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Moab; A Mountain Biker's Paradise

Tips to plan your first MTB trip to Moab


We’ve all heard of Moab. Or at least know someone who’s recently visited or planning a trip there. Located in southeastern Utah, this tiny outdoorsy town put itself on the map for being home to some of the world’s best mountain biking and, for sure, one of the most infamous rides, The Whole Enchilada.

Asides from the incredible riding, the town has much more to offer in terms of adventuring, including two national parks (Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park), breathtaking scenery, hiking, all types of off-roading, and a bustling downtown with restaurants and shopping. Top it off with a vibe of ‘everyone does legit outdoor activities’ and has some type of tan line or weathered outdoor wear on to prove it.

There’s a reason I come back to this place every spring.


When To Go

First things first, if you plan on visiting, plan your trip to avoid the extreme desert summer heat and winter (yes, Moab often gets snow and freezing temps). I've found the best times to visit are March - April and September-October. Although if you’re anticipating riding The Whole Enchilada, note that the top half of the ride is only open late July - early September; otherwise, it’s under snow!


Getting There

If you can drive, that would be the most ideal, as you will need a vehicle to get around and access the various trail systems. Other options include renting a vehicle from the airport you fly into or using the local shuttle companies (i.e. The Whole Enchilada Shuttles) to get you to/from the trailheads. Some of the more common trail systems can be accessed by bike, but you’re adding at least 90 minutes on top of your ride just getting to and from.


Flying - you can fly right into Moab, or more commonly, using Grand Junction, Colorado (~2 hours northeast of Moab). The other option is to fly into Salt Lake City, but you’re adding a few hour drive each way.


Accommodations

Accommodations are in plenty - book based on your creature comforts and budget. We spend the winter in our travel trailer, but we prefer camping out on the BLM land as opposed to cramping our style in one of the many campgrounds in town.


Eating & Restaurants

There are many restaurants in town with varying cuisines. One of our personal favourites is visiting the Moab Food Truck Park, burritos from Giliberto's, The Moab Brewery, or grabbing a quick bite from somewhere like the Love Muffin or Sweet Cravings. There are two decent grocery stores [that always seemed to be packed].


Bikes

You'll need to decide whether you will be bringing your own bike or renting one. If bringing, the more current your bike, the better. You absolutely need dual suspension (I'd recommend a minimum of 150/140 mm of travel), a dropper post, and preferably tubeless tires. Those items will immediately set the right tone for your experience. If you need to rent, there are many bike shops in town, including Poison Spider and Chile Pepper Bike Shop.


Trails

When deciding what trails to ride, remember that the trails here are far more challenging than those you're used to. Respect the trail rating and get warmed up before trying to hit the infamous Mag 7 or Whole Enchilada on the first day.


On the trails, you'll find mostly slick rock (a smooth but extremely grippy rock), chunky rock sections and shelves, hard-packed clay and moon dust. Pay attention, though! The views can quickly get distracting, and you'll find yourself off the trail or riding into a cactus before you know it. The trail is often marked by varying coloured paint slashes on the slick rock, or look for the tire tracks and objects lining the trail to guide you where it’s less obvious.

I'd suggest checking out the Moab Brand Trails, Klondike Bluffs, and Klonzo Trail System first to get acquainted with the type of riding Moab has to offer, and then venture based on your comfort level to more challenging trail systems, such as Navajo Rocks, Mag 7, SlickRock Trail and the Whole Enchilada.

Sidenote - SlickRock Trail is actually an incredibly difficult trail. E-bikes are permitted, so I'd suggest avoiding it without an e-bike :)


Trailforks has an abundance of info on trails and navigating, including opportunities to donate to the local trail fund (Moab Trail Mix). For more local info on the town, visit the town’s website.


Tips

  1. The fall has some of the nicest weather and is much quieter. It seems like everyone is on spring break and visiting Moab in the spring. Plus, you’ll have a season of riding under your legs headed here to combat the heavy miles and elevation, as opposed to your winter legs in the spring.

  2. Off-the-bike strength training is a huge asset before coming here. The chunky riding sure does give the upper body a workout.

  3. Layers are key. The weather can change quite suddenly from a beautiful warm sunny day to cool and windy, or even a rain or snowstorm! I love keeping a light waterproof jacket tucked away in my riding bag just in case.

  4. Everything here is SHARP! Bring small needle-nose pliers and/or tweezers with you on rides for any unexpected cactus removal (on your body). If you get any in your tires, do not pull them out. Cut them down flush with the tire, and let the sealant do its job.

  5. Drink more water than you think you need, and be prepared to feel out of shape. The dry desert air disguises sweating, and dehydration can set in quickly. Pair that with some elevation (the town is at about 3,500 ft), and you'll certainly feel your lungs on your first couple of rides. Take it easy to start!

Happy riding!


Already visited Moab? Leave us a comment below with your favourite trail!


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Great write up! I'm heading to https://www.outerbike.com in Moab with some other Toronto friends this fall (event is Sep 29 - Oct 1). Any other GTA folks doing that? Maybe could get a Minii / Ontario group together for a couple rides!

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