first ride a Moab classic we’ve written about before – Getaway (read our previous article “Getaway – One of the best short trails ever‘). The weather was much better and although there were a few muddy patches at higher elevations we headed up to the Mag 7 area at the top of Gemini Bridges Road to put the bikes back together and have a great day of flow.
Getaway is a real banker – the most amazing flowy sections of rock and packed desert dirt, with the terrain changing regularly. You can fall off a ledge, get stuck in sand, scrape yourself on a tree or get a cactus stuck in your foot at different places. Sam however chose to break his sternum whilst standing still. I exaggerate a little, but really… accidents always happen at the most innocuous times but this was a cracker. He wasn’t sure of it, so elected to just suffer in (almost) silence for days – I think he’s nearly recovered now, two months later, as it was indeed broken. Well done Sam.
The next day we had good weather predicted so we went for Porcupine Rim, one of the great classics of Moab and a world famous ride. This trail starts with a slog up a jeep road for an hour or so, followed by some of the most spectacular scenery on a bike ride anywhere in the world. It’s mostly singletrack and follows the rim of Castle Valley with sheer drops to the right before traversing to the gorge of the Colorado River and ending at a campground right by the river itself. We’d been wondering how we’d go back and get the car, but luckily for three of us Sam couldn’t ride with his dodgy sternum so we accepted his offer of being the driver. He still ran to the rim itself as apparently running doesn’t hurt as much, so did himself credit on the exercise front. The party of three struggled up the snowy jeep road before enjoying the long and surprisingly tiring downhill ride, about 17km or rock and packed desert. Followed, naturally, by an evening at Zax accompanied by Polygamy Porter and Dead Horse Amber Ale!
Next up, the Slickrock Trail – another world famous trail in a town with more world famous trails than you can shake a stick at. Or look at with a broken sternum and hope to come back next year. Slickrock is behind the town dump; a 13 mile loop marked with paint because the route is so confusing and the terrain so complicated. This is truly exhausting riding – you think it’ll be easy, but try doing HIIT training all day and you’ll get the idea! Endlessly doing steep ascents of rock domes, only to come down the other side on highly improbable lines that snake their way down what can only be described as indescribable scenery. We were tired.
More rides in Moab followed over the next few days before moving to Hurricane for a trip to Gooseberry Mesa’s lower level, the upper area being covered in mud from rain at that altitude, and then a ride at Joshua Tree outside LA for a bit of pure desert trail before heading back.
This trip is a real classic – we’ve written before about our adventures in the US but never tire of going and riding tails new and old. It’s all part of life at Cycleshack and our next trip will probably be in November 2024. Looking forward to it already!