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New trails renew excitement for mountain biking in Moab

Rider on "Bull Run." Credit: Bruce Argyle.

By Lya Wodraska

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published May 03 2012 01:01AM
Updated Aug 28, 2012 11:31PM

Moab • Slickrock Bike Trail? Done it!

Amasa Back? Got the lines on those ledges down.

Gemini Bridges? No way, unless you like sand in your mouth and Jeep exhaust in your lungs.

That’s been the thinking among avid mountain bikers for several years as Moab, long known as a fat-tire magnet, lost much of its unique appeal.

But that has changed recently, with the addition of several new trails with beginners and experts in mind.

"Moab had become irrelevant," said Bryan Nickell, owner of Porcupine Shuttle, a service that transports riders to Moab trails. "We’d become the ‘been there, done that’ place. It needed some changes."

For many years, there were few new options for mountain bikers. The stagnation was even more evident because of the flurry of new trails being built in places like Fruita, Colo., Arizona and New Mexico. Those places were luring bikers away, leaving Moab to the Jeep enthusiasts and foreign tourists. That wasn’t good for Moab’s reputation or for local businesses.

As word spreads about the new trails, those who make their living catering to the spandex-wearing enthusiasts are experiencing an increase in business.

"Moab matters again," Nickell said.

Tessa Groff, whose family owns the Rim Cyclery bike shop in Moab, has seen it, too.

"A lot have been coming back to Moab," she said. "We had nothing new to offer, so a lot of riders would come here and then maybe go to Fruita and ride so their lengths of stay here were shortened, but now people are re-energized about Moab."

Spearheading the work has been the Moab Trails Alliance, a group that was formed in 2003 by concerned businesses and citizens who saw the need for a better trail system catering to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.

The group has worked with Grand County, the Bureau of Land Management and others to open several new mountain-biking options.

While the trails present different kinds of challenges, they have one thing in common — they were built with bikers in mind.

Unlike the older trails that were laid out by offroad vehicles — resulting in double track trails —many of the new paths are singletrack.

"It’s what is so popular everywhere else nationally," Groff said.

The trails accommodate bikers with inviting flowing lines through the desert terrain, technical tests over slickrock and just enough climbing to get the heart rate up before rewarding riders with fast descents.

Trails such as the Dino Flow at Klondike Bluffs, the Lazy EZ at the Moab Brand Trails and others can give newbies a taste of Moab riding. Several trails can be handled by beginners or tourists who want to experience Moab’s famed slickrock without leaving half their skin behind.

Ashley Korenblat, president of Western Spirit Cycling, said that kind of trail development is what makes the new trails so important.

"Dedicated singletrack is critical to the success of a balanced recreation economy," she said. "The alternative is to allow motorized use to displace nonmotorized use. Shared use is great until it seriously degrades the experience of one group over another. Singletrack trails help solve this problem."

The trails also are appealing because they are clumped together in areas such as the Mag 7 by Gemini Bridges, the Klondike Bluff system and the Moab Brand Trails.

Such groupings allow riders of all ages and abilities to travel to the site together and ride for hours.

All trails are clearly marked, and detailed maps are available at local bike shops.

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