Photos by Ian Hylands
Words by Mike Kazimer
Everything in the desert is sharp. The rocks, cactus, yucca plants, even the leaves on the trees are designed to draw blood or puncture tubes. We finished our first few rides in Sedona, Arizona, scraped and scratched by the pointy plants that lurk around every corner. It wasn't just the tricky, technical nature of the trails that was contributing to our wounds – it was the fact that in spots the scenery is so spectacular it's easy to get distracted and find yourself heading straight into some type of flat-inducing object. After amassing a ridiculous number of flat tires due to close encounters of the cactus kind, we made the effort to convert as many bikes as possible to tubeless. A long evening spent with a roll of Gorilla Tape and a bottle of sealant ensured we wouldn't need to worry quite as much about the spiky desert plants' attempts to thwart our forward momentum.
Sedona trails are steep and punchy - for each technical downhill there's an equally technical uphill that follows soon after. Even the shuttle rides aren't all downhill - it's almost guaranteed there will be a section of climbing just long enough to make your head pound and legs burn. Trails like Slim Shady, Highline, and Hangover have proven to be perfect for ensuring our quiver of test bikes gets a full thrashing. Trail bikes are ideal for the riding in this area - they're light enough to handle the climbs, but capable enough to shred the downhills. We'd also highly recommend running a dropper post - the ability to adjust seatpost height on the fly comes in handy on the sneaky little uphills every trail seems to have.
With near-perfect weather since our arrival, the days have begun to run together in a blur of bikes, dust and burritos (we've developed a slight Mexican food addiction). The local riders have been kind enough to share their favorite rides with us, leading us to steep rock rolls and natural wall rides tucked away in the craggy desert landscape. Slickrock provides unparallelled traction – it's as if the ground were covered with skateboard grip tape. We've been riding as long as possible, pedaling until the sun's last rays sink behind the hills and turn the thin clouds purple. We've only begun to scratch the surface of the riding opportunities in the Sedona area, but luckily we still have another week of riding in this desert playground. Keep checking back for more reports from the road, and watch for the results of our product testing throughout the winter.