Monday, April 2, 2007

Cosmic Energy - Part Four: Simon's Bike (and almost Simon) Go Over The Cliff

Channel Some New Age Singletrack with Rama and Stickums in Sedona, Arizona
by Dave Rich, Bike Magazine - April 1995

On Saturday morning we met Rama, Wheelie (Rama's shop mechanic nicknamed for his crazy stunt riding and his ability to true a wheel), and Simon for breakfast in Jerome, a former mining camp considered the oldest town in Arizona. Built on the side of a mountain, the town's roads are so steep they make the streets of San Francisco seem Iowa-flat, Some of the buildings are actually starting to spread downhill like slow-melting pats of butter.

Simon is known locally as "Stickums" because he went over the bars, landed on a prickly pear cactus, and was stuck with 300 needles. "I have nine lives," he told us between mouthfuls of pancake, "or at least I used to. I'm down to four now. The closest I came was racing motorcycles. I crashed going about 140 and hit a concrete barrier. The announcer said there was no way I could have survived."

From breakfast, it was a short hop to the top of Mingus Mountain where Rama, Stickums, and Wheelie began gearing up. Even though it was a warm day, they were all wearing tights, long sleeves, and gloves. "The brush overgrows the trail in some spots," Rama warned. Burn and I followed their lead. Doug thought he knew better.

Mingus Mountain is the toughest ride I have ever done. It took us five hours to cover 12 downhill miles. The first section is the Coleman Trail, a two-mile trials course of sharp rocks, agave, and steep, pinched switchbacks. If I had been alone, I would have said it was unrideable and turned back, but the Sedonans showed us otherwise."The trick is to go a little faster than seems safe and keep pedaling," Simon advised.

From the trials course, we hooked onto the Black Canyon Trail, which presented a new set of technical challenges, mostly organic. The trail was less rocky, but you had to pedal through stiff, sharp brush instead. The way was a jungle of scrub oak and cat's claw, with the occasional prickly pear land mine popping up and jabbing a quill in your sidewall. Within a mile, Doug's uncovered legs and arms were swelling and scribbled with long red hemorrhoidal scratches.

After three miles of brush torture, the bushes finally pulled back and gave way to fun, challenging trail, contouring the hillside, in and out of little valleys. Rounding yet another bend, I nearly rode into Rama, standing in the trail. He was looking at Wheelie, who was lying across the trail holding onto Simon, who was hanging by a tree limb over the edge of a 75 foot cliff...down to three lives.

"Get me up, man!" he was screaming at Wheelie. Just like on TV, I ran over, braced myself against a rock and held Wheelie's free arm, while he tried to pull Simon up without going over himself. Simon finally gained a foothold and we hoisted him back onto the trail. Simon explained that he had ridden the section a hundred times, but had been dicing with Wheelie, ate it, and went over the wrong way.

"I thought I was a goner for sure, man," he said, peering over the edge at his bike, lying unconscious on the rocks below. "I grabbed for the tree as I fell and by luck got hold of it. I was just worried the roots wouldn't hold." After a 20-minute downclimb, Wheelie and Rama managed to reach Simon's bike. Amazingly, the only injury was a taco'd front wheel, which Wheelie, living up to his name, fixed in a flash, and Simon was able to finish the ride.

The scariest part of the Mingus Mountain ride is that Rama says it's relatively tame compared to some other rides in the area. The trail rating "gonzo-abusive" was coined up north in Moab, but it belongs in Sedona. And the town and the locals are just as far out there as the riding. Rama said it all while we were discussing alien visitations during a rest stop on Mingus Mountain: "I wouldn't mind being abducted... as long as I could bring my mountain bike."

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