Ever since the IMBA Trail Care Crew visited I have entered a new stage in my mountain biking journey. Not only are my skills improving after the chance to have some one-on-one coaching in Sedona, but now when I ride I see trail design successes and failures. In fact sometimes it’s downright distracting. Yesterday, I started rolling down a steep loose rutted section, and I began looking at the hillside to estimate grade to guestimate whether this section was built on the fall line or just constructed at too steep a grade and without grade reversals. Next thing I know I’m putting a foot down before I bounce off the edge into a hungry cactus. Not quite ready for that kind of multitasking.
Yesterday I rode at Usery Mountain Regional Park on a few beginner to intermediate loops. It was awesome. Lately I’ve been reading, IMBA’s “Managing Mountain Biking”. In the first chapter they discuss what mountain bikers want: connection to nature, escape, fun, challenge, exercise, variety, connections, camaraderie, a sense of belonging, and facilities. In just a 90 minute ride I was able to experience all of these (except camaraderie) at Usery Mountain. They got it right every step of the way, starting with a nice welcome from a volunteer manning the entrance gate. She provided me with an easy to read map with recommended trails for mountain bikers. At the trailhead there was a clean restroom and clear signage.
I started on the Blevins Trail, which is a mostly flat winding singletrack that curves around eight foot tall chain fruit Cholla and Saguaros. It’s springtime and many of the cacti were blooming causing me yet another distraction as I would screech to a stop to ooh and ahh over the pinks, oranges, and yellows. I had brought my camera along, so I was able to alternate photography and biking.
The Blevins and Moon Rock trails were very fast, so even with my frequent stops I was able to get to the junction with Cat Peak quickly. The trail description didn’t list difficulties, but I assumed (correctly) that going around this mini-peak would mean moving onto intermediate level trail with some more technical sections.
Cat Peak Trail involved climbing over badly eroded water bars, a technical challenge that I am just learning to tackle. It’s nice to learn to ride over water bars, but I really hope that the sustainable trail building practices from IMBA will gain universal acceptance and we can replace these water bars with re-routes on the contour and/or grade reversals.
All in all I had a fabulous time. I would love to go back to Usery Mountain to explore other trails. Did I mention that while I was riding in Phoenix it was snowing in Flagstaff? Desert riding for the win!