captain ahab moab utah

Laws of Traction

trac·tion  (trăk′shən) n. 1. a. The act of drawing or pulling, especially the drawing of a vehicle or load over a surface by motor power. b. The condition of being drawn or pulled.

I had business in Moab today. I figured since I was going to be there anyway, I may as well bring a bike and do a bit of riding, right?

I started early and things were still frozen north of town. There had been a light snow over-night so the trails were somewhat obscured at times. You see, on many of the Klondike Bluffs trails, the route is indicated by paint on the rocks. If the paint is not visible, it may as well not exist. You can wander for literally yards looking for the next dash of color.

As the trail climbed I began to run into deeper snow. This was comparable to my experience on Butterknife, only this was far, far easier because the trail underneath the crusted snow was far, far easier. The challenge was immense. But not as you’d think. The traction was actually worse on the frozen sand. So much so that I released an audible sigh when escaping the sand for the rock.

Which begs the question: if a woman rider crashes and no one is there to hear her swear, did she actually crash at all?

I opted for a short loop, time being of the essence, but partook of one of the best trails in the Moab area. It is a relatively new piece named Alaska. This was appropriate as it was snowing the entire time I was riding. The trail climbs a bit, then flows along the ridgeline. Were you to fall off the edge you would plunge to your death in the Salt Valley (AKA the secret back-way into Arches). In the distance you can see the undulating sculptures of Arches National Park.

In the snow, fog, and low-cloud, the view was ethereal and beautiful beyond words or camera could capture.

Somewhere on this ride I was struck with a remembrance of what Sara had said when we rode Butterknife last week. We were talking about how good for our technique riding in the snow must be. It requires attention, active body positioning, balance….all good things for being a strong technical rider. But she summed it up in these words: “When we’re riding in the Spring we’re going to be amazed at how much traction we have.”

As my bike slid out from under me I began to ache for this scientific force. Traction. Just a little stick, a little grip. Something to keep my wheels from sliding, slipping, and trying to murder me.

IMG_5784

IMG_5785

IMG_5788

I did make it out alive. I would even say that I had a great time!

I got into Moab in time to meet Andy for a quick lunch and visit. Always a pleasure! Stopped by one of the local shops and low and behold Russ was working there. I had met him in Grand Junction at a local coffee shop. We’d talked bikes and trails and I had offered to shuttle him up to the top of the Ribbon. It was nice to see another familiar face in Moab.

I then headed to the trail I had been told would be prime for riding: Amasa Back. For weeks it had been toted as “dry” and “rideable” and “prime” and Dennis had ridden it just a week or so ago and had even done Ahab I had watched his GoPro cam video and so how could I not partake? I who was in physical pain from the need for a little dry dirt under my wheels!

It was still cold and snowing as I pedaled up the road to the TH. To reach the technical climb you have to drop a very challenging, though wide and prime with alternate lines, series of step-ledges. You then cross the creek, and begin climbing up the Jeep road.

As I was dropping, I thought, “Oh, Elisa, be careful! You don’t want to crash right here at the start!” So guess what happens? I crash. Right there at the start. I was too ambitious (as has been the case frequently, right?) only this time I paid the price. I smashed my knees then rolled on my shoulder and came to a halt on my back with snow kissing my face. It hurt.

But I wasn’t about to turn back. My need for dirt was greater than my pain. Undetered, I crossed the creek and started the climb. And it was good. I was sore from the crash (and I didn’t know it at the time but I was bleeding a bit), but my technical climbing skills got some excellent practice.

The only real issue? That’s right. There had been a light layer of snow. There was a serious deficiency of TRACTION. I could easily get my front wheel up a ledge, but my entire core would have to thrust forward to get the rear tire to track and not spin.

I have no idea how far up I was when I started to get pinged by the client I was due to meet that afternoon. Then another. Then another. Before I knew it I had spent enough time responding that I was required to cut my ride short. This was pefectly amenable to me for several reasons. One, there was no traction. Two, there was starting to be mud. Three, the most technical parts were still to come. Four, I am totally appreciative of all my clients and being available to them all day. Totally worth it.

So I took the cut-off, rode lower Ahab, dropped out of Amasa, climbed back out the drop-in, flew down the road back to my Jeep, and went into town for a shower, a drink, and a very special client meeting.

Though I was left limping, and will be for days, it was an experience I will relish for a long time to come.

IMG_5804 IMG_5811 IMG_5812 IMG_5815