I left California with good intentions. I was going to get into Moab the next day in plenty of time to get in a ride the day before Thanksgiving. Then I neared the Nevada/Arizona border, and the lure of a $17 hotel room was strong. I pulled the van off the road and swiped my Visa at the Virgin River Casino and set an alarm for early the next morning. I hit the road in time to make Moab for a ride with Tony, Bama, and Sam.
Then I got to Saint George. I have a lot of history in Saint George, as it’s been home base for Trek Travel’s Bryce and Zion trips for years. There was no way I could pass through Saint George at 8:30am and not stop at Jazzy Java for breakfast. A stop to buy supplies for Thanksgiving dinner, and I got myself back on the road.
As the day progressed, it became increasingly clear that my stops in Saint George meant I wouldn’t get to Moab before the rest of my crew set out for a ride.
As I turned south off the freeway toward Moab, two days of windshield time behind me, I was itching to get out and play in the red dirt. I knew I wasn’t going to get a ride in, but I was restless, and I had to do something. Signs for trailheads ticked past, and with each one I hated that I didn’t get a ride in. As I approached the turn for the Brand Trails, I flicked the turn signal and rattled down the dirt road to the parking lot.
I’m a mountain biker. I’ve historically hated running. There was a time that I could have been chased by a bear, and I would have considered running and thought, “Meh, not worth it.” Here I was parked in a parking lot at one of my favorite trail systems in Moab, a mecca of mountain biking, lacing up my running shoes. I knew there was a great three mile loop from that trailhead, and I knew it would be a race against daylight to finish. I set off up the trail and instantly knew I had made a good decision.
The Brand Trails offer something for riders of every level, and you see all levels on the trails. The Lazy-EZ loop that I ran is one of the easiest trails in the network, and I saw a lot of beginners on the trail.
On my way up the trail, I saw a group riding down the trail, so I stepped off the trail to let them pass. It was a family, the parents on hybrid bikes, certainly not designed for mountain biking. They were led down the trail by three kids, an older daughter on a 24” Trek bike, a boy on a 16” bike, all the way down to a kid riding a 12” Tonka, leading the rest of the family down the trail with a huge grin on his face. As they passed, the parents thanked me for getting off the trail to let them pass. I could only respond with, “No, thank YOU.” With their hybrid bikes, they’re clearly not big mountain bikers, but they are raising the next generation of shredders.
As I continued around, nearing the junction to head back to the van, I was passed by a couple guys headed up the trail. The first was an older guy on an old Trek. The second was a kid in his mid-20s, on a bike that was non-descript at best. It was spray painted green and purple, from the frame to the cranks to the fork stanchions. From the look of it, that fork didn’t have any travel in it before it was painted, and by the time this kid rode it, it definitely didn’t. He was riding in jeans and a hoodie, and wearing an old foam helmet with a plastic shell. I stepped off the trail as they approached, and as they passed, he shouted at me, “This isn’t beginner. This is DANGEROUS… This is AWESOME!”
Some call it amateur hour. Some find the riders struggling through the easy trails frustrating while they want to ride through faster. I think it’s awesome. I think it’s kind of hilarious. I remember when I rode in running shoes, a cotton t-shirt and basketball shorts. Heck, I even RACED dressed like that. Even as I’m on my carbon full suspension bike and get slowed down through the fastest sections by riders who might be on their first ride, I’m not mad about grabbing the brakes. I’m excited to see new riders on the trail. It’s the same reason I smile every time I see reflectors broken from pedals littering the trails at Theo Wirth. New riders means there’s a great future for the sport. So to the kid on the Tonka, and to the guy in jeans, I hope you had a great ride, and I hope to see you on the trails again.