April, 2015 Edition

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Escalera Street

Fatbikes Take to the Trail

They look like something Mad Max would use to escape Tina Turner’s Thunderdome. Either that or something a circus clown would ride to the grocery store for a cheap bottle of Canadian whiskey.

And it’s never been this healthy to get fat.

Page is known for her undulating curves of sandstone canyons and abstract rock formations that take your breath away like a beautiful woman sitting in the dim light of a dive bar.

Where there is sandstone, there is also sand… and lots of it. And it’s the deep stuff that eats rental cars on a daily basis.

The sand pits of Page and the surrounding area have also been the one obstacle for mountain bikers wanting to push their adventure beyond the Rim Trail.

The Rim Trail is a 12-mile, single-track carnival ride that roller coasters its way around the rim of the mesa Page rests on. It’s hard packed and flowy, but once you point the front tire of your mountain bike off the Rim Trail, prepare to dump handfuls of sand out of your cycling shoes because you’re going to be hike-a-biking your way back to the trail.

Send in the clowns.

Fatbikes have gigantic balloon tires – up to five-inches wide – that resemble something NASA sent to the moon. The wide tires combined with low pressure and meaty knobs have a footprint that floats on sand like Bigfoot wearing snowshoes, and it’s been a game changer for us who live in Page.

Fatbikes were once dismissed by the bicycle industry as a fad when they started popping up in the early 2000s. The custom mountain clown bikes had a price tag that rivaled a used AMC Gremlin with wood paneling and spinner rims. However, the fad has now become a new subculture of cycling that embraces what mountain biking is all about.

Mountain biking has always been about riding all the way to the horizon and exploring the perpetual adventure hiding there. Fatbikes are now being mass-produced by almost every bicycle manufacturer, which has dropped the price and made them realistically affordable to everyone... even out-of-season kayak guides.

If someone owns a kayak, they probably have a mountain bike, too. When we weren’t guiding kayak trips on Lake Powell, we were mountain biking the area and exhausting every last attempt

So we bought maps and over a couple of beers, we zeroed in on what would become the second coming of mountain biking in the area.

to find just a little more.

While guiding a kayak trip on Lake Powell, my co-worker said that he finally pulled the trigger on a fatbike, and as he paddled off, the ripple of what he said turned into a wave that changed mountain biking as we knew it in Page.
I bought one.

And when our other co-worker bought one, he said, “That’s three, now we have a gang.”

The Rim Trail is awesome… the first 200 times you do it. Now we are riding all those places we tried before where the sand was fierce and impassable like a Siberian roadblock. We pushed the boundaries, literally.

We found ourselves crossing boundaries like the city of Page, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management – each having rules about biking. Another roadblock.

So we bought maps and over a couple of beers, we zeroed in on what would become the second coming of mountain biking in the area.

It was just west of the small town of Greenehaven, Ariz., where miles of unmarked dirt and sandy roads create a maze of confusion. But one of those roads led to the edge of a Navajo Sandstone shelf that towered above the wash 200 feet below, and it went on for miles.

The fat tires gripped the sandstone shelf like Velcro and coincidently enough sounded like it, too. It was like riding an escalator down the fins and curls of slickrock that opened up into another set of rock waves at every turn.

We have spent hours out there, pushing it a littler bit farther every time, and it seems to be endless. It’s Moab in our backyard.

We looked up how to say “escalator” in Spanish, and from that moment on, the area has been known by locals as: “Escalera.”

So, can I tell you how to get to Escalera Street? No. I can’t.

And it’s not because we are trying to hide it or keep it to ourselves. I regularly take the wrong fork in the dirt road trying to find the last place I dropped in at. But that’s half the fun. It gets back to the roots of exploring by bicycle, which is much like the kid who gets his first dose of freedom the day the training wheels came off.