Fruita, dinosaurs and drive through liquor stores.
For years now I’ve wanted to go to Fruita for the Fat Tire Festival but something always got in the way. Things like work, money, life; I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Having ridden exclusively in the Midwest I would drool over the photographs of the trails in Fruita, Grand Juncture, and Moab, day dreaming of what it would be like to ride there. I cut my teeth mountain biking in the early 90’s just outside of Detroit at places like Highland State Recreation Area, Kensington, Holly, and other places that probably no longer exist. Twenty years later I’m still riding the local trails, only now I’m in Minneapolis. I hate to say it but I’m most likely one of the least experienced mountain bikers that works for Surly so I was somewhat intimidated about what I was getting myself into when I found out that I was going to get to go to Fruita to ride on the company’s dime. To top it all off, two days before we flew out to Denver, I got knocked on my ass by the worse cold I’ve had in years. Panic sets in and all I could think about is how sick I was. I could barely breath, I felt like shit, and it was too late to turn back now. The night before our flight departs, April 22nd, Minneapolis gets 8 inches of snow. Yep, it was time to get the fuck out of Dodge.
I had asked our newest engineer, Andy, if he’d like to come along with me. There was no hesitation what-so-ever when he replied with a loud “Hell yes I’ll go to Fruita with you!” So we started to plan our trip. The extent of our planning was buying plane tickets and renting a van. That was it. Andy is a pretty laid back guy and he enjoys the simpler things in life like sleeping in the back of a van, wearing the same socks until they’re fused to your skin, and playing things by ear. Me, well, I like having a plan, taking a shower every now and then, and knowing what the hell is going on. Don’t get me wrong now, I love camping, backpacking and “roughing it” out in mother nature, but if I’m going to be riding out in the desert all day long a shower in the evening sure would be swell. But, for a nice change of pace I decided I’d go along with Andy’s plan and not make any plans at all. We packed up our bikes and gear and sent it all to Salvagetti in Denver so we didn’t have to fly with them.
Andy, getting ready to ride Rustler's Loop
Phillip and the crew from Salvagetti could not have been more accommodating. Phillip even offered to put us up for a couple of nights and we gladly accepted. We spent one night in Denver, got our bikes put together and did some drinking, some eating, and then more drinking. The following morning it was off to Fruita.
We rolled into Fruita at around 5 PM Wednesday and started to drive out to the campground at 18 mile road. About half way there I thought we should at least call a couple of motels around Fruita to see if they had any open rooms. As luck would have it there was one place that could put us up through the weekend so we decided to go check it out. A few minutes later we were pulling into the parking lot at the H Motel and Andy is having serious reservations. He thought that motel looked pretty shady and he really did not want to have anything to do with it. Then I noticed that there was a Surly sticker on the door to the motel office and I said “See man, its destiny. We have to stay here now.” After a little more persuasion from me we were checking into room 13. After unloading the van and thoroughly checking the room out Andy was a happy man again, we had nice big beds to sleep in and a great new shower to wash away the grime from riding all day. To top it all off, we had great neighbors and we were only 3 blocks from downtown Fruita.
The H Motel.
Rustler's Loop heading back to the trail head.
Somewhere along Horsethief Trail.
On Rustler's Loop, wind in my beard.
I brought my prototype Krampus that was fully rigid with a 1x10 drivetrain (32t chainring, 11/36 cassette) and Andy brought his Krampus that had a Fox fork on it. After riding for 3 full days I decided a suspension fork would have been nice, but not 100% necessary. We rode the trails at Kokopelli, 18 mile road, and the Lunch Loops in Grand Juncture. My favorite trails were Kessel Run, Rustlers Loop, Horsethief and Mary’s. The Krampus absolutely screamed down Kessel and I spent most of my time on that trail reining my Krampus in. Rustler’s Loop was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be, there was very little climbing and the faster I rode it the more fun it got. When I did have to slow down, the Krampus would be back up to speed in three or four pedal strokes. The 3” Knard 27 tpi tires on our Rabbit Hole rims performed fantastically for me. They hooked up great on all the trails I rode only washing out on me once, and that was defiantly user error! I got zero flats which was pretty surprising because I had been warned of the goat head “situation” when riding in that area. We rode every day, pretty much all day. I’m not going to lie, I was hurting at the end of the day but it was well deserved and it did feel good. I never really did get my lungs to work like I felt they should but that was more due to the cold I couldn’t shake and the altitude than anything else. Not to mention, this was really my first bit of serious riding since last fall and I was not in prime shape.
Hot Tomato, best pizza I've had in a long time. We ended up eating there four nights in a row.
Great staff and great owners really make this place special.
All of the trails I rode were well thought out and planned beautifully. The views were amazing, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before on a bike. At times I was challenged as I rode and I’m not ashamed to admit I walked my bike through sections that were beyond me. I crashed once, late in the day on Friday and walked away with only some bruised ribs and a bruised ego. All in all I’d have to say this was the best bike trip I’d ever been on and come hell or high water- I’ll be there again next year for the Fruita Fat Tire Festival.
When riding in the desert, don't forget your sunblock.
More to follow, the people we met, some of the things we saw, and the places we went.