Full moon riding in Sedona: No Lights Allowed or needed!
Full moon rides have been a tradition at Sedonas Mountain Bike Heaven for over a decade. The faces have changed and the sizes of the groups vary dramatically, but one thing stays constant, no lights allowed. After completing yet another evening adventure lit solely by the moon, our chief mechanic Wheelie-Todd commented, " you guys are crazy!" This from a guy who has no problems strapping lights on his bike and pedaling into darkness. It takes a special synergy of environmental, social, and spiritual conditions to inspire even mountain bikers to venture out on trails lit only by the rays of the moon. Over the years the size of the groups have varied from a couple of hearty or fool-hearty riders to whole herds of mountain bikers who have partied hearty with a BBQ and festivities prior to embarking into the moonlight. One thing for certain, it takes the right combination to enjoy a full moon ride, and that combination happens in Sedona year round.
On this particular full moon in February we did one of the secret Sedona classics. A combination of known and lesser-known trails with a bit of dirt road riding tossed in to keep things under control. There were eight of us who set out on this moon lit adventure, one novice and seven seasoned riders. We kept to a mellow pace so as not to harsh on our novice, and to tell you the truth, its hard to go fast when your not sure whats under your wheels. Riding in and out of shadows turns even an easy everyday trail into a challenging experience. The dirt rode provided for lots of laughs as we floated through large pockets of deep sand, sometimes sideways. And then there was the coasting race that transformed us into mountain bike maniacs going exceptionally fast. One rider provided additional entertainment when he coasted way too fast inside on a turn and went rolling, rolling, rolling, but not hurt. Next up was the climb, a slow steady rock strewn menage of eirie shadows reflecting off of tall trees and red rocks. Our tires rolling over the rocks was the only sound other than our novices heavy breathing as the more skilled riders dropped him. We all waited at the top, overlooking the lights of Sedona and reveling in the silence. As we began our descent back into town, the coyotes gave us a goodbye chorus. The silence was now broken by our squealing brakes and the rocks rolling under our wheels as we rode the sketchy descent home. Perhaps the hardest part of this particular ride on this particular night was having the right clothes on at the right time, for even in Sedona, February evenings are a chilly time.
Over the last decade there are many memorable full moon rides. In the early days we rode the easier trails at Broken Arrow and Soldiers Pass. I think with the largest group ever we challenged the climb at House Mountain. This is a gnarly climb even in the daylight and as I recall, several of us pretty nearly aced the climb. My personal favorite types of full moon adventures are truly adventures. I prefer to start at 2:30 in the morning and catch the transition between day and night. Full moon is the perfect time for a brutal or boring climb. Sometimes not being able to see whats ahead has its advantages. Then, as the day dawns, Im ready for the gnarly descent. In many cases we are done and on our way back for breakfast before the rest of the town is up. On one occasion we left at 2:30 on a yet untested route and reached our destination ten minutes before a pre-arranged second ride, only to find that the other riders were still out at breakfast and this was at ten in the morning. If I had to pick one particular ride that stands out above all others it would have to be the full moon ride when it was snowing. Snow rides in Sedona are spectacular to begin with, and to ride in the snow with the snow flakes playing hide and seek with the moon, well thats a once in a blue moon experience.
There is something special about being out on your bike on the trail as the rest of the city sleeps. In the silence and the darkness you cant help but notice nature, there is nothing else out there. The noises of the city are easily forgotten for a few moments as the full moon casts its mysterious spell over all of us. The heightening of the senses is addictive and is probably the key to being able to ride at all. This is the same addiction that makes us all mountain bikers in the first place, whether we are first time riders or seasoned veterans.
When you get to Sedona, the first thing to do is stop by Mountain Bike Heaven and find out when the locals are riding. Club rides, another tradition of Mountain Bike Heaven are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday mornings and are free to all takers. Sundays adventure is for advanced riders only, Tuesday and Wednesday are more moderate and are open to all skill levels. Sedonas trails are easy to get to and fun to explore. Its best to orient yourselves with the red rock formations and then go. No need for a Red Rock Pass since you can pedal to all the trails from town. So stash the car and pedal to the trails. Recent work on the trail system has made the trails easier to follow allowing for more fun and less wandering around in the woods. There are several loops around town that can take anywhere from 2.5 hours to 5 or 6 hours. If you cant make one of the club rides and you dont feel comfortable on your own, Mountain Bike Heaven offers Bikeappelli Adventures that are custom made for your needs. For those who want a crack at Sedona red rock riding on their own, its best to snag a reference map so you can find the connections from one trail system to another. Recently the names of most of the trails have been changed to protect the innocent and confuse everyone else, so dont get too hung up on the map.
To enjoy Sedona completely you need 2 or 3 days, and it really takes several months to figure your way around. The classic Sedona rides include the red rocks at Broken Arrow and Soldiers Pass. Both of these areas link up with many trails in many directions most of them well marked by huge cairns fondly referred to as "rocks in bondage" or by heavy tire tracks. Other classic rides include: Secret Trails, Midgely Bridgely, Cathedral Rock, Buddha Beach, Pyramid, Compactor, CoxComb, Deadmans Pass, Mescal Mtn, Carrol Canyon, Stutz Bearcat, the Other Side, to mention a few of the favorites. Sedonas brutal rough rocky cactusy side is best portrayed on the Airport Loop and its many offshoots. Xtreme downhillers can test their nerve on the many downhills off of Schuermans Mtn, but youll have to pedal up. If shuttling is your thing, the new Schnebely Hill/Munds Trail is just what the doctor ordered, a 10-mile downhill run into town. And for those who want something totally different, the Mingus Mtn shuttle and downhill is beyond beyond. This ride was once referred to as the revenge of the vegetables.
While in Sedona, eat like the locals. Sit-down breakfasts are best at Soup and Salad, or the Coffee Pot, and take out at Sedona Bagel and Donut cant be beat. After ride favorites include the buffet at the Indian Palace, the best sandwiches in town are at Sedona Memories, and the Red Planet Diner and Myan Taco across the street form the bikeshop are standards. Upscale dinners can be had at the Javalina Cantina, and vegetarian faire is at Tai Spices and New Frontiers Natural Foods. Nitelife is a bit dull in Sedona, but getting brighter. The Oak Creek Brewary provides entertainment and a cross section of Sedona natives. For nighttime coffee try Ravenheart and dont forget to check out the new wine bar and martini bar.
Take it from someone who knows, Sedona has the best mountain biking around, day or night, with or without light.
This article was written by Rama Jon,
founder of Mountain Bike Heaven.
Special thanks to the many riders who have contributed to the full moon experience in Sedona.