Moab The Whole Enchilada!

10 10 2012

A little Moab mud and cow shit…

Moab has been on my mind since my last visit in 2009. In particular I wanted to ride the Whole Enchilada which is a combination of 6 trails that span ~42kms and over 7000′ of vertical elevation drop. Due to the high elevation of the start at over 11,000′ you have to ride this trail in the late summer or ideally the fall when the snow is gone from up high and temperatures at lower elevations aren’t too hot.

So the last few years in the fall I’ve made some plans to head to Moab, but for a variety of reasons they just haven’t come together for me. It was looking like 2012 would be another wish-I-had-gone-to-Moab year with nobody I know wanting to go and being able to commit to a trip. I looked at flying there by myself, but with the cost of the plane ticket, bike baggage fees, rental car, hotel and food I didn’t have the budget for a trip.

Scott and his trusty VW Westfalia van…

My friend Scott was visiting Vancouver Island to kiteboard during the month of September and I happened to mention my desire to mountain bike in Moab to him. He offered to give me a ride to his home in Salt Lake City and lend me a cargo van to drive the rest of the way to Moab. That cut out a major portion of the trip costs – especially once I decided to camp in the van rather than stay in a motel.

Packing my bike…

The offer was sounding pretty sweet indeed. Scott is a pilot for Delta Airlines and also said he would get me an $80 flight back home. Awesome! The only trouble is I would end up missing Sharon’s birthday. Some girlfriend negotiations ensued which were aided by the fact she had missed my birthday this year for a trip home to the UK. Eventually I got permission to go to Moab.

I literally went from wishing I could visit Moab to hitting the road in less than 24hrs. That required a flurry of packing of my bike, gear, clothes and enough work stuff [computer, data files, etc…] I could handle anything that might come up.

Yup that’s me advertising the fun of MTBing in Moab…

It was fun to hang out with Scott and his dog Yuki on the ride down to SLC. I got to experience a VW van roadtrip for myself. I’ve been stoked about these vans for a lot of years, but had given up on the idea due to my limited mechanical skills. The trip confirmed both that I really enjoyed the VW “experience” and that I didn’t have the skills to keep a vanagon running.

One pit stop along the way proved to be fateful. I was walking across a mall parking lot when I tripped over a handicap access ramp and went crashing to the ground like a ton of bricks. At first I thought my right knee and ankle were hurt badly, but it turns out they went back to normal within a few hours. On the other hand my left big toe felt like it was broken and that didn’t improve for my entire trip.

You read that right I was headed to Moab to ride some of the gnarliest trails in the continent and I got hurt walking across a parking lot. **sigh** Sad, but true! 😦

I did all the usual stuff like icing the foot and taking anti-inflammatory drugs, but my toe ended up feeling broken the whole week I was in Moab. I could barely walk, but miraculously I could ride mostly pain free – well until I fell off the bike anyways!

Home sweet home…

Rolling into Moab in my borrowed white panel van I grabbed some maps and power bars at the Poison Spider Bike Shop aka PSB. They are a friendly bunch of folks with the best mountain bike swag in town if you are looking for a souvenir. My initial attempt at setting up a shuttle to the trailhead for the Whole Enchilada via PSB did not meet with success. I realized that was probably a good thing and I should start off on something less demanding and remote to test out my injured toe.

So I headed out for a leisurely breakfast at the Moab Dinner and read my trail guide to see what sounded good. On my way back to camp I passed the Moab Cyclery and noticed some activity inside so I stopped to see about a shuttle for the next day or the day after. The mechanic I spoke with said they had a spot in a shuttle going to the Whole Enchilada trailhead that was leaving in 20mins if I wanted to jump in. Impulsively I said yes!

Amassa Back Trail…

The thing was I hadn’t been planning on a big ride and my gear wasn’t ready so I rushed back to the van and packed everything crazy quick while trying not to forget anything vital. I made it back to the Moab Cyclery just as they were ready to leave. I paid my $25 shuttle fee and hopped in with a group of 5 guys and a couple. The drive took most of an hour and we climbed and climbed and climbed. I definitely didn’t feel bad about spending the $$ to get driven to the to the top. Chatting with the group of guys it turned out 4 were from the east coast of Canada and 1 was a SW US local they had befriended on previous trips. I didn’t really want to ride alone all day so I asked if I could tag along – assuming I could keep up. They were kind enough to say yes.

The start of the Whole Enchilada…

The guys I was riding with wanted to ride the Moonlight Meadows Trail rather than the Burro Pass Trail as the start of the Whole Enchilada. They had been on both and said Moonlight Meadows was a nicer option. I didn’t really care. As it turns out the start we took was an incredibly beautiful ride through an Aspen forest and bucolic cow pastures. The only downside was the fact the trail was muddy and featured some very very slippery roots. Frankly I felt right at home with a solid season of BC winter riding under my belt.

The Moonlight Meadow Trail was a bit juicy…

These guys were pretty fast and had the tech skills to keep moving through all the obstacles the trail threw our way. I’m happy to report that I was able to hang with them no problem, but I had to really focus my downhill skills to keep my speed up and my braking to a minimum. They weren’t much into stopping or photography which is why I’ve got so few ride photos to share. So I’m throwing in photos from other Moab rides to give you an idea of the scenery and terrain in the area. I definitely want to go back and ride the Whole Enchilada at a slower pace with loads of photo shoot time.

The first real problem for me happened at the end of the Moonlight Meadow Trail where we had to undertake a 30-40min hike-a-bike at over 10,000′. Recall I am from sea level, my toe felt broken and this was my very first ride in Moab. I was literally gasping rapidly like a fish on land, but there simply did not seem to be any oxygen in the air. My toe was complaining every step for the whole ordeal so I can tell you I was incredibly happy to finally get to the top.

One of our infrequent rest stops…

If I have one complaint about our local South Shore Vancouver Island mountain biking it’s that it doesn’t go anywhere. Riding areas tend to be very dense with interconnected trails and rides have a hamster in a habbitrail feel as we loop around and around to build up mileage. Well that was not an issue on this ride. The trail kept going and going. As we descended it was fun to notice the change in vegetation from the high altitude Aspen forest down to the rocky desert at 4,000′. To cover 42kms in any reasonable time you have to keep moving.

It was cool to hammer away hour after hour and realize you were only just making progress towards the finish.

The Lazy One on the Porcupine Rim Trail…

Riding as fast as I ever have for a sustained period of time over some uber chunky rocky terrain with a broken toe was a lot better than I would have thought. Other than the odd tech section I had to walk I rode 97% of the trail and my toe didn’t hurt too bad while riding until the last hour or so. I had planned to pack some Advil for the last part of the ride, but forgot it due to my hasty packing process. That’s too bad because after 3-4hrs of pounding it would have been nice to dull the pain a bit at the end of the ride.

Having said that I must thank the Bike Gods for ensuring that my injury didn’t ruin the trip. It was just bad enough to make me appreciate my generally excellent health and to ensure I didn’t take my ability to ride a mountain bike for granted.

This video gives you a good flavour of the lower section of the ride.

It was just as we got to this part of the ride that our local US rider crashed hard damaging a tendon in his hand and cutting himself enough to generate a serial killer worthy puddle of blood under him. As luck would have it the 4 Canadian riders I was with were all ER doctors. Sadly between them they didn’t have a single band aid. Not to worry; I was carrying a small first aid kit which I gave to the medical team. They quickly dressed the wound as best they could in the field. We had cellphone coverage so the injured rider’s wife was called for an evacuation and two of the doctors accompanied him slowly off the trail. Sadly that meant the end of their ride. 😦

Slickrock and sand…

The three of us left finished the ride on our own. Enjoying the techy rocky goodness that is Porcupine Rim Trail. Although I had been smiling most of the day as we approached the end of the ride fatigue set in and I had to be really careful I didn’t crash. There were lots of opportunities to fall down a long way to a hard landing and I didn’t need any more injuries!

Eventually we arrived at the finish of the trail and the van our group had pre-positioned at the end. Yup – not only did I get to ride with a fun bunch of guys who would have had my back in case of a crash, but they also gave me a ride back to town saving me a hot boring 10km pedal on the side of the highway. Thanks guys!

Post ride refreshment!

Back at the van with an ice cold beer in my hand I was exhausted and fully satisfied. If that was the only ride I did in Moab it would have been a worthwhile trip. Getting to ride hard at high speeds for hour after hour is just not an experience I get to have while mountain biking at home. The quality of the trail was high, but it’s not that any one section of the Whole Enchilada was the best riding I’ve ever done. What really makes the experience special is that the trail just keeps going and going and going. Describing this trail as EPIC is not an overstatement.

You gotta love the views…

If my toe hadn’t been so screwed up I would have ridden the Burro Pass version of the Whole Enchilada later in the week. However, there were lots of other less epic trails that needed some love such as: Slickrock, Amassa Back, Magnificent 7, etc… I was really barely able to walk so I figured it was smarter to stick with trails that offered easier evacuation options and leave Burro Pass for my next trip to Moab – when I’ll hopefully be fully mobile.

Slickrock Trail…

Speaking of Slickrock Trail on my last trip to Moab I actually said I would never ride Slickrock again. I changed my mind and gave it another shot. I’m glad I did. With 3 years of BC riding under my belt I discovered a whole new love for the bizarre techy goodness that is Slickrock. It also didn’t hurt that I had the whole place literally to myself which was fun. My idea of what’s hard and what’s doable when it comes to technical mountain biking has totally changed over the last few years. That’s made trails that frustrated me super fun and also made trails I used to enjoy seem boring.

Manly mountain biking beer…

Flying home after a week in Moab my only regret was that I couldn’t stay for another week. My toe was just starting to improve at the end of the trip and my lungs were finally finding the oxygen they needed to prevent me from gasping on every climb. It took a few days to get my suspension dialed into the higher speed chunky style of riding that Moab offers. In every respect things had just gotten awesome as I packed up the van and headed back to Salt Lake City.

Amassa Back Trail…

The Lazy Rando Moab 411:

  • the two bike shops I like are the Poison Spider and the Moab Cyclery
  • the Moab Cyclery has a convenient easy to use shuttle service
  • Rider Mel’s Mountain Bike Guide is worth the $17 price [get version 5] – all the trails listed as “classics” are worth riding
  • I stayed at the Canyonlands Campground which is right in the center of town and has showers, electrical hook ups, wifi and water at reasonable prices. There free and rustic lower cost camping options outside of Moab as well.
  • I ate breakfast at the Moab Dinner and dinner at the Fiesta Mexicana
  • McDonalds has gnarly food, but the best free wifi in town
  • best time of the year to visit is October as temps will be cool and crowds will be less
  • ideal Moab bike is a 6″ full suspension all mountain rig

Adios Moab – until next time…



12 responses

10 10 2012
Mike Lodewyk

Awesome Vic! So cool, definitely a place I need to ride!

10 10 2012
Big Wicker Jim

Nice trip report. The video footage is great. I wouldn’t want to screw up in some of those sections with the rather steep drop off to the right.

I’m looking to head to St. George in the spring for some hiking and mountain biking, so I hope it’s as awesome as Moab (or even close for that matter).

10 10 2012
John Trevithick

Hey Vik- Great to read your Moab trip and ride report and watch the video. Ever try the Flume trail on the east side of Lake Tahoe? Your Moab video brings the Flume trail to mind – beautiful views along a single track but not overally tricky or technical trail, yet lean too hard the wrong way or catch a rock or patch of sand wrong, and you might find yourself tumbling off to some unspeakable point far below. Another rider’s video of the Flume Trail here: . Map here:

10 10 2012

@John – I’ve never ridden at Tahoe. Too many trails and too little travel time! Kind of reminds me of Highline Trail in Sedona – same sort of exposure.

I actually went flying off the cliff side of a trail in Sedona. I feared a deadly fall, but was lucky and landed in a tree!

10 10 2012
Doug M.

awesome report! just saved the link in Delicious for my eventual pilgrimage to the land of Ed Abbey and classic mountain biking.

10 10 2012
John Trevithick

With all your adventure seeking, Vik (I don’t know that I’d ever be bold enough to try kiteboarding), I guess it’s not surprising to hear you found yourself hurtling through the air only to be saved by a tree, but Yikes! (Watching the Tahoe Flume Trail video again, the drop-off looks even more gnarly than your Moab video…I will have to be getting back to Tahoe myself!)

BTW, appreciated your sane and courageous post on Lance Armstrong declining to address the doping charges in an arbitration hearing. Those that insist it’s a witch hunt, they’re all doping anyway, he was just leveling the playing field, prosecuting him is a big waste of money, he’s done so much for cancer, blah, blah, blah, are missing the point.

11 10 2012

Love the spontaneous part of this trip too. From the leaving to the meet up with strangers along the ride, you just went for it. Any more insights on Nomad replacement after another dose of Moab?

11 10 2012

@Mike – for the first time I can recall I felt out gunned by the trail riding my Nomad. Chalk that up to faster speeds than ever and lost of square edged chunky rock which is hard for suspension to absorb. Also keep in mind I was tweaking my suspension everyday until the very last so I probably only got it 100% dialed at the end of my trip.

The Fox DHX Air shock on my Nomad is not loved by many Nomad riders in its stock tune. I am debating getting it custom tuned by PUSH or just living with it and buying a new bike when I can.

The 3 bikes I’m looking at currently are Knolly Chilcotin, Ibis Mojo HD and the Banshee Rune V2. Probably in that order of preference so far. Knolly has announced a 650B version of the Chilcotin and that’s the one I would be after so I don’t have to make any decision quite yet.

Problem with a new bike is the cost. I’ve been saving $$ as much as I can on my limited income this year. In theory I have enough to at least start considering a new bike, but that money is also part of my emergency fund so I need to stabilize my work situation a bit better before I’d be comfortable spending the cost of a new ride.

11 10 2012

Not sure if those 3 will do much different than your Nomad, so I say save your $$. Don’t get me wrong – all are awesome specimens of fun machines. If you were after a bike with different intended purpose (i.e. more xc bias), that would be different but those 3 and the Nomad are all prime cuts of modern AM bikes, no?

Again, sounds like a great trip and for one of the first times you weren’t ‘overbiked’. Takes a loooonnngg time to get this bikes dialed in. I may hit up Hartland on the Nov11th weekend if you’d like to try Element 950…

12 10 2012

@Mike – my Nomad is an XL. I would probably buy a medium Knolly for example. I fit my Nomad when I was in an XC mindset so that in itself would be a huge changed. I would also buy the Knolly with premium suspension bits and get them custom tuned. The Knolly suspension design performs quite a bit differently than the VPP used on the Nomad. The Knolly also offers two geometry settings both of which are slacker than the Nomad’s.

My thought is that taken together it would be significant difference in performance.

By the time I would switch to the Knolly I would have 5 years of riding the Nomad. I’m thinking it would be nice to ride a different bike at that point. Just for variety.

Ya I would love to try the Rocky….drop me a line as things get close.

13 10 2012

Ah that makes sense Vik. Noel B is an old friend of mine and builds a really really good bike, and I think it’s worthy beyond words (my 2c says wait for 650 Chili :-)). As Nov11 plans firm up, will drop you a line. Have a great weekend.

13 10 2012

@Mike – I’m headed past SC HQ on my way to Baja this winter. I’m going to see if they will sell me a large Nomad front triangle. If they will I’ll probably put a new bike on hold until there are lots of 650B options. If not that will make me more interested in a new bike.

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