Length of Bike Ride:
Easy to Moderate
Description of Ride:
Klondike Bluffs trail, Moab Uta
On my visit to Moab I decided to join up with on of the tours. Since this was the first time I had ever been in the area and I was unfamiliar with the trails and terrain, I checked in with a couple of the local bike shops about where would be a good place to ride. The first question I had was; where is the slick rock trail? They all suggested I not ride it alone and that I should hook up with one of the guided rides. So I finally called Rim Tours and signed on for there Klondike Bluffs ride.
They picked me and my bike up at 7:45 at the Chili Pepper bike shop. After a couple of more stops, we hit the road. It was a short trip, maybe 20 minutes to the trail head. The trailhead is about two miles down a rough dirt and rock road. I noticed as we pulled off the pavement, that there were a few cars parked there and a small group of riders gathering to ride the road into the trailhead. If I were in my car, I would have taken that option also. The road to the trail head is very rough.
After a short rundown on where we were headed and some thoughts on safety, safety is no accident, and passing out the Cliff bars, we were ready to head out. Shane one of the guides went over the bikes and how to shift gears, which gave me pause, thinking that I may have gotten in with a group that were true novices. The bike that Rim Tours provided was a Canondale with a lefty front fork. Nice bike that runs in the neighborhood of 2 grand to purchase and the guide made a point that everyone should treat the bike as if it was their own.
It was an interesting group; we had a couple from southern France, an older couple from England, a guy from Hawaii, and the rest from the west coast, mostly around the Bay area. There were eleven of us not counting the two guides Shaun and Nick
The trail starts at a cattle guard and winds across the desert floor. The first part of the ride is a double track or jeep road. Parts are dirt, parts are rock, and parts are sand. It is interesting and a good mile or so before we hit the upward sloop of sand stone, or slick rock. There is a trail that diverges, called Baby Steeps, but Nick our lead guide said it was an advanced trail and though it was called Baby Steps, it was very technical, to be forewarned. It would also add about 10 miles to the ride
As we rode along the jeep road, the sand traps were the biggest challenge. As we hit the first one, I lost control as my front wheel dug into the sand and made a sharp turn. I tried to control it, but the more I tried the worse it got. I had been right behind Nick and maintaining the same speed and he rode right through with apparently no problem. When we regrouped in a few moments, everyone started talking about what a pain the sand was. Nick said, the secret to riding across the sand was to move your weight back toward the back wheel, and steer very loosely. Don't grip the bar hard, and let the wheel pretty much go where it wants. I tried it later, and rode through both the major sand traps
After about a mile of the double track, we hit the slick rock. We stopped again to regroup, and Nick pointed out some Dinosaur tracks in the rock. There were rings of rocks around each of the prints, and when we arrived at this point I had noticed one of the rings, thinking it was a fire pit. The guides covered how to ride the slick rock and when someone asked why it was called slick rock, Shaun explained that when the settlers came across this area, the shoed horses, and the metal wheels on the wagons made for a very slick rock situation. Hence the name, slick rock. For bikes, it should be called stick rock. Since the tires on your bike cling to the surface, as I rode over the sandstone surface I could hear my tires making a sticky sound as they rolled along. The guides also pointed out that the surface was very irregular and to pay close attention on the return trip.
The ride over the slick rock was a moderate grade with a few steeper spots. Nick told me that the Slick Rock trail was much steeper. After we covered the slick rock portion of the trail, Nick also told me he thought I could probably handle the Slick Rock trail. He said the difference between the Klondike Bluffs trail and the Slick Rock trail was like running cross country and doing wind sprints in high school. You would ascend a very steep incline for a short ways then, come right back down, repeating this process for around ten miles. He suggested trying the practice loop before trying the trail. There is nothing on the main trail that is any harder and this well give me a chance to see what the ride was like before committing to it. Nick told me he has seen lots of people get out there and struggle to make it back.
The final section was again double track, or jeep road. About a half mile of it then we came to the boarder of the Arches National Park. There was a bike rack here so we all stopped and ate our Cliff bars. Then we walked out to the view point. The view was of the rock formation called Marching Men. Everyone took pictures and we talked about a variety of things, like what poisonous snakes are there, what other biting creatures and what big game inhabits the area. The midget rattler, scorpions, tarantulas, and black widow spiders are the biting creatures. Antelope, bighorn sheep, and deer make up the large game.
The ride back was excellent, the jeep road at both the top and bottom was challenging with lots of large rock outcroppings to negotiate and short sections of double track. The slick rock sandstone was by far the most fun though. Lots of challenging spots, yet wide enough that it was easy to find a path that suited all of the riders. There were a lot of people there though. There was even a school outing, about 30 kids with chaperones.