Moab Sub-24

What better way to recover from an arduous 50-mile mountain bike race than a desert bikepacking ride? That’s what we did following the Whiskey 50 Off-Road this spring.

We met Aaron from Poison Spider bike shop in Moab the day after the Whiskey. As we rolled up to Aaron’s house, he greeted us wearing a red Little Mermaid wig and tie-dyed tights, and we certainly wondered what we had signed up for. First joke of the trip played, we loaded up the bikes and rolled out. The wig stayed at the house, the tights did not.


Our friend, Aaron from Poison Spider, showed us a great time ...

Our plan was simple; ride out in the desert until we were tired, camp and ride home. Aaron put together a killer route along those lines, from memory.

The weather previous to our arrival had been wet. Days of rain had left some routes impassible, but opened others. We headed out on a little-used, sandy Jeep road. Aaron told us that this area is almost impossible to ride on bikes other than in periods after rain. We had a thorough mix of bikes on our trip. Aaron was on his Blackborow with a Bluto fork, I had my Spearfish set up in endurance/bikepacking mode with big tires, and Justin was riding a prototype Pony Rustler.


JJ on a Proto Pony ...

Riding out under blue skies and puffy clouds, the weather was turning as we went. The clouds got steadily darker as the road wound on along the plateau. The scenery of the Utah desert strikes a particular cord with me: It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. The play of the sun and skies just added to that this time around.


The billowing skies were the perfect backdrop for the majestic canvas of Moab ...

We passed camps of folks enjoying themselves at the high time in Moab’s temperate season. Big trucks, Budweiser, music, campers and lawn chairs were the norm in this well-traveled portion of our route. Standing water and moisture-laden sand are not what I’ve come to expect from my limited riding out here. It was strange to see puddles and surface conditions more similar to home.


We're not alone ...

As we passed the four-wheeled campers the trail started to get much rougher. Meeting rock stairs and winding passages, our easy cruise started to turn into real mountain biking. The clouds were gathering thicker. What was broken cloud cover and blue skies turned steady gray. Light rain fell as we made our way further from signs of civilization.


The further we traveled, the more remote our roads became ...


... and the trail dwindled more and more ...

Hours of up and down, side slope, and slick rock passed. I started to feel my Whisky 50 race. Our pace was a friendly one though, and the company made the discomfort tolerable. The rain let up as we started to look for a campsite. Another storm front was expected during the night. In searching for the perfect spot, Aaron noticed a long, shallow cave on the cliff wall along our left. Leaving the bikes off the trail, we brought our bags and hiked up. What we found was easily the coolest spot I’ve ever pitched a tent. As if to confirm our good fortune, the sun popped out through the clouds. It was glorious.


A shallow cave looking out upon the setting sun would be our camp for the night ...

Campsite prepped and dinner going, we sat around a small cedar wood fire and watched the sunset through broken clouds ...

After the sunset and the fire went out, we crawled into bed. This was the last place I wanted to find a hole in my air mattress, but there it was. Not sleeping, I watched the line of rain advance up the valley. I didn’t sleep much, but the view and sounds were worth it.

Coffee and breakfast when the sun finally came up were welcome. Fed and caffeinated, we hit it early. Justin and I needed to be showered and on the road by 1 p.m. We had miles to cover before noon. The riding from this point was generally downhill. It made little downs and rock slabs all the more fun.

Morning apple + coffee ...

Riding next to walls of rock dizzyingly high is a thrilling experience. The terrain varied a lot on this section. Sandy and washy traded places with slabs of sticky rock around every corner. Aaron cleared sections on his Bluto-equipped Blackborow that I didn’t have the nerve to attempt. Grace on rocks and trail familiarity were huge bonus points on the route. Descending into the river basin led us back towards town. Petroglyphs were easily found close at hand next to signatures of Hans from Texas. They provide stark contrast of how things have changed quickly out here.

Petroglyphs new and old ...

Hot, tired and grateful, we rolled back into town. We had been in the desert less than 24 hours. We covered all types of terrain and saw things I’ll never forget. This was a perfect example of how anyone can find challenges, beauty and rewards in small amounts of time. It was one of the most rewarding outdoor trips I’ve ever done.

Fewer than 24 hours of Moab provided one of the most rewarding outdoor trips ever ...

This post filed under topics: Ben Witt Bikepacking Blackborow Explore Fatbike Justin Julian Mountain Biking Overnighter Pony Rustler Spearfish

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Ben Witt

Ben Witt

My bike is my ticket to freedom. I grew up exploring my world by bike. Since then I’ve had the chance to ride all across the country. I’ve met amazing people everywhere I’ve been. These people keep my wanderlust and sense of adventure alive.


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Scott Schraufnagel | October 15th, 2015

Too cool! Thanks for sharing the adventure. Great photos.

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Yang | October 15th, 2015

Dude, Agathla peak(3rd pic) is no where near Moab.

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mark willmore | October 20th, 2015

loved the write up…...............this sums up mountain biking for me grab your friends and just get out and ride!!!!!

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