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A mountain biker’s pilgrimage – the Cycleshack holiday to Utah and Arizona

One of our regular customers joined us for the annual Cycleshack/Deers Leap family holiday to Utah and Arizona, to ride some of the most famous trails in the history of mountain biking. Iconic is an overused word, but that’s what they are…

It’d be fair to say that Richard enjoyed himself. As a relatively recent convert, he’s certainly been bitten by the biking bug and has a hunger to develop his riding skills on ever more demanding trails. And there’s no better place to do it.

Here’s what he had to say:

I’m fairly new to mountain biking. It all started about four years ago when I was looking for a new hobby. I found Deers Leap on the internet and decided to rent a bike there and ride their trails. I ended the day having refound my love of riding and I bought the bike that I had hired – a Trek hardtail.

I was hooked. After a few months I started riding cross country events around Sussex, whilst still regularly riding at Deers Leap. As I progressed, I ‘outgrew’ my first bike and bought a new, more capable Trex Fuel EX 5. At this point my riding became more downhill orientated. Adam and the team at Deers Leap then invited me to Bike Park Wales for a weekend’s riding and I found myself at the edge of my comfort zone, smiling and pushing the boundaries of what me and the bike could do. Over the last couple of years I have been to Wales four times and America twice. In the last six months I have found myself competing in Enduro downhill races, organized by ‘Pedal Hounds’.

Taking time out and developing as a rider

I went on the Cycleshack America trip in 2018. I had been to Wales a couple of times that year and I fancied testing myself on some bigger terrain. I decided to go again in 2019 as we didn’t manage to complete all of the trails due to weather back in 2018.
The trip itself is more than just a riding holiday. It’s a break from normal life and a chance to spend time with some great people. We ate some huge meals in some great restaurants (and some poor ones). We got to drive through some amazing scenery in The Rockies and Monument Valley. Awesome is another overused word, but it definitely applies here. We got to stay in places with great names like ‘Slickrock’ (in Utah) and ‘Dead Horse Ranch’ (in Arizona). It’s definitely not Sussex.

We spent eight days riding the trails around Moab in Utah and a further four days riding in Sedona Arizona. The riding is unlike anything else in the world. The slickrock offers extraordinary and confidence inspiring levels of grip and the whole landscape looks like a great wind-carved red rock rollercoaster. The bike feels like it comes alive riding in these surroundings where you can push it to its limits amidst huge rollers and great slabs of super-grippy rock.

After a second attempt I finally managed to cycle the famous ‘Whole Enchilada’ in Moab. We racked up a whole series of runs in Moab, including 7 Up, Bull Run, Slickrock and Getaway and in Utah we tackled the High Line and Slim Shady. The Whole Enchilada and the High Line were my absolute favourites. Sometimes, churning down a muddy Sussex trail you get to wondering what on earth you are doing. Here, it’s as though the bike and rider are in their element and everything makes sense.

Testing his Mettle

I don’t really know much about bikes – and there is a bewildering choice out there. I’m currently riding a custom built Identiti Mettle. Adam at Deers Leap helped me choose and spec the bike. Having ridden several times at Bike Park Wales and in the USA last year with Adam he knows the type of rider I am. I love this bike and I feel it will allow me to progress as a rider. Riding it in Utah and Arizona gave me knew insights into how far I could push the bike, with the startling levels of grip leading me to push myself harder and really go for it on nature’s biggest pump track. It’s just so exhilarating.

The power of positive thinking

Supportive and positive riding partners really help you relax into your riding. The group I went riding with in America – Adam Falshaw, Jordan Toogood and Steve Ranger – created an atmosphere where you can just focus on your own riding without feeling pressured. In this environment my general riding improved massively. Feeling relaxed and confident I found I could really improve my skills, specifically on drops, step ups and picking the right line.

Plans for the coming year

Little did I know when I turned up at Deers Leap four years ago where all this would take me. Over the next 12 months I am planning to go to Wales a couple more times, compete in several more Enduro down hill races and possibly squeeze in a trip to Morzine, France. All the time I’m developing skills and fitness, meeting great people in epic places and building a store of incredible memories. What’s not to like?

If I can get my hands on enough money I’d jump at the chance to do the USA trip again.

Thanks for joining us Richard. We look forward to riding with you again soon.

Fancy making your own mountain biking pilgrimage?

Get in touch and find out about our non-profit riding trips.

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