Monday, March 12, 2007

Sedona Full Moon Rides - Part Two

Sedona Full Moon Rides - Part Two
with Rama Jon
Full Moon Riding in Sedona: no lights allowed…or needed!

There is something special about being out on your bike on the trail as the rest of the city sleeps. In the silence and the darkness you can’t help but notice nature, there is nothing else out there. The noises of the city are easily forgotten for a few moments as the full moon casts it’s mysterious spell over all of us. The heightening of the senses is addictive and is probably the key to being able to ride at all. This is the same addiction that makes us all mountain bikers in the first place, whether we are first time riders or seasoned veterans.

When you get to Sedona, the first thing to do is stop by Mountain Bike Heaven and find out when the locals are riding. Club rides, another tradition of Mountain Bike Heaven are on Wednesday and Sunday mornings and are free to all takers. Sunday’s adventure is for advanced riders only, while Wednesday is more moderate and open to all skill levels.

Sedona’s trails are easy to get to and fun to explore. It’s best to orient yourselves with the red rock formations and then go. No need for a Red Rock Pass since you can pedal to all the trails from town. So stash the car and pedal to the trails. Recent work on the trail system has made the trails easier to follow allowing for more fun and less wandering around in the woods.

There are several loops around town that can take anywhere from 2.5 hours to 5 or 6 hours. If you can’t make one of the club rides and you don’t feel comfortable on your own, Mountain Bike Heaven offers Bikapelli Adventures that are custom made for your needs. For those who want a crack at Sedona red rock riding on their own, it’s best to snag a reference map so you can find the connections from one trail system to another. Recently the names of most of the trails have been changed to protect the innocent and confuse everyone else, so don’t get too hung up on the map.

To enjoy Sedona completely you need 2 or 3 days, and it really takes several months to figure your way around. The classic Sedona rides include the red rocks at Broken Arrow and Soldier’s Pass. Both of these areas link up with many trails in many directions most of them well marked by huge cairns fondly referred to as "rocks in bondage" or by heavy tire tracks.

Other classic rides include: Secret Trails, Midgely Bridgely, Cathedral Rock, Buddha Beach, Pyramid, Compactor, CoxComb, Deadman’s Pass, Mescal Mtn, Carrol Canyon, Stutz Bearcat, the Other Side, to mention a few of the favorites.

Sedona’s brutal rough rocky cactusy side is best portrayed on the Airport Loop and it’s many offshoots. Xtreme downhillers can test their nerve on the many downhills off of Schuerman’s Mtn, but you’ll have to pedal up. If shuttling is your thing, the new Schnebely Hill/Munds Trail is just what the doctor ordered, a 10-mile downhill run into town. And for those who want something totally different, the Mingus Mtn shuttle and downhill is beyond beyond. This ride was once referred to as the revenge of the vegetables.

While in Sedona, eat like the locals. Sit-down breakfasts are best at Soup and Salad, or the Coffee Pot, and take out at Sedona Bagel and Donut can’t be beat. After ride favorites include the buffet at the Indian Palace, the best sandwiches in town are at Sedona Memories, and the Red Planet Diner and Myan Taco across the street form the bikeshop are standards. Upscale dinners can be had at the Javalina Cantina, and vegetarian faire is at Tai Spices and New Frontiers Natural Foods.

Nitelife is a bit dull in Sedona, but getting brighter. The Oak Creek Brewary provides entertainment and a cross section of Sedona natives. For nighttime coffee try Ravenheart and don’t forget to check out the new wine bar and martini bar.

Take it from someone who knows, Sedona has the best mountain biking around, day or night, with or without light.

This article was written by Rama Jon, founder of Mountain Bike Heaven. The Bike Shop can be reached at (928) 282-1312.

Special thanks to the many riders who have contributed to the full moon experience in Sedona.

Sedona Full Moon Rides - Part One

Sedona Full Moon Rides - Part One
with Rama Jon

Full Moon Riding in Sedona: no lights allowed…or needed!

Full moon rides have been a tradition at Sedona’s Mountain Bike Heaven for over fifteen years. The faces have changed and the sizes of the groups vary dramatically, but one thing stays constant, no lights allowed.

After completing yet another evening adventure lit solely by the moon, our chief mechanic Wheelie-Todd commented, " you guys are crazy!" This from a guy who has no problems strapping lights on his bike and pedaling into darkness. It takes a special synergy of environmental, social, and spiritual conditions to inspire even mountain bikers to venture out on trails lit only by the rays of the moon.

Over the years the size of the groups have varied from a couple of hearty or fool-hearty riders to whole herds of mountain bikers who have partied hearty with a BBQ and festivities prior to embarking into the moonlight. One thing for certain, it takes the right combination to enjoy a full moon ride, and that combination happens in Sedona year round.

On this particular full moon in February we did one of the secret Sedona classics. A combination of known and lesser-known trails with a bit of dirt road riding tossed in to keep things under control. There were eight of us who set out on this moon lit adventure, one novice and seven seasoned riders. We kept to a mellow pace so as not to harsh on our novice, and to tell you the truth, it’s hard to go fast when your not sure what’s under your wheels. Riding in and out of shadows turns even an easy everyday trail into a challenging experience.

The dirt road provided for lots of laughs as we floated through large pockets of deep sand, sometimes sideways. And then there was the coasting race that transformed us into mountain bike maniacs going exceptionally fast. One rider provided additional entertainment when he coasted way too fast inside on a turn and went rolling, rolling, rolling, but not hurt.

Next up was the climb, a slow steady rock strewn menage of eirie shadows reflecting off of tall trees and red rocks. Our tires rolling over the rocks was the only sound other than our novice’s heavy breathing as the more skilled riders dropped him. We all waited at the top, overlooking the lights of Sedona and reveling in the silence.

As we began our descent back into town, the coyotes gave us a goodbye chorus. The silence was now broken by our squealing brakes and the rocks rolling under our wheels as we rode the sketchy descent home.

Perhaps the hardest part of this particular ride on this particular night was having the right clothes on at the right time, for even in Sedona, February evenings are a chilly time.

Over the last decade there are many memorable full moon rides. In the early days we rode the easier trails at Broken Arrow and Soldier’s Pass. I think with the largest group ever we challenged the climb at House Mountain. This is a gnarly climb even in the daylight and as I recall, several of us pretty nearly aced the climb.

My personal favorite types of full moon adventures are truly adventures. I prefer to start at 2:30 in the morning and catch the transition between night and day.

Full moon is the perfect time for a brutal or boring climb. Sometimes not being able to see what’s ahead has its advantages. Then, as the day dawns, I’m ready for the gnarly descent. In many cases we are done and on our way back for breakfast before the rest of the town is up.

On one occasion we left at 2:30 on a yet untested route and reached our destination ten minutes before a pre-arranged second ride, only to find that the other riders were still out at breakfast and this was at ten in the morning.

If I had to pick one particular ride that stands out above all others it would have to be the full moon ride when it was snowing. Snow rides in Sedona are spectacular to begin with, and to ride in the snow with the snow flakes playing hide and seek with the moon, well that’s a once in a blue moon experience.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mountain Bike Heaven stars in TLC's "Too Extreme" TV Show

Mountain Bike Heaven Stars in "Too Extreme" TV Show

One day I get a call from Dangerous Dave, "Hey Trouble, Robert the magician gave me the number of a woman who is looking for extreme mountain bike action footage for a television show." WOW! that’s right up our alley. Who’s more extreme than the Mountain Bike Heaven Gnarly Crew, not to mention we just love making movies.

So I call Termite Art Productions in Hollywood Ca. and send a Copy of our CRASH HIT video "Dances on Rocks." As it turns out, The Learning Channel (TLC) was creating a series on extreme lifestyles called "TOO EXTREME" and wanted a gnarly segment on mountain biking.

They loved the flick and sent a film team to capture the crew alive in action: here's a little pictorial of our 1st time on National Television.

We also boiled the segment down to Real Video for your enjoyment:

Click to Watch: MBH "TOO EXTREME" Segment - Real Video (7:57)

Click here to download FREE RealPlayer

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Revealing The Secret Sedona

Slickrock with Great Restaurants
by Richard Cunningham - MTB Action Magazine 9/96

Sedona is one of those art-gallery-on-every-corner, chic Southwestern tourist destinations, right? Serious Arizonian explorers remark with downturned lips that Sedona wasn't a "real town" until 20 years ago. While all this may be true, MBA discovered another side of Sedona that probably should be kept secret. Surrounding the artsy New Age village, tucked between vertical red and white sandstone cliffs, are the kind of awesome singletrack trails that hardcore mountain bikers live for. We admit that we expected Sedona's uppercrust curio shops, espresso bars, jewelry stores and trattorias to be down on mountain bikers, but the reverse is true. Sedona's city government has chosen to embrace the mountain bike community and, contrary to some people's first impressions, fat-tire cyclists will discover a side of Sedona that is pleasant, accessible and affordable.

The MBA wrecking crew ended up in Sedona because ProFlex Commander-in-Chief Ralph Hines was sending the Pro-Flex/BMW race team to Arizona for a week of training for the World Cup. We decided to tag along for a chance at free food, serious Sedona back country and riding with the world's fastest mountain bike racers. We knew we could eat with the best of the ProFlex team, but we did have major reservations about our ability to hang with three-time World Champion Hank Djernis.


There are no trail maps detailed enough to depict every trail surrounding Sedona. The all-time best guide to mountain biking in Arizona is Fat-Tire Tales and Trails by Cosmic Ray. There are two good bike shops in Sedona that will get you pointed in the right direction and it takes little coaxing to lure shop employees out for a ride. How do you choose which shop to visit? Conservative types may choose to visit Sedona Sports on the north end of Highway 89A, while true moto devotees should visit "Rama" at Mountain Bike Heaven on the west end of the same highway.

For an initial orientation to Sedona's brand of red clay and rock, we would recommend the loop out to Submarine Rock. This is a popular route for Jeep tours, so it's difficult to stray off the main double-track. The loop transverses a wide array of canyonland with liberal doses of slick-rock. Most cyclists will be humbled by the tacky-looking pink Jeeps' climbing and descending prowess. There is a great singletrack return from Submarine Rock to South Sedona that offers a spectacular vista of Bell Rock, one of the city's trade-mark sandstone domes. For the pastoral side of Sedona, take a leisurely ride to Oak Creek. Oak Creek meanders through most of the area, and a little exploration will reveal some spectacular swimming holes.

To the west, there are some cliff dwellings and ruins above Boynton Pass that deserve a look-see, but if you stray too far north, you will illegally be entering a designated wilderness area. With so much legal riding available, it's stupid to tarnish the rep of all mountain bikers by venturing into places that are off-limits - especially after the city planning commission has compelled developers to incorporate public access and trail easements into all projects that abut the National Forest.


After a couple of four-hour guided singletrack excursions, our legs were feeling pretty worked. We had been staying in the Desert Quail Motel, situated in the southern part of Sedona below Bell Rock. Don Troutman, the Desert Quail's owner and Sedona's mountain bike evangelist, had arranged for a local NORBA Elite racer to be our guide as we prepped for the arrival of the ProFlex team. We figured that after two days of hammering in the hills, our first day with the BMW/ProFlex team would be an easy one. The ProFlex team treated us like royalty, taking away our personal bikes and giving us special Team-Issue 954s. A white label on the top tube of the bike they handed me read "Flank I" a tough standard to live up to. The bike's intended owner, three-time world champion Henrik Djernis, rolled out on his backup bike, signaled to the team and we headed for the hills. I got the feeling that this was not going to be an easy ride. The next five hours were devoted to a middle-chainring tour of the Sedona Valley. We rode singletrack and slickrock, forded creeks, threaded through fancy housing developments, raced pink Jeeps, perched atop sheer cliffs, descended the impossible and climbed the vertical. I admit that I thought I was a pretty good slickrock and singletrack rider, but I was continually humiliated by the bike-handling prowess of Hank Djernis and Nick Feid. Those guys are awesome! I was feeling pretty worked when we coasted into town for a hydration break. After the dusty peloton had quenched its thirst at a downtown mini-mart, we rolled out to explore "Secret Trails," a maze of singletrack set against a 300-foot wall of stone to the north of the village. Hank and his company of hammerheads were relentless pedalers. The trail unrolled below our wheels like a stone conveyor belt. The blue-green junipers and pinion pines were an aromatic blur that filled my peripheral vision.

"Is it possible to suffer in heaven?" I asked myself. I struggled to stay attached to the group as the sun slowly dropped below the red cliffs of Doe Mountain. Luckily, nearly all the fire roads and trails leading back to Sedona are downhill. At the four-hour mark, the life was draining from my quadriceps. I downed some aspirin and eased back to the peloton, where Hank was hanging back. We were motoring up a wide, sandy fire road south of Cathedral Rock. With about five miles to go, the World Champ sensed that I had nothing left and asked me if I needed some help. Proudly, I declined. The group was still together when Djernis turned to his British teammate and ordered him to get to the front and attack. The two took off like rockets, closing the 200-yard gap and splitting the peloton into pieces.

Alone and off the back, I savored the view as the last golden rays of sunset illuminated the eastern walls rimming the valley. I was glad they were gone. Finally I could enjoy the view. As I topped the last gentle climb and coasted toward the Desert Quail Inn, I could see the entire team, strung out for a mile or so down the road. Hank was leading.


As with most great experiences, we found ourselves loading up the MBA Volvo all too soon. ProFlex's Ralph Hines met us at the car. "Don't miss this thing next year," said Ralph. "We'll plan on staying an extra week."

The morning sun was turning the frosty meadows to steam. The short time I had spent in Sedona seemed like a blur, but the stiffness in my thighs reminded me that it was real enough.
"I'll be back," I pledged. "I wonder if the Moab set knows how much they are missing?"


Sedona’s Secret Details

Where is Sedona? Halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff on Highway 179. Take Interstate 17 about an hour and a half north of the Phoenix airport.

The best lodging? Of course, it’s the Desert Quail Inn (800-385-0927). These folks are bike-friendly and can set you up with a guide if necessary. Sedona has a full complement of lodging choices.

The best time to visit? Any time. There are 320 sunny days a year, and the altitude and geographical location keep the temperature moderate. It will snow a little in the winter.

The best bike shops? Mountain Bike Heaven. Yes, they rent dual-suspension bikes. Phone (928)282-1312; Sedona Sports also rents bikes. Phone (928) 282-1317.

The best trail map? Fat Tire Tales and Trails (Mountain Bike Fun in Arizona). Contact Mountain Bike Heaven for your copy: (928) 282-1312.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Mountain Bike News with Rama Jon - Cactus Cup

Mountain Bike News
with Rama Jon 10/99


The mountain bike race season is here. Every year it kinda sneaks up on me. The MBAA, Mountain Bike Assoc. of Arizona, race series begins with the traditional "roadies on dirt challenge" at Casa Grande the last weekend of January. The early races of the series: Casa Grande, White Tanks, Estrella and McDowell are all near the Phoenix metro area. These races tend to favor the more cardiovascularly fit racers at the expense of technical skills. The next four races tend to equalize the field as technical skills begin to play a more important part. These races will be at: Oracle, Prescott, Mountaineer, with the state finals at Williams. These courses tend to be hillier, at elevation, and are significantly more technical.

This year Arizona mourns the loss of it’s most prestigious mountain bike race, the Cactus Cup in Scottsdale. In the past, the Cactus Cup kicked off the national mountain bike race season. This year the kick off will be at the Sea Otter Classic in California. The Cactus Cup had always been on the early side for many national and international race teams, and although it was a great warmup for the Sea Otter, two national races on consecutive weekends was just too much. In addition last year, Specialized Mountain Bikes, the title sponsor of the Cactus Cup since it’s inception pulled out. It became clear that without the support of the mountain bike industry, the Cactus Cup would soon be doomed.

As the sport of mountain biking matures, one would think that mountain bike racing might also mature. In fact, just the opposite seems to be occurring. As cross country racing attendance has perhaps peaked, many new race venues for mountain bikers have sprung up. The most popular of which is down hill and dual slalom venues. These types of races are all action packed and are very spectator and television friendly. Other venues have sprouted up that accentuate the gnarliness of mountain bikers. Those include 24 hour races and eco challenges that include multi-sport activities and team dynamics.

As mountain bike racers pedal into the new millennium, there will be plenty of opportunities for competitive challenges. No matter what venue tickles your fancy, let us all remember why we ride mountain bikes in the first place. FOR FUN.

Good luck to all mountain bike racers. Let’s have a great season.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Mountain Bike News with Rama Jon - Moab

Mountain Bike News
with Rama Jon 10/99


Mountain bikers will do almost anything especially if it’s packaged as a race. That’s what took us to Moab, Utah several weeks ago. It wasn’t a gnarly downhill race or even a cross country race as such, but rather it was a 24 hour race. Fortunately for me, I was part of the technical support crew and not racing. The weather was spectacular, which is a bit unusual for Moab during this time of the year, with temperatures approaching 90 degrees during the day and dropping to 40 degrees at night. The 24 Hours of Moab kicked off a week of festivities and races that is part of the annual Fat Tire Festival in Moab.
The 24-hour race was sponsored by Newsweek. Racers either rode for the entire 24 hours or were members of a team and swapped off laps. The course was a 16-mile super sandy dirt road with some sketchy drop-offs and the course got even softer as the race progressed. There were 360 teams of various sizes with the largest concentration of teams coming from Colorado. Even though there were only a few teams from Arizona, they consisted of some very fast riders.

The team I was support for was a veteran (over 35 years old) women’s team. According to team captain Debra Morrell, it was harder getting the 4-team members together than it was to actually do the race. They had 3 committed racers, but kept on having trouble rounding up the 4th. They finally found a 4th, but as the race progressed, it was clear that they would have been better off with only the 3 hardcore riders. As it turned out, their 4th rider hurt herself on her first lap, the 4th lap for the team. Her knee injury was not super serious, but it cost the team the lap and an hour and a half.

The penalty took the team from 45 minutes ahead to 45 minutes behind. It took them 2 more laps to re-gain the lead, and this time they didn’t look back. But that was not the end of problems for the team. Since this was a 24-hour race, there were several night laps for each rider. The night laps were ridden with lights and Heather Walker ran into light troubles on her night laps. Her main light went out after 40 minutes leaving her with more than an hour of darkness to struggle through. By her second night lap she had rigged a strong backup light that helped ease the problem.

As the night wore on some teams slept, but not ours. Debra Morrell, Heather Walker and Janet Kerby continued to swap laps through the night and by daybreak they had a convincing lead in their class. For me, the highlight of the night was watching the lights flickering on the racecourse all night long. I don’t know how these gals kept going, but each one ended up by racing 4 sixteen-mile laps. By 10:30 the next morning, Janet Kirby was handed the last lap for the team and she raced them home to victory. These gals had so much fun that they are already looking for the 4th member for next year’s race.

Congratulations to the entire team and all of the racers. This type of race really puts everyone through their paces.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Mountain Bike News with Rama Jon - Vegas

Mountain Bike News
with Rama Jon 10/99


Each September the bike industry marks the model year changeover at the Interbike Trade Show. This year’s show was in Las Vegas and included an off road demo for the first day, then followed up with 4 action packed days of indoor trade show. The indoor displays make up one of the largest Trade Shows in the world. Each year the amount of media input is enough to boggle the mind. I’m glad that for us the Trade Show is more play than work, and play we did.

For us the dirt demo was more of a social gathering than a demo. The reason for this is that we are smart enough to know that riding mountain bikes in the desert without slime in your tubes is fool hearty and will always lead to flat tires. It was that way last year and it was the same this year with about half the demo riders returning their bikes with flat tires. After socializing at the dirt demo for a few hours we headed out for some real mountain biking in Boulder City.

Boulder City is the town just after the Boulder Dam on your way to Las Vegas. The town was developed for the dam workers and old town Boulder City is quaint and majestic. Bootleg Canyon is on the north side of town and 4000 acres have been set aside for human powered use. The trail system has been built almost single handedly by Brent Thompson, a local artist and avid mountain biker. After having heart surgery, Thompson’s doctor advised him to do yard work and I guess he got carried away and that’s how the trails at Bootleg Canyon began.

The trails at Bootleg Canyon are of two types, the ones you can ride up and the ones you can’t. The locals do a lot of car shuttling to ride the steep technical downhill trails. It’s not uncommon to do 3 or 4 shuttle runs in a row. Anyone who disapproves of the shuttles can pedal up the dirt road, but with temperatures regularly over 100 degrees, it just seems to make more sense to do like the locals and shuttle to the top.

The next few days were spent between the Trade Show and riding in Boulder City, with the riding predominating especially after the first full day on the inside. The report for the year is not much new other than Cannondale’s one armed bandit fork and better pricing due to the devaluation of the yen and other Asian currencies. It should be a good year to get value for your dollar.