Although it’s Utah’s Moab that tends to swallow the limelight in mountain biking circles, just down the road in neighbouring Colorado lies Fruita, a wonderfully laid back little hangout that’s every bit as beguiling. So named for all the apples and pears planted there in the late 19th Century, Fruita’s home to a spidery network of high desert trails untangling above the Colorado River. And the town itself is just as entrancing, with little more than a collection of wood-fronted buildings along its old fashioned main street, a few cafes promising wifi and a dozen varieties of coffee and smoothies, and that vital last ingredient – two great bike shops.
Just north of Fruita, towards the Book Cliffs and beyond acres of large, flag-flying farms, lie the fabled network of singletrack trails known as 18 Road. To there, follow these Harry Potter-esque directions: ride down 17 1/2 Road, hang a right on N 3/10 Road, and left onto 18 Road until pavement disintegrates into gravel...
Over The Edge Cycles, where a passion for two wheels has even spilled out onto the sidewalk. It seems all you need to do is stand outside this shop to meet the most wonderful people.
Enjoying the evening light on the ride up to the Book Cliffs.
Up at the trailhead, there's a collection of simple camping spots tucked in amongst the rocks, dirt and juniper bushes.
For the most part, the riding here is mellow, laid back and flowy. Ribbons of trail unravel out into the stillness of the desert.
Teeter your way along Joe's Ridge, one of my favourites.
Silent desert shapes.
Home sweet home. It's nice to be back in my little cocoon.
Good singletrack doesn't have to be that complicated.
Skip Hamilton, sage of the desert, and his sweet dog Zoe. I was lucky enough to meet Skip outside Over The Edge Cycles. He practically insisted on helping me out, by kindly bringing me out water to my campsite, and offering to drop off my kit 20 miles into the Kokopelli Trail the next day, just so I'd be able to enjoy the singletrack the way it's supposed to be ridden, unimcumbered by panniers. At the time, I had only intuited a fraction of what a legend Skip is in these parts. As well as being involved in trail advocacy, he's won the gruelling Leadville 100 Ultramarathon four times, and he even features in Wikipedia! Out in the desert, we had some wonderful conversations on the subject of the commonality of man; it was a real honour to meet him.