DESTINATION DATA: SEDONA, ARIZONA
SEDONA: THE ZINN GALLERY
In mid-May, I had the opportunity to ride for two days in Sedona, Arizona for the first time. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, especially as it was still raining and snowing in Boulder at the time.
With the exception of one trail we went on, I couldn’t recommend more highly the riding there. Perfect weather, well-designed trails, unbelievable red rock vistas. What more could you want? Our local guide was John Finch, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the trail systems there, having built many of them himself and being involved in local trail advocacy efforts. Many of the Magura Direct folks I was riding with come there every year, are in love with the place, and also know the trails there like the backs of their hands.
The trails we rode on the first morning were Gunsmoke to Mescal to Deadmans to Aerie to Cockscomb to Western Civilization to Lower Red Rock Loop Road (GPS route). The scenery was awesome, and the trails generally had a nice flow to them. There were no long climbs or descents, just lots of up-and-down changing terrain for a total elevation change of around 1350 feet over 12.5 miles. Near the end was the only section that had some exposure — nothing serious or dangerous in my opinion, but enough to get the attention of some riders unused to keeping their eyes straight ahead and not looking over the edge.
The next morning’s ride was on Highline trail, which is a fantastic ride. The views are stunning, the technical difficulty was enough to keep anyone interested and enjoying themselves. There is some exposure to fairly steep drops off the trail side near the top, but nothing death-defying. Highline does have a long climb and long descent, but the uphill grades are never steep, so your breathing and the technical difficulty won’t force reasonably fit riders to walk any of it. The downhill has one steep drop that I found quite challenging and managed to take a digger on. The ride was a big balloon on a string, following Red Rock Crossing to Templeton to Easy Sleezy to the Slim Shady Connector to Slim Shady to Highline to Baldwin, returning on Templeton to Red Rock Crossing (GPS route).
The Tuesday afternoon ride was a shuttle up to the Cow Pies parking lot via Schnebly Hill Road, where we rode Cow Pies trail to the Damifino Saddle, an incredible red slockrock saddle between two massive red rock monoliths. This section is quite challenging from the slickrock bench where you leave the dirt up to the saddle, and there is some exposure to steep, smooth red slickrock slopes that could penalize a mistake with a tumble that could result in serious injury. After the saddle, though, things can get extremely dicey. There you have the choice of going right to do the Damifino trail (which I wish I’d taken and know nothing about) or going left on Hangover trail.
Hangover: No Joke
We took the Hangover trail, and I want to make it 100 percent clear that I would never recommend this trail to anyone. Even for riders with sky-high skills and confidence, the right equipment, including flat pedals and grippy tires and shoes, and everything in perfect working order on their bikes, I think it is still crazy. The route crosses steeply-angled slickrock walls that drop hundreds of feet to any dirt or vegetation. A fall here could easily result in death or a life in a wheelchair. I’m not kidding.
If you have been to Moab and gotten the guidebook and seen that Slickrock Trail is rated a 10 in difficulty on a scale of 10 and you rode it with no problems, don’t think for an instant that it would have prepared you for the Hangover Trail. The two trails cannot even be compared on the same scale. Hangover is perched on a cliff, sometimes in a narrow vegetation band with nothing but steep rock above and below, sometimes hung out over the edge on a root with a rock slab set on it as a trail surface. Finch said it took 1,000 hours to build the trail, and I can imagine that’s true, but that still doesn’t mean there’s much there to hold your tires above the abyss.
And then there are the overhangs from which the trail gets its name. While the trail itself in a number of places is a skinny, overhung ledge dropping off to the rider’s right, on the rider’s left are low overhangs sticking out toward the rider. These are low enough that tall riders definitely cannot fit under them while riding. And being outside of the overhang can give one the feeling if not the reality of being hung out further than the trail edge. Generally, the trail just angles west along the ledges, but there are also a couple of places where it turns back and forth across the fall line on a steep rock face as well.
So if somebody says to you, “Hey, let’s do Hangover,” recognize that those could be the last words you ever hear, and reconsider. Or consider doing it on foot in running shoes with grippy soles rather than with a bike! This video include the guy wearing the helmet cam falling off the edge and almost paying the ultimate price, but most of the way you can’t see the exposure, because his gaze is directed straight forward (as it should be) and not looking over the edge. This shows a smooth ride on it and some of the views.
After getting off of Hangover, we continued down the Munds Wagon Trail to the Huckaby parking lot and then got back on the trails paralleling Schnebly Hill Road down to the bottom for our shuttle pickup (GPS route), and this whole section is simply a lot of fast-riding fun.
As Sedona is 200 miles west (and upwind) of the current wildfires ravaging Eagar and Springerville, you can plan a riding vacation to Sedona now with impunity. As the elevation in the area ranges between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, it is cooler than Phoenix by a long shot.
Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Lennard Zinn.
Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (www.zinncycles.com), a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”
Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.
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