From the archive: Porcupine Rim Trail (DH style)

This story was originally posted April 27, 2004. Snowbound in Boulder, I’m dreaming about Moab!

We were in Moab last weekend to help with the Tour de Canyonlands XC race and get in some riding action. On Saturday, after we wrangled hay bales and parking cones, we gathered a crew and took on the famous Porcupine Rim Trail. Porc’ is one of those must-do Moab rides, and I was stoked to finally add it to my life list.

The full loop — from town, up into the mountains, down to the river and back to town — stretches 28 miles, with 3,600 feet of climbing and descending in about four hours.

Us, we were less into spinning up a dirt road and more into hammering our downhill bikes through rock sections. So we loaded the bikes into a trailer, climbed into a van and did it shuttle style.

The crew:

Keith Darner – Spiritual leader and chief morale officer. Also, Yeti team manager.

Ross Milan – Apple-juice-drinking hay hucker. Quote: “I don’t like female singers. I guess I prefer the male perspective.”

Jared Graves – Single-kidneyed Aussie on a DH mission. AKA “Style McStiff”

Lisa Myklak – Hard-charging rock hound.

Steve Wentz – Pummeled-face poster boy

Wendy Reynolds – Hardtail-charging desert pixie

Evan Chute – Spine-healing champion of not sucking

Me, Lee – Virally compromised master of mucus

This sight warms my heart — even if I was the only one with a squiggly S on his head tube.

The climb:
From the trail head we had a bastard of a climb. On a XC bikes it would have been a pretty mellow middle-ring spin punctuated by a few rock ledges. On DH bikes it was a full-force standathon puctuated by a few hikes. Never has a whole body workout been so fun — or easy!

After an hour of trudging, we topped out on the Porcupine Rim. Behind us, snowmelt trickled off the La Salle mountains. To our right, a cliff dropped to Castle Valley. Straight ahead, the AWD road gradually ran down the rim.

Yeah! Downhill, bro’!

Jared, Steve and Wendy, with the La Salles providing background.

Castle Valley. Jared is thinking, “Yeah, mate, I can ride that.”

Ross, master of all he surveys.

The descent:
The lack of steepness required some serious pedaling. We made our own lines on the wide jeep road, eschewing the worn berms for straight routes over the roughest of rocks. In the flat rock gardens, it was amazing how much faster you’d go by entering slow, staying light and pumping the backs of the rocks. Every time I tried to pedal through those sections, my bike got all balled up, and I slowed almost to a stop. The best sections were definitely the steepest: I felt like an Evel Kneivel Stunt Cycle riding down a tile roof: Drop, drop, drop, double to backside, drop, drop … We trained along the unfamiliar terrain, Ross or Steve or Jared in front, max heart rates, wringing the trail for all it was worth.

Steve made the rocks his playthings.

Nice little impromptu double.

Jared was all business …

… and speed. Check out the way he’s letting his bike cross the trail while he faces down the fall line.

Evan, healing from a broken spine, not sucking even a tiny bit.

Lisa likes rocks the way I like bikes.

Ladies and gentlemen, Keith Darner!

I’ll tell you what: When it’s time to choose sides, I want to be on Keith’s team.

This trail affords plenty of opportunities for “free” riding. Steve never passes an opportunity.

Steve is a drop-aholic.

Ross with a “let’s get back to the ground and get back to business” style.

Me, trying out that new Demo 9. The landing went like this.

A little XC action for the kids at home.

I thought Steve and Lisa would hit the same dirt line, but they went straight over the rocks. Oh, yeah, they’re DHers …

Wendy lunges up one ledge …

… and drops off another.

Between the fun (steep) sections we just pedaled along the wide dirt path, wishing we were on five-inch bikes with faster tires and longer seatposts.

This is SO FUN!!! Lisa lays waste to poor, frail Ross.

“One time in band camp …” Lisa, Evan, Ross, Wendy, Keith and Jared.

The trail gradually veers off the rim and becomes singletrack — more technical and definitely more fun. We ran along the southern slope of Jackass Canyon, 1,200 feet above the Colorado River. The trail became sinuous, and every left turn around an outcropping became a must-do move.

Evan cruises the cruisable.

“What? There’s a drop to the right?” Evan sticks this little tech section.

This guy is saying to himself, “OK, I want to fall … right there!

Jared charged this outrageously rocky drop to Jackass Creek.

Same with Steve.

Wendy knows what’s going on.

The road ride:

At hour three we dropped onto Highway 128 and formed my first-ever DH-bike paceline: Steve in front with his full-face helmet on his bars, with the rest of the gang crouched behind him, spinning single rings with seats too low and Super Tacky rubber growling on the pavement. We were a bunch of tired, hungry, thirsty monkeys. We got a drink at the natural spring at the base of the cliff at Highway 191, turned left and spun into town.

Evan administers to his “hydration pack.”

Ross gets straight to business.

Steve and Lisa spun all the way back to our bed and breakfast (burly!), while the rest of us stopped by the Tour of Canyonlands party at Poison Spider Bicycles. Just as we rolled up, a bunch of sandwiches came off the grill and disappeared into our grateful gullets. What a miracle. Race promoter Eric Jean loaned us his truck, which we took back to comfort. No sense mashing out those extra miles. This might have been a four-hour ride, but hey, it was still a DH shuttle.

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