Why would you drive 22 hours in one weekend to ride bikes? Sedona.


The blowing storms of Colorado (and a new house that we’re feverishly trying to turn into a home) finally got the better of Christa and I. We looked at our options for a getaway, and decided that in order to find weather that I could get my hairy knees out in, we’d need to go a lot further than Moab. The first option was Tucson: the idea of a big weekend of riding on the road sounded quite appealing for a bit, but after looking at flights and hotel options, I realised it wasn’t going to be that cheap. And the drive to Tucson was more than I had in me. So Sedona rose to the top of the list. I briefly visited (for about 3 hours) a couple of years ago. Just enough to know that I had to go back.

Christa and I drove up to Edwards on Wednesday night, then the rest of the way on Thursday. It’s a long way down there. I’m lucky to be able to work from my laptop for the majority of what I do, so even though taking a conference call in the middle of Utah isn’t ideal, it works, and it lets us strike the life balance that we both need. Christa is her own boss, and she pushes herself pretty hard. Once I’d got off the phone, I took over the driving and she plugged away on her computer on the rest of the drive. I think social media glosses over what it takes to do that. With perhaps just one Instagram photo to grab the attention of your audience each day, it’s not likely you’re going to share the 5 hours you spent staring at a laptop while hurtling through the Native American reservations of northern Arizona. But that’s what it takes to successfully make a weekend away on trails happen, while maintaining a full time job. Christa and I are pretty reserved on the internet, not wanting to get into personal life or politics. That also means that we don’t talk about the work that we do to keep the bike racing rolling. It’s not that we have it very hard, but we both know we’re competing against people who don’t work full-time, and dwelling on what we DO work would be counterproductive. Either way, we’re lucky to have jobs that facilitate what we’re doing, and it makes you work all the harder to respect the people who give you those freedoms.

After moving to America, Moab was the place to go: the pilgrimage to make on your journey to Mountain Bike enlightenment. And for this very reason, I’d never ventured further south in search of trails and the desert experience. I thought it was all the same. Once you’ve dropped off one red rock ledges towards a flowing desert creek, you’ve dropped them all. I was wrong. The riding in Sedona is mind-blowing. I’ve ridden in a lot of glorious places, and I arrived knowing what to expect. But it still amazed me. The biggest benefit compared to other places in the desert is the ability to leave the car parked and ride right from town. The trails circle Sedona in every direction, making it easy to thread the different networks together.

I started the weekend with a brief spin on Thursday evening. I managed to squeeze about 38 minutes of trail into a 45 minute ride, including Twin Buttes and Hog Heaven. I was sold, and reasonably certain that those 45 minutes of riding had justified the drive. On Friday we headed out pretty early, just in time to see the crisp morning light bouncing shadows across the canyon walls. It was tempting to wait for the day to warm up, but we were both in a hurry to get on trail. Even at 8am, it was warm enough to forgo leg warmers. I always feel so exposed on those first few rides in shorts, after being wrapped up to ride in Colorado.

We rode for a couple of hours on Friday morning, mainly taking in the trails between Sedona and the village of Oak Creek. I think these are some of the best trails in the area. They’re mostly mellow with a few problems to solve as you ride along. After lunch I headed out for a spin on the road bike, taking in the Page Springs loop, and then finishing with the Red Rocks loop before coming home. Compared to the trails, the road riding is a little lacking. Enough to keep you busy for a few days, but probably not enough to make this a destination for roadies in its own right. Perhaps it just goes to highlight how the reverse is true in Boulder: our road riding is really good on the Front Range, but road riding is not exciting enough for me to shout about it!

Saturday was a big day. I met up with Tom Sampson, Ben Sonntag and a local Junior called Hayden for a big ride. I wanted to get in about 6 hours of riding, and this was a solid crew to do that with. Christa and I rode south on trails to Oak Creek to meet the crew, and then we split up for the day. Our group proceeded to take in about 60 miles of the best Sedona has to offer.

It was exactly what I needed. As the light was fading, lighting up the canyon walls in a silky red colour, my legs were aching and we were still 10 miles from town, I found that deep happiness that only athletes know about: that mix of hunger and accomplishment that fuels the drive to train harder in the future.

The other great thing about spending eight hours outside on trails is that every other ride feels really short. We rode for 2.5 hours on Sunday, and it felt like a 10 minute spin. Christa and I were both tired, and we were definitely ready to get in the car by the time we left town. The drive back seemed a little daunting when we were leaving Sedona, but it went quicker than the way down. Driving through the middle of nowhere on super bowl Sunday means that you have the roads to yourselves! With two people, plenty of food and work to keep occupied with, the driving isn’t that bad. I just think of it as quality time that Christa and I get to sit next to each other for! This trip sated my early season desire to get on trail, and added some motivation to build on this weekend of training over the next few months.