Why it's so attractive... and why it's not for everyone
Photos by Rim Tours guide Marla Bailey
Deservedly, or not, The Slickrock Trail is, hands down, the most famous mountain bike trail in Moab (and perhaps the world.) The following photos taken by Rim Tours guide Marla Bailey during a recent tour she led, perfectly illustrate the answers to two fundamental questions about “Slickrock,” (as locals often call it,) namely:
1. Why it’s so attractive … and
2. Why it’s not for everyone
Why Slickrock Trail is so attractive
There are lots of reasons why Slickrock Trail is so attractive. Number one is probably because of its fame. Near the beginning of the “modern mountain biking era” (there’s much debate about when exactly that is, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s say the mid-1970s) early fans of the fledgling sport learned about an 11 mile loop trail that rollercoasters over a freakish moonscape of sandstone fins on the outskirts of a broken down uranium town - Moab. It didn’t matter that the trail had been pioneered for Honda 90 Trail motorcycles back in the ‘60s. It was unlike any bike ride on planet earth, so it didn’t take long for word to spread. Soon, national magazines were splashing it across their covers. The Slickrock Trail became synonymous with extreme mountain biking.
Other reasons Slickrock Trail tops the list for so many visitors (illustrated by the photos below – thanks Marla!:)
- the idea that so much of it is “smooth” sandstone (it can be smooth, but it can also be very bumpy)
- the challenge of the many steep ups and downs and tight, twisty turns
- the scenic rewards at the river overlooks and unusual rock formations
- the sandstone surface is extra “grippy” providing super-traction that allows for riding steeper slopes and “side-hilling” more than would normally be possible
Why Slickrock Trail is not for everyone
The fact that Slickrock is so attractive sometimes causes riders to attempt it who then get themselves into one or another form of trouble. Some of those troubles simply cause personal discomfort but some cause far worse consequences. Here is just a partial list of reasons why The Slickrock Trail is not for everyone:
- Exposure: there are numerous places where a fall in the wrong place can send someone tumbling down a hard stone slope for 20 feet or more, or even over a cliff.
- Technique: the trail shoots up and down the sides and ends of many sandstone fins. Often these very steep sections are interrupted by tight turns or small ledges, requiring many riders to learn a few new techniques they may have never needed on other trails.
- Fitness: due to its many short, steep pitches, completing the loop requires a combination of both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
- Hydration/Temperature: the wide expanses of uninterrupted, exposed rock can heat up during summer, making the extreme temperatures of Moab even more extreme. It is not uncommon for people to underestimate the amount of water they will require.
For those wanting to ride The Slickrock Trail for the first time, it is always advisable to check with locals at one of Moab’s many bike shops. The people you talk to there know the trail well and will be able to help you gauge whether it is for you.
Better yet, be extra safe and hire a guide to take you on a half-day tour.