Around Moab

Main Street Moab. Now that the storm's passed, it's blue skies again, with a clear forecast for the next few days.

After the quiet backwaters of Fruita, I’d expected Moab to be fairly commercial in feel, and teeming with legions of bikers (like me). So I was pleasantly surprised at how laid back it was. Sure, arriving at the very tail end of the season probably helped. But still, it had a vibe I really liked, and it’s up there in my Favourite Places Along This Ride. Probably much of this is to do with the people I fell in with, thanks to Cullen, he of the lamb chop sideburns and warm smile, who I met at the somewhat ominously titled Poison Spider bike shop.

Outside Poison Spider. I'm an arachnophobe but a sucker for murals.

There’s a really strong community feel here. Yoga, recycling, low impact living and the coolest thrift store I’ve seen – it’s packed with outdoor goodies. Everyone’s striving to live the lifestyle they aspire to (biking/climbing/rafting), balancing the life that brings them happiness with the nuts and bolts of making ends meet. Inevitably, much of the population migrates in the winter months to places like Colorado, or even Costa Rica. Some work in forestry, or in the bookstore, or the camping stores, or as guides.

At a party I went to, I met one guy who tracks tortoises in the Mojave Desert. Apparently shell aside, tortoises have the highest level of testosterone of any animal, pound for pound! And despite their placid manners, they’re tenacious little fighters when it comes to winning over the ladies. The males battle it out like sumo wrestlers, trying to tip each other over. If they do, ¬†there’s a technique to righting themselves again. The tortoise begins to arc one its wrinkly little arms in every greater circles, finally twisting his body like a wrester and hurling his arm like a hammer thrower, with one final dynamic movement that spins himself over. How cool is that! Made me think of the wise old Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda.

Recycling tyres at the Moab Cyclery.

Anywhere else in the world, a vending machine like this would be packed with crisps, Mars and Snickers. Only in Moab is it full of bike bits.

Endurance racer Cullen works as a mountain biking guide and as a bike mechanic. His mate Nick works in forestry fire management in the summer, and as a ski patroller in the in the winter. Great people to hang out with.

Cullen's girlfriend Joi is an incredible rock climber, and was drawn to the area to spend time in Indian Creek, considered the best sandstone climbing in the world. Here they are with her cute little dog, a husky/labrador cross.

Cullen really sorted me out, ensuring I had all the food I needed for the next leg, and helping make my bike desert-ready, by filling the inner tubes with sealant.

Then he drilled out the rims so they could take Schraeder (car-style) valves in Mexico. We fitted an extra bottle cage to the downtube too, as I'll need to carry 10 litres of water for the desert.

Winter is getting close. Time to move on...

Cullen's housemate Jim had told me about a backway out of Moab, on a rough track that skirted round Canyonlands and Needles National Parks. After waiting for the trails to dry out, it wasn't until late afternoon, when the rocks were saturated in sunset light, that I left Moab. Nick and Cullen joined me, pointing me towards a quiet camping spot in the desert. Then we celebrated our meeting with a round of muffins, before they made their way home by torchlight, leaving me under the silence of the stars, and in the shadows of Moab's magnificent sandstone chimneys. Thanks guys!

8 thoughts on “Around Moab

  1. Tegid

    Hi Cass, Up here working at Coed y Brenin in the howling wind and driving rain. Ur trip looks great, very inspiring! Looks like your getting to meet some great people on your travels.. Glad to see that 29ers are popular in Moab!! Have fun on the rest of your journey,

    Tegid, Annie and Jon

  2. Matt Ongley

    Hi Cass, trip looks great, am planning a similar trip but running South – North, any standouts that I need to plan it around.

    Also notice you’ve changed from Santos to Thorn, any reasons, interested as I have still not chosed which one to buy, need a long distance tourer, what are the pros and cons ?


    1. otbiking Post author

      Hi Matt,

      The Santos is an awesome bike, and there’s loads of nice touches. I miss it and would recommend it highly! Big clearances, 4 bottle cages mounts with lots of extra eyelets for perfect positioning (ideal for a trip like this), and super stout tubing. But, for one, it wasn’t mine, so I wanted to give it back! Plus, mine was the largest frame; with a suspension fork, it was a little low on top tube clearance for proper mountain biking, which I love to do along the way and is an important part of my travels.

      The Thorn is a lighter bike, with less heavy gauge tubing (so nicer unladen) and runs a 100mm fork, which I wanted for all the trails round here. To be honest, it’s probably a bike best suited to lighter loads than I run – or it would be ideal with a trailer. Those lighter tubes mean it’s a more ‘squirelly’ in handling under load heavier loads, but conversely, it’s really fun to ride without. Very nice touches too, like the cable routing, and a tough, understated finish. Ultimately, you can’t shoehorn everything into one bike, so you have to make a choice.

      So, overall, the Santos handles heavy loads better, as you’d expect. The Sterling is more mtb friendly. A better comparison would be the Travel Master and the Raven Tour, which have are both expedition worthy, and have more similar goals. Hope that helps!

      1. Matt Ongley

        Thanks Cass, my girlfirend, Sylwia already has a Santos so I think I’ll get the same, she’s actually got the same colour as you had !

        Am interested in your route as we’re planning a South to North trip across the states, anywhere we have to go ?



  3. Pingback: While Out Riding’s take on Moab « Moab in Action

  4. Greg


    I’ve been loving the blog, following it closely for the past six or eight weeks. The photography is great and I love the brief, descriptive stories. Your trip is captivating and inspiring.

    It was a bit ironic yesterday while reading this post that I had to double take when reading your description of Cullen and “his mate” Nick. I didn’t think much of the photo at first, in both they’re standing at a distance, but the description of Nick made me look closer. Sure enough it was Nick’s 29″er–and definitely Nick on it.

    Nick and I have worked together, and toured the West Coast last fall with two other buddies. I gave him a buzz to ask about the Moab single track and he gave me a quick rundown of your time together. Sounds like it was a blast.

    It’s certainly interesting to have a connection to a trip I’ve been following at a distance. Your blog, and to an extent your route, are an inspiration to my girlfriend Erin and I as we plan a similar ride through the Americas beginning next Fall. We wish you the best!


  5. otbiking Post author

    Tegid – Mach is the Moab of Wales! Still loving your 29er then, I take it.
    Greg – what a coincidence! Nick’s a great guy, he told me all about that tour you guys did. Glad you are enjoying the blog.
    Matt – I’d totally recommend the GDR ride as an alternative way of crossing the states, though I have loved Fruita and Moab too. Mind you, I’m sure the stuff I missed on the GDR due to bad weather was awesome too.


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