Mr. Stead

The following is an article from the "No Street Journal," a publication of the Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association. It was published in July of 2001.

Moab, Utah.

By: Mike Stead

First impression - Redneck idiots in Jeeps.
Last impression - Redneck idiots in Jeeps.
In between - indescribable really, but I'll leave that for later.

Unfortunately for me, the Moab community and the environment, 'Jeep Week' was on. About 1500 massively worked V8 vehicles tearing up the desert, littering, cutting down thousand-year-old trees to have bonfires, driving all over bike/hike only trails...not a good vibe at all.

There is growing opposition in the town to having the 1 week event. Those supporting it say it brings in $$$ (for a week. Duh.) Every businessman/waitress I spoke to said that the jeepers were really cheap, only brought T-shirts from the hastily set-up Jeep Week T-shirt shops, didn't tip the wait staff, and generally put off the folks Moab & the desert really needs - those who will pay for good service/goods, and will respect the environment (and will come year-round. Duh again.)

Example: We had just finished the last ride on Sunday, and were packing up the bikes when 2 Broncos turned up at the Bartlett Wash (bikes only) slickrock trailhead. They drove up onto the slickrock, leaving black tyre marks and crushing the plants & crypto soil clinging to life on the surface.

We got photos & license numbers, and the BLM will prosecute. A small victory, but really sad to think that they destroyed in 30 seconds a section of trail that took 300 years to form. And there were hundreds of people like this out there. I feel that as bikers we need to be aware of these sort of actions and do everything we can to stop, report or berate those carrying them out.

Enough politics.

The ride:

Day 1.

8AM: Met Lee Bridgers, my guide at his shop, 'Dreamride' in town. He showed me THE coolest bike tip I've ever seen - how to apply White Lightening, Moab-style. Put it on the chain, run it around a few times, then set fire to it. Keep pedaling, and soon your whole chain is Fuego! After a few seconds all the solvent has burnt off, leaving a very warm (but not too warm) chain with the smoothest, slickest lube job imaginable!

Drove out of town, thank god. The Jeepers were everywhere. Location X - Slickrock intro. Rode out onto an expanse of rock to get the feel for it, how the bike (an Ellsworth Aeon Joker -discs, tripleclamps, 6" F&R) handles on the rock, what you can & can't do, how to ride around cryptobiotic soil, vegetation, etc.

The black Cryptobiotic soil takes hundreds of years to form, the Cyanobacteria slowly binding the sand with tiny hairs to form something that can hold moisture and allow plants to germinate. This in turn support insects, small mammals and ultimately the Coyote, Eagle, and Mountainlion. So if you're ever in Moab, don't ride across the black stuff! Your tire tread will still be there long after you've died, and the desert will be worse off. Basically stick to the formed trails, and freeride only on 'naked' slickrock.

We visited a huge prehistoric midden site Lee discovered years ago and found amazing remains of Flint & Agate tools, arrowheads, spearheads and chipping tools. Left them there. This location is secret, and we did a lot of backtracking & portaging to hide our trail.

We met a woman riding on our way out. She had that 'I'm stuffed' look in her eyes, the scary kind that soon leads to bad karma. She was riding with some 'friends'. They were so far ahead it took us 10 minutes of middle ring to catch her 'friends', and suggest that they go back & help her out. They replied in a 'no worries' tone that there were 2 of them back there. When I said we had come down from a high peak and seen/passed only the 1 straggler they started to take the situation a bit more seriously.

After seeing the terrain out there it doesn't surprise me that this place kills a handful of bikers each year. It's a very dangerous place in a passive way: It won't kill you aggressively (unless you sit on a rattler) but if you screw up in any way the Desert Juju is waiting to remind you that you donıt belong out there...

2PM: Joe Camel loop (AKA Monitor/Merrimac, but the trail goes nowhere near these places). This was the real deal - surfing slickrock. Following a good local guide pays off bigtime out here. Lee knew all the lines, and put together a half-hour rollercoaster of pure joy. Lots of 'Transitions', the small lips between the standing pools in a slickrock wash. Some of these were only 6" wide, so following the right line was critical. An absolute ball.

6PM: Dinner at the Sunset Grill, high up above Moab. This place was built by Charlie Steen, the guy who discovered Uranium in Moab. $60 million in 1950. No wonder he could afford the biggest pool in Utah, and to fly his relatives overhead in his private jet just to watch TV (no TV in Moab back then).

Speaking of Uranium, 2 miles north of town is the most amazing thing (for a Kiwi anyway): a HUGE pile of radioactive waste! When I say huge, I mean 300 yards a side, 60 yards high. The Atlas Mine tailing pile has been there for 40 years, seeping into the Colorado, killing the unkillable Tamarisk trees along the bank. Every time the wind gets up huge clouds of radioactive dust get blown over the town. No joke. There is EPA superfund money sitting untouched while 'they' argue over how to clean it up. Maybe the years of irradiation explains why the local Rednecks in council don't appear to give a damn.

Day 2:

Riding on God's Sno-Freeze This was it. Having honed up those Slickrock skills and gotten used to the bike, time to do the big stuff. We rode waaaay out back, over slickrock, down canyons, totally alone, nothing but desert. Saw several desert mammals - a Red Squirrel, a Desert Rat - and several signs of mountainlion. Went through an area called the Moguls, a huge expanse of fractured slickrock with foot-high drops everywhere, like God's crazypaving. If you take a hardtail to Moab you are in for a hardtime!

After 4 hours, we looped back to where we started - The Bartlett Wash Entrada formation. This was it, no doubt. Big drops, wall surfing, sidehilling on 50 degree slopes. Beautiful rock, that looks - I kid you not - just like swirled caramel & vanilla ice cream. In some places fudge & vanilla, or just fudge. Again, having a guide was invaluable. No way Iıd have had as much fun without one. This place is Dangerous with the biggest D. The rock is soooo smooth that the light plays tricks, and a descent could be 20 feet or 200. Youıd never know until it was too late. That sweet line could roll into a harmless basin or it could drop off a 500' cliff. More than once I got caught out by depth-perception. 6" tripleclamps and superfat tyres saves the day. I saw folks rolling around on hardtails, and you could SEE how badly they were suited to the terrain. Even a really skilled rider will get eaten out here eventually - there is so much stuff you just can't see until youıre on it (or off it!)

One of my lasting memories will be the sound that Slickrock makes (or rather, the sound my tyres made. Slickrock is, well, rock). Itıs this buzz, ranging from a quiet bumblebee on the flat to a harsh, waspish sound when getting sideways to the slope at speed. You can do stuff on that rock that would have you eating through a straw elsewhere. Anyway, I had a ball. Hope this give those of you who havenıt been a taste of what it's like, and for those of you who have, some fond recollections.

If you want the best guide in town, check out You will not regret it. Tell Lee that Mike sent you!

DORBA is hands down the most proactive, organized club Iıve ever had the pleasure to play with!

Mike Stead

Mike has emailed to let us know he returned to NZ for two months where his wife Paula has given birth to a lovely baby girl, Isabella. They are off to Europe to check out those crazy Euro cowbell racer types! He expressed his thanks to all the DORBA folks that made him feel so welcome and shared so many cool rides with a "dang foreigner". The rollercoaster-drops on Loop 10 at RCP are still the scariest stuff he has ridden on a rigid tail. -- Ed

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