3/10/16

Gooseberry Mesa, meet the IBIS Ripley LS...

I will be trying to knock out a 2 for 1 type of blog post today by reviewing the Gooseberry Mesa trails and talking about the attributes of the IBIS Ripley LS wonderful piece of technology.

Yesterday was Day Two of my St. George/Hurricane, Utah Spring Break mountain bike riding vacation. After a good night's sleep, I fueled up with a 1127 calorie breakfast (that I pretty much inhaled!) to tank up for the day's fun at the world-class Gooseberry Mesa. It is the slickrock must ride of southern Utah.

Let's start with a view from where the South Rim trail meets The Point trail intersection. I stopped to chow down a Clif Bar. I know that Clif Bars were named after founder and owner Gary Erickson's tribute to his father Clifford. However - and I mean no disrespect to Gary and Clifford - but I thought snacking on one was very appropriate since I was riding along cliffs for most of the day.

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This land offers nothing but stunning views. Just like our visit to the the area last June, I find myself struggling for words to describe the sheer beauty of this area. Mountains with snow topped peaks, blue sky, deep red soil, rocks, formations, desert, and on and on. It's eye candy. And lovely eye candy at that. Let's just say - I'll be back.

The dirt road getting to the parking area of Gooseberry Mesa was just as I had been warned about online - rough. I had rented an SUV with all wheel drive solely for the purpose of being able to get in there after last weekend's rains had passed through and left the road in what turned out to be some fun driving. Luckily, there was an SUV in front of me with two bikes on their rack - so I figured I could just follow them. The driver appeared to be local as he knew the road well enough to get us through unscathed.

Some people parked here, but I had read that the best place to park was another 1.1 miles of rough road. So did the car I was following as we passed this point and headed to our parking lot destination.

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I pulled into the well designed parking lot to unload the IBIS and get ready for the day's fun. There were about 8 cars in the lot, and 6 of us were unloading our bikes to head out for the afternoon.

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They have some very nice trail map kiosks and information at these trails where you can read about the rock formations, sediment, and other trail facts.

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The deeply-eroded, alternating bands of red and white that form the north and south borders of Gooseberry Mesa are mudstone of the Moenkopi Formation, laid down during the Triassic Era (about 240 million years ago). As the ocean receded, gravel and shoreline deposits formed the hard Shinarump conglomerate, which begins the cap of the mesa. As the area rose further, forest left behind petrified wood, which can be found lying on the mesa surface.

If you spend some time snooping around, you may even find dinosaur tracks in the sandstone. This rock marks the boundary between the Triassic (reptiles, mammal-like reptiles, and early bipedal dinosaurs) and the Jurassic (bipedal carnivores such as allosaurus, four-legged plant-eaters such as stegosaurs and camarosaurs).

I've been getting most of my information about where and what to ride from the UtahMountainBiking.com website which is really a wonderful resource tool for those planning trips to Utah to ride your bikes. The quote above comes from that site at this link.

I was also informed from several videos - especially jmpreston's from MTBR.com in the Utah forum about where and what to ride in the St. George/Hurricane areas in SW Utah. I knew there were advanced technical sections at Gooseberry, but two guys coming out of the trail reiterated that and issued me a warning - at least based on their riding skill level. One had torn a tire and they had to walk out by only doing the first half of the South Rim trail. They said "stay away" from the other half of the South Rim as it was Double Black Diamond only. Hmmmm.....

I hadn't really worried about it all until they spoke so passionately with me, so I decided to hit the trail called "Practice Loop" to see if I could handle the terrain. Yesterday's ride on the trails in the Hurricane Cliffs area were flowing singletrack that were more appropriate for my JET 9 or Salsa Dos Niner or Karate Monkey SS. So I wasn't really sure about what the IBIS Ripley LS could do. This bike has a lot of the new technology on it that I have never tried before. SRAM 1 x 11 gearing. The Fox 34mm fork stanchions. Boost hub in the rear. A slacker headtube than I have ever ridden. Short stem with wide bars. 130mm squish up front. Dropper seat post. Hydraulic brakes. That's a lot to throw at a guy riding with what appears to be ancient bicycle technology on all of my mountain bikes.

The build kit prices out the IBIS Ripley LS as configured at $7300 with the features my rental has loaded on it.

IBIS Build Kit for my Rental

I'm not sure "I got it" - in terms of what this bike can do - yesterday while riding on the Hurricane Cliffs trails. However, within several hundred meters of taking on the slickrock ledges, ramps, walls - I suddenly got it! Holy smokes is this bike the shiznit when riding chunk, technical stunts, walls, ramps, drops.

Wow! Either this bike was made for Gooseberry or Gooseberry was made for this bike. It just works! Just point the bike down or up this stuff and GO!

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So the love fest for the IBIS Ripley LS continued for 3 hours as I played. Obviously, we don't get to ride anything like this in Iowa, so having a tool like this bike to guide me through it all had me grinning from ear to ear as to what one can do on a bike these days. Walls that appear to go straight up - no problem. A drop that looks like an immediate end over end on my other bikes - no problem. The bike slowly, but surely helped me change my overall thinking and skill set. Now that says something about how far the bike technology has come in the past 20 years.

Lynda Wallenfels of LWCoaching.com includes most Saturdays as part of the structured training plan I use as a day to work on technical skills. That's been hard for me to do in the Winter months unless I consider putzing around the neighborhood in the snow and ice. I felt like yesterday I got caught up from all that I had missed the past 11 weeks in terms of technical skills building on Saturdays. Baptism by fire so to speak on these trails.

The practice loop proved I was golden in terms of my skills to take on Gooseberry. So I headed off to the North Rim trail. Stunning, stunning views of the big country.

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A lot of the trail in terms of rocks and ledges reminded me of what one encounters in the Black Hills on the more chunky singletrack. The slickrock walls coming at you left and right going up and down were a new challenge, but not as long as Moab's. This bike's platform adjusts automatically to one whether they are standing or sitting as you power up and down the walls. Incredible! All the technology poured into this bike has been worth it. I'm not saying one doesn't need a little skill as well as the psychology to take on the technical terrain, but the bike sure helped the mental side of the game. It reminds me a bit of my Niner RIP 9, but I've never had that bike set up outside of a XC build. I'm sure the newer RIP 9's are on equal footing, but I'm only speaking about the IBIS right now which is the BOMB!

After an hour of riding, I stopped and had my first snack before riding out to The Point where I encountered my first trailside cow. She did not spook and allowed me to pass. The view is best summed up by a little video I shot while standing on The Point enjoying what I was seeing...



Although I had a hint of trepidation from the warning the two guys gave me in the parking lot, I felt my skills and the bike combined were doing just fine. Even though my upper body was starting to fatigue from all of the manuals, walls, climbs, and muscling through the super fun trail - I didn't come all this way to "not ride" the entirety of the South Rim. So I dove into the double black diamond section not sure of what I would find. Boy, was it fun. Especially riding right along the edge of the cliff with a stiff wind blowing making you hang on for all you were worth. Technically, I did not find it much different from the rest of what I had been riding - just more of it. One has to be careful when riding this kind of trail as fatigue sets in you might make poor decisions or develop the mindset of not caring any more because it all comes at you again and again with very little time to mentally or physically relax.

That happened to me climbing one rather steep wall that had a sharp right turn in the middle of the climb. I misjudged my body lean and the angle just enough that I was going to go down hard on the rock. I had a choice of saving myself or saving the bike. I chose the former and had to lay the bike over on the slickrock right on the rear derailleur as I tucked and rolled down the rock. A little torn skin on the right shin and left elbow, but nothing I couldn't shake off and laugh about. The bike was fine too, but I did scuff the derailleur a bit on the rock.

I took a break to soak in the view and recover from the spill...

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Then I proceeded with caution a bit for a few minutes at a slower pace to get it all together again. I eventually got back to the parking lot where I immediately struck up a conversation with 4 folks from Alberta, Canada who were all enjoying a nice frosty beer. They had been out hiking some of the trails. We started talking about the YURTS which one can see, places I should visit while I was here, places to eat and had a nice visit. I decided to round out the day with two more loops on the Practice Loop as I wanted to shoot some video of it. The workout was not as aerobic or fatiguing on the legs as it was on the rest of the body and mind. Either way, I felt spent when I loaded up the bike and headed back to St. George.

After a quick hot shower, I located a restaurant just driving around that I had not heard of before. It looked good enough from the street to stop in and give it a try. I'm glad I did! It's called the Anasazi Steakhouse and I really enjoyed my filet, rosemary mashed potatoes, salad, grilled veggies, and wine...

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Named after the local ancestors of the Pueblo Indians. There is a trail system called Anasazi in the Santa Clara River Preserve.

Satiated from the evening's dinner, I headed back to my Airbnb. That was it for one of the better mountain biking days I have experienced in my life. Great bike meets great technical terrain and both now rank high on my list of what it is all about when it comes to mountain biking.


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