The Mountain Bike Life
Slick rock: The rock that begot our dreams, we see it everywhere, slapped all over your latest issue of bike porn (can this be a thing now?), cluttered about the online portals, panoramic views of Moab and Sedona, the gorgeous stones of the Colorado Plateau are made up of this wonderful thing we call slickrock. Before you get too excited, it is best to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. I know I wish I would have, as a quick plunge into the stiff techy drink we call slick rock left me in wading in regret.

About a week ago I headed to Prescott, Arizona. A mere two hour drive north of Phoenix and about 45 minutes South West of Sedona, Prescott is exactly what you would expect out of an old timey western town. With an antique looking courthouse in the center of town, this is not only a watering hole for the rugged cowboy but a hub for a great cycling community. Home of the Whiskey Off-Road, a quad crushing 50 mile cross country race, this town has a lot to offer. It was during this trip that I had my first experience with the boulders we commonly refer to as slickrock. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but luckily for you, once again, my misfortune will be a positive for you.

With adventure on my mind, I made my way out to the Granite Dells/Willow Dells. It was a rare day in Arizona with light precipitation throughout the afternoon. The trails wound closely around a few small bodies of water, one is Willow Lake and the other is Watson, both man made. They are essentially large basins carved into the granite. So naturally, they filled them with water, stocked them and made them into a recreation area.

The trail basically drops into the rocks, a descent from sand, to gravel, to granite chunks, and then finally to the source. Giant slabs of granite, carved by the elements, sculpted from time, there I found my match, there I found insanely fun technical riding drizzled with regret. Here are a few tips I wish I would have known going in, here are the first timer’s slickrock essentials:

Grip – Be prepared to be on rails, your bike grips like crazy on slickrock, things that look unimaginable to climb up are now your playground, you will clean sections you normally wouldn’t have dreamed of. But with this new found power comes a downside, it absolutely chews your tires up. So trucking through the granite with your brand new tires is a bad idea. Throw on those old rubbers and have a blast, grip will be the last of your worries.

Lines – This can’t be said for all slickrock areas, but it can be said for most. Follow the paint! This trail was marked, and based off the images from this is the norm in Sedona as well. Most popular trails should be marked with painted dots or lines, these of course can be followed closely or you can explore. This is one of the beauties of the geology, you can’t really mess up the trail by riding off the paint. Most areas are fine with you exploring but it is always best to make sure to check with the local trail builders.

Footwear – Slickrock can be dangerous. Riding on rocks, means potential for falling on rocks. Be extremely careful if you move away from the painted guides, the rock can drop off quickly. This is where footwear comes into play. I was running my clipless setup and it was great while pedaling, but when things got sketchy, so did my footing. Putting a foot down or hiking my bike was extremely slippery and dangerous. If you are hitting the stones, make sure to either wear clipless shoes that have rubber soles or stick with the flats. I know I will use the latter next time.

Overall, my Prescott Slickrock adventure was truly surprising. I can honestly say it was completely different than any other riding I have done and I am stoked to continue to explore and learn more about it. Next stop will be Sedona to create my own bike porn. Don’t worry I will share that as well.

If you have any comments, questions or great riding spots for slick rock, please add them below.

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