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Road Biking and Cross Cycling in Moab: Get the Skinny

When people think of Moab, they most likely think of mountain biking, river rafting or four wheeling. However, skinny-tire or cross bike fans, Moab is a great place for the spin you are looking for. With some of the best road biking in the world, the variety of terrain and the stunning views make road biking and cross cycling in Moab ideal.

Riding Options: Road Biking vs Cross Cycling

Road biking has long been popular because it user friendly, fun and convenient. Just hop on your trusty, aluminum/carbon fiber/steel steed and go. In the past decade though, cross cycling has been steadily making its way onto the scene. This ingenious combination of a road and mountain bike enables riders to grind a bit more gravel than road bikes.

To the uneducated eye, a cross bike might be mistaken for a road bike, however, the cross bike has a broader gear range than either a road or mountain bike. Cross bikes also have handle-bar drops like a road bike, but beefier tires and fatter, stronger tubing more similar to mountain bikes.

Where to go Road Biking: Moab terrain varies from flat and mellow to steep climbs and switchbacks, making it an ideal area for going hard or just enjoying the ride. We recommend:

  • Moab Canyon Pathway (beginner) – This route offers a shorter ride that would be perfect for a beginner. The path provides access to Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse State Park.
  • Potash Road, Scenic Byway 279 (intermediate) – This trail 33.4-mile round-trip trail is an ideal intermediate ride (based on mileage, not climbs). A flat out-and-back that meanders along the Colorado River, there are tons of opportunities to enjoy sights such as Native American petroglyphs, dinosaur tracks, sheer rock walls, and rock climbers on Wall Street.
  • La Sal Mountain Loop (challenging) – This 62-mile ride is challenging and remote, with narrow with classic switchbacks, making it an epic ride. The favorite direction is south towards Ken’s Lake.

Where to go Cross Cycling: If you brought your cross bike, there are hundreds of miles of gravel and dirt roads to explore, mainly on Bureau of Land Management roads (BLM) and some within the two National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands. We recommend:

  • Sand Flats from Slick rock parking area (beginner) – A ride to get your toes wet, this out and back and can be as long or short as you want.
  • Kane Creek Road from Amasaback parking area W of Moab (intermediate) – This ride begins as a gravel grind and progressively gets more technical traveling to the Behind the Rocks area and towards the famous Hurrah Pass notorious in the 4×4 world for its difficulty. The trail is as long as you’re willing to pedal.
  • Willow Springs Road off Hwy 191 (challenging) – Park at the Klonzos trailhead and pedal East towards Arches N.P. on a combo of sand and slick rock. Five miles gets you to Arches’ Balanced Rock.

No matter what kind of road biking you’re doing, always be prepared and follow road biking guidelines and etiquette.

When to Ride: Year-Round Cycling in Moab

Road biking is a year round sport in Moab, while cross cycling is limited to drier seasons and when there is little snowfall and the road is frozen.

When planning a road biking trip, consider the following:

  • Seasonal traffic – In Moab, traffic will vary with the time of year and the route you choose. Though many of Moab’s roads typically have very little traffic, if you’re planning a ride through Arches National Park or other busy areas during peak summer season, be prepared for high traffic. Also, many paved roads generally have little shoulder and can be quite narrow, so be prepared to share the road.
  • Desert climate changes – Since Moab is a high altitude desert, the winter season can bring colder temperatures but little precipitation, making it a good activity to keep you in top shape and give your metabolism a boost by exercising out doors. The heat comes on in summer, with temps sometimes reaching the 100’s, so it’s best to hit the road early, knowing that the breeze you’ve created will gently brush across your skin. Spring and fall have delightful moderate temperatures thus, if you want to bike all day, it is super enjoyable.
  • Route conditions – Though road biking on the pavement provides year-round fun, if you plan to cross cycle, consider your route carefully depending on the time of year and know that trying to pedal on wet, bentonite clay prolific in Moab is nearly impossible and will seriously mess with your gearing/wheels/brakes.

Be sure to add your road/cross bike to your quiver of toys when you head to the desert southwest. Skinny is in, and laying down the rubber to pavement, or grinding on the gravel around Moab will give you a killer chance to take in the awe inspiring scenery that you’re pedaling by. Need more biking options and information? We’ve got you covered!

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