Photos by Ian Hylands
Words by Mike Kazimer
Departure morning arrived grey and gloomy, dark clouds scudding across the horizon and stacking up against the foothills of the North Cascades. Tech Editor Mike Levy, his friend Wayne, and photographer Ian Hylands drove down from Pinkbike headquarters to pick me up in Bellingham, Washingon. The four of us piled into the van to begin the trip south towards the sunshine and singletrack of Sedona, Arizona. Two weeks of bike testing and Vitamin D absorption lay ahead, but first there was a twenty six hour drive to dispatch with.
Rain accompanied us all the way to Salt Lake City, fat drops splatting against the windshield as a constant reminder of why we were leaving the Pacific Northwest. The scenery outside the van's windows slowly changed, lush greens and tall cedars gradually giving way to rolling hills dotted with sagebrush and scrub oak. As the miles rolled by, we began to find the rhythm of the drive. Settling into this rhythm requires altering one's perception of distance and time. It's best to ignore the clock completely – knowing it's two in the morning isn't much help when eight hours of driving remain. Focus turns to the gas gauge instead. Drive until the needle reaches a pre-determined level, pull into the closest truck stop or gas station, stumble over to the passenger seat, and repeat until the drive is complete.
We reached Arizona by sunrise, stopping just south of the Grand Canyon to take in the red rock vistas. The sun's rays spread across the land in front of us and began climbing the towering red sandstone walls that bordered the valley. To the west, the waning moon began to sink towards the skyline.
After a couple more hours of driving, including a bit of confusion when Ian Hyland's smartphone navigated us twenty miles off course, we finally arrived in Sedona. We had shipped some of our test bikes and gear ahead of time, so we stopped at Over the Edge Bikes to visit with Jason First and Matt Sherwood and pick up the test products. Over the Edge Bikes is truly a full service shop - with a pump track out back and an espresso machine inside, plus a knowledgeable, friendly staff that shreds, they're a must-visit shop on any Sedona trip.
Back at the rental house, our home base for the next two weeks, we began unloading the bikes and organizing the garage. We opened all the doors of the van in an effort to air out the fragrant potpourri that can only be created with a diet of gas station food and energy drinks. As we began unpacking, Eric Porter, Jon Kennedy and James Weigand rolled up with the Diamondback Sprinter van. They had brought a Mason 29 for us to test, and would be joining us for the next two days of riding. Richard Cunningham, the final member of our test crew, arrived a few hours later, his Volvo wagon filled to the brim with more test bikes and gear.
The next morning we woke up still groggy from the sleep deprivation brought on by the drive, but ready to shake off the cobwebs by laying down tracks in the red dirt. Singletrack spiderwebs off in all directions from Sedona, so we picked a trail with a good mix of technical climbing and descending to get us reacquainted with riding in the desert. Temperatures were perfect, especially compared to the dreary cold we had left behind. Riding on undulating slickrock with magnificent views in all directions began to erase the memories of how long it took to reach this destination. Conversation on the ride up centered on biking (of course
), with everyone discussing the past summer's adventures, and plans for next season.
We reached the top of the trail, a wide cleft between two towering sandstone walls. After a quick snack and photo break we began the descent, twisting and turning with the trail as it bobbed and weaved under rock outcroppings and around gnarled juniper trees. The sharp, square edges of the sandstone kept us alert, doling out pinch flats as punishment for misjudged landings and over-zealous air time. The sun was beginning to turn the sky pink when we arrived back at the trailhead, tired from the ride, but excited for the days of bike testing and trail exploring that lay ahead. Stay tuned for more reports from the road as the Pinkbike crew continues their desert adventure.