Having never made the pilgrimage to mountain bike mecca before, I wanted to make the most of the short time we would be there. Going on hearsay and a little bit of research, I realized that the one ride I absolutely needed to do was The Whole Enchilada.
At the top of Burro Pass, ready to begin the descending!
The Whole Enchilada isn’t just one trail, but rather a route that combines some of the very best trails that Moab has to offer into one massive shuttle run. Starting all the way up in the La Sal Mountains, the ride begins with the Burro Pass and Dry Creek trails, dropping down to the Hazard County Trail, to a small portion of the Kokopelli Trail, to UPS, to LPS, and finally finishing up with 12 miles on Porcupine Rim, ending at the Colorado River. The numbers are just staggering: over 26 miles of riding, a little over 1,500 feet of climbing, and about 7,000 vertical feet of sweet descending!
My GPS track from the ride.
What a beautiful elevation profile!
After hopping off the shuttle (I got my wife to drive me up), the ascent to the top of Burro Pass is a steep, 1,000 vertical foot climb in the space of a mile and a half–admittedly I did a lot of pushing on the way up. There’s no warning, and no warmup: It’s hop on the bike and go, or rather start putting one foot in front of the other while pushing your bike next to you.
Getting ready to ride/hike up to the top of Burro Pass.
But once you finally make the top of the pass, it feels like you’re on top of the world and ready for anything!
Looking back the way I came up.
While the climb up Burro Pass was steep and strenuous, the drop down the other side was just as steep and even gnarlier! The trail plummets straight down the side of the mountain, through techy rock sections, steep root webs, and through challenging mountain stream crossings.
After losing some serious elevation, the singletrack mellows and rolls along at an easier pace, allowing you to let off the brakes a little bit and work on getting your flow on!
One of the most interesting things about The Whole Enchilada ride is watching the change in the ecosystems around you as you descend out of the high-alpine La Sal mountains all the way down into the desert. The top of Burro Pass is a high alpine environment, and is almost at tree line. The trail passes through an evergreen forest as it drops off the top of the pass, and as it begins to mellow and transition to the Dry Creek trail, the trees rapidly change to a thick grove of aspens.
Looking back up at the La Sal mountains right before the start of the aspen grove.
Rolling through the aspens.
Continuing down the mountain, when the route hooks up with the Hazard County trail the ecosystem changes again: the ground is significantly dryer, the underbrush is short, and the scraggly shrub trees aren’t much taller than head height. As Hazard County drops, the undergrowth gets smaller and smaller until you reach a true high-desert ecosystem at UPS, complete with slickrock and sand.
Looking down the Hazard County Trail with the Moab desert in the distance.
As for the tread of the Hazard County Trail, it is a radical departure from the high alpine singletrack above it and the classic, highly-technical Moab desert trails below that most people have come to know and love. Instead, Hazard County is relatively smooth and flowy, with wide, banked turns and optional gap jumps and kickers sprinkled throughout.
The section of the Kokopelli Trail that is included in this route is really just a wide, hard-packed dirt road, but it drops fast and furious! I wasn’t able to fully enjoy all of the speed because I knew I’d only be on it for a mile or so before I had to turn off for UPS. I found myself constantly braking, checking to make sure I hadn’t passed my turn.
It turned out that I shouldn’t have worried about it, as the turn onto UPS was well marked with one of The Whole Enchilada trail map signs. These detailed maps have been installed at key intersections along the route (although not every intersection), making navigation a cinch, especially if you have a more detailed area map with you.
One of the trail maps. This particular one was located up on Burro Pass.
UPS/LPS functions as a great warmup for the infamous Porcupine Rim Trail. Not as technical as Porcupine Rim, and with views that aren’t quite as impressive, UPS/LPS still is a real treat to ride, especially since the trail here is much narrower than on Porcupine Rim.
Throughout this entire ride, the Jamis 650b Pro was riding superbly! It was the perfect bike for the conditions: very maneuverable, slack-enough geometry, and at 5.5″ of suspension front and back, it was definitely plush enough for the drop offs and chunky rock sections. For the infrequent but short climbs, the Jamis was more than capable as an ascender. With the additional adjustability of an added dropper post–in short–this is the perfect Moab bike!
Unfortunately, right before I got to the Porcupine Rim trail (the trail I was most looking forward to riding), I put my post up and sat down to pedal, and felt my seat slide backwards. “Uh oh, my seat must be loose,” I thought, so I jumped off to check on it. The seat and the post weren’t the issue–the frame was. I was faced with this frame crack:
I’ll be writing more about this break in my review of the bike, so wait until then for the final verdict on the Dakar 650b. But for now, it bears mentioning that in order to fit my dropper post to this frame, I did put a seatpost shim in, which probably put additional stress on the frame.
Since I was out there in large part to ride Porcupine Rim, I wasn’t about to take the bailout option and skip that section of trail. I figured that almost all of it was going to be downhill anyway, so I really shouldn’t need to sit down and climb too much. Between several alternating layers of duct tape and zip ties I was able to secure my post enough to keep it from flopping around, and even allowing me to sit a little bit to rest (with it all the way in the down position).
Duct tape and zip ties for the win!
On I went.
And I’m glad I did: the views on Porcupine Rim bested anything I had seen on the ride yet!
View from the Rim.
Looking back up the Rim.
The trail was well worth the effort too. Despite a few short hike-a-bikes due to the inoperable seat tube, the trail/jeep road provided some super gnarly downhill bliss!
Since much of the trail is a jeep road, numerous lines have developed ranging from relatively easy to pretty much insane. Today, Porcupine rim is a choose-your-own-adventure-style ride, allowing mountain bikers to choose a line to fit their bike, skill level, and current adrenaline level.
I chose lines towards the harder end of the scale, but passed on some of the biggest drops. Still, as I descended through the harsh desert landscape (almost all vegetation had disappeared by that point), I hucked my meat off drop after drop, blasted through rock gardens, rolled steeps, and generally lived it up! Since the frame crack had developed toward the top of the seat tube and had not compromised the rear triangle, the Dakar 650b was riding superbly downhill and was absolutely killing it through the gnar.
Toward the bottom of the trail, a gate and a sign lets you know that the tread narrows into singletrack… and a very technical singletrack at that. Since there weren’t easy, medium, and hard options anymore, I definitely had to hike a couple of sections.
Looking back up one of the easier sections of the singletrack portion.
When I started my ride early in the morning high in the La Sal mountains, the temperatures were chilly and in the 50′s… as I approached the end of my ride down in the desert, the thermometer was climbing rapidly toward 100. As I rounded corner after corner, worn out from hours of riding, I wondered which one would finally be the last.
Finally, I turned a corner and spotted my pickup truck far below–score, my wonderful wife had come to pick me up, saving me from pedaling 6 miles into town (which would have been a chore with the busted frame). As I rolled down to the lot, I saw my wife waiting for me, sunbathing on top of one of the red Moab rocks. What a sight for sore eyes!
Stay tuned for my next Moab post from the road!