This is Slickrock Bike Trail, an 11 mile loop in Moab, Utah. It was ridden by dirt bikers in the late 60’s before becoming what is arguably the most iconic mountain bike trail in the world. Early settlers referred to the surface as “slick rock” because on metal horse shoes it was a nightmare. Lucky for us, it grips tires like sandpaper.
This makes it possible to climb features that look completely absurd. We got a chance to hit some of the Jeep trails in the area, and could not believe the traction.
If you have the strength to keep spinning, every climb on the bike trail is doable. Just make sure you commit and don’t stop spinning. Lose your momentum and tumble down an abrasive and unforgiving surface.
At least the helicopter ride to the hospital would have been amazing. The high desert of Utah is spectacular at all times of the year. Stopping for these views can make your first ride on Slickrock last over 5 hours, easy. A strong rider can do it in under 3. Whether you’re racking up miles or enjoying the views, bring lots of water. I thought a liter would be more than enough for early October, but I was wrong. It heats up pretty fast out on the rocks.
Guide books usually rank Slickrock as a highly advanced trail. While I’d need to agree that it’s pretty dangerous, there’s nothing technical about it besides the super steep climbs. Most do agree that the ride is physically demanding. It looks like the hard wavy surface would let you conserve your momentum and fly halfway up the next climb, but that’s not usually the case. Sharp turns and creases in the surface will leave you pedaling hard after only a few sweet seconds of downhill.
We’re pretty spoiled these days, as trail builders have become adept at stretching out the downs, but Slickrock’s maintenance crew doesn’t have the luxury of altering the terrain. There are no manmade features or excavations. On Slickrock, the trail is a white line drawn in paint.
From what I can see, it’s a good line to follow. Although it looks arbitrary at times, veering off of it can send you careening into a cactus patch or tumbling down a slope. Unless you know exactly what’s over the crest of the hill, you’re best off following the markings.
Where the terrain allows for it, the painted lines take you on a roller coaster ride, akin to a snake run at a skatepark. Cherish these lines and bomb them brazenly, because you’ll be paying price shortly after.
Because Slickrock is such a famous trail, you can expect to share it with huge crowds at times. While I’ve read accounts of waiting in line to ride certain sections, it felt spacious and unrestricted when we rode it. Of course, some of the sections are shared with ATV’s and Dirtbikes, but everyone is cool.
When you reach the end of Slickrock trail, you’ll be pretty exhausted, and if you’re like me, ready to hit one of the many eating establishments in Moab. Luckily it’s a downhill ride back into town.
For advanced mountain bikers, Moab Utah offers some of the most treacherous and technical terrain around. That was the reason for our visit. Despite its mainstream appeal, Slickrock trail was still a priority; It’s what you would call a bucket list trail. You’d be crazy to visit Moab and not ride Slickrock. Just make sure you come early to beat the crowds, and if you’re running inner tubes, keep your pressure well above 40PSI. I suggested that Randall reduce his tire pressure on a steep climb, and it resulted in a pinch flat later on.
While Slickrock trail is extraordinarily unique, it’s not the only place in Moab you’ll find this riding surface. In the next Moab video we’ll have a look at Bartlett Slickrock, which is an open riding area that feels like a natural skatepark. Until then, thanks for riding with me today and I’ll see you next time.