Contrary to its name, Slickrock – the most famous mountain biking trail on the planet – isn’t slick at all. In fact, what makes the 10.5-mile loop on a high desert plateau in Moab, Utah, so memorable (besides the otherworldly red rock views that stretch from the Colorado River to the 13,000-foot La Sal Mountains), is the grippy sandpaper-like terrain. Fat tires literally stick to the grip tape-like Navajo Sandstone, enabling gravity-defying angles more akin to a roller coaster ride than a mountain bike trail. To cultivate the right mindset required to ride a trail that would otherwise spell certain death were it dirt, we started with the 2.2-mile Practice Loop.
Be under no misconceptions: The Practice Loop isn’t any easier than Slickrock itself, it’s just much shorter and takes only 30 minutes instead of three to four hours, requiring less commitment. Both trails are accessed from the parking area and are marked by painted white dashes on the rock. We soon realized that navigating the terrain doesn’t require advanced technical skills so much as mustering a certain level of fearlessness, or at least a willingness to trust that our bike will handle the seemingly impossible demands that we are about to put on it (and therefore defy certain peril). It took all 2.2 miles of the Practice Loop to prove we could, for example, climb a 20-percent grade out-of-the-saddle without slipping back. And once that clicks, Slickrock goes from terrifying to thrilling. [$5 entrance fee; discovermoab.com]