photos 1, 8, 9 by John Watson
I shot over Tehachapi toward the red Mecca, stopping first in Bakersfield to camp lakeside in my fully loaded Element. The next day I drove endlessly, listening only to Jonathan Richman and Dan Deacon, and ended up in Kingman, AZ, late afternoon, just in time to unload the Retrotec for a quick loop in the rich desert landscape of the Cerbat Foothills. Spindly, squat, sculptural, looming – a wide variety of cacti thrived in that rocky, contradictory environment. The stop was well worth it.
I arrived in Sedona after sundown and met up with the Kitsbow crew, then car-camped in Posse Grounds Park, the venue for that weekend’s Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. The following day Ambassador Sam Schultz boosted every rock and cleaned every corner as he led a smiling, diverse group of folks on a late morning ride.
No filters or effects, just red Sedona dirt.
I tuckered myself out, had dinner at a riverfront Western cabin in the shadow of Cathedral Rock, and then blew air into my mattress as I drove to my ninja spot for another night in the car.
No MTBs in the skatepark? Sam Schultz hits the bowl.
Q: Why do the trails here need to be healed? A: Because they’re so sick!
On Sunday and Monday I rode as much as I could, shared coldbrew coffee with the Vanbassadors under the Kitsbow EZ-Up, met a bunch of good folks, and brought charcuterie and fine beer to the Ibis cabin because that’s how Scot and Kirk like to party. Classy. Dave from the Fat Tire Bike Shop poured us some of the finest tequila I’ve ever had. Very classy.
Turn up, tune out, and drop in with Jordan.
The next day, Lani, Jordan, Scot and I rode the Hogs loop and hollered our way down the steep armored descents. Then I hit the road, bound for Utah by way of New Mexico. A stop near Cortez yielded the fun, juniper and pinyon-studded buff singletrack of Phil’s World, grippy due to a recent thaw and perfect for pushing hard into every turn. Spring trails were blooming in New Mexico. I zipped up through Colorado and was in Moab on Tuesday afternoon.
The pre-NAHBS party started on the technical trails and epiphany-inducing landscapes of HyMasa and Captain Ahab, then Bartlett Wash in the afternoon. Jeremy Sycip, Curtis Inglis, Adam Sklar, and Alec White were all there to trail-test their pristine handbuilt bikes and put some hard-earned dust on their shiny new components. Steve Bretson, Katie Cook-Bretson, Colin Frazer, Josh Ray, John Watson and I were there to chew bubblegum and ride bikes. And we were all out of bubblegum.
We charged ledges on Mag 7 and surfed arcs of undulating sandstone waves at a place called Navajo Nascar by the locals. We screwed around from sunup to sunset.
We sessioned every fun feature we could find on Moab’s improvisational playgrounds. After dark, we went through our stash of fine whiskey and top-shelf wine during a BBQ potluck and literal sausagefest at Robbers’ Roost. The next day we hit a quick Lazy/EZ Loop, then started our hungover caravan to Salt Lake City.
Thanks to podcasts (especially 99% Invisible), the four-hour drive floated by and I was suddenly at the Salt Palace to help friends set up for the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show. We put the Sycip and Retrotec booths all together and then hopped in the White Industries Sprinter, bound for the party at the recently-completed ENVE facility in Ogden. Free tacos, free beer and a tour of the super-slick production line left me well-fed, quite buzzed and completely in awe. As someone who truly believes that cutting-edge domestic manufacturing is worth a premium price, I mentally made a note to drop the extra coin on ENVE for my next build. Plus, their tacos were really good.
NAHBS started the next day, so I wandered around and checked out shiny things. My favorite bikes in the show were the trail-proven Sycip, Retrotec, and Sklar mountain machines. There were also a few intriguing full-sussers from REEB, Proudfoot, Portus, and Alchemy. They looked highly shreddable and all I wanted to do was take them with me to romp around back in Sedona.
Curtis Inglis rode the heck out of this 29+ Funduro before NAHBS.
Alex Clauss of Portus Cycles brought this elegantly engineered, industrial-looking Fast Karl all the way from Pforzheim, Germany.
Shenanigans ensued that night and throughout the next day, which culminated in a post-show trail raid with the Oddity Cycles gang. We skipped dinner and headed for the hills, but our group dwindled when a wrong turn led us to a creek crossing and over an hour’s worth of hike-a-bike up impossibly steep, snow-covered terrain. Our descent on Bobsled was worth it. Big berms and big jumps, including at least one over a car, were completely insane to ride at night for the very first time. Colorado ripper Johnny Daggers took a hit to the face which resulted in a bloody bindi in the center of his forehead, and I went down on my shoulder pretty hard. We survived, scarred from the experience but intact, and our group hit the 24-hour taqueria for late-night tacos, still muddy and bloody and grinning from ear to ear.
The following day I was in pain but I felt triumphant. My trip was coming to an end. With nothing left to ride, I packed my shoulder in ice and started the long drive home.