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Great ride at Moon Rocks

Posted by desflurane on April 21, 2013

Yesterday (a beautiful Saturday) I was unable to round up anybody to go riding with, so I struck out for Moon Rocks – on a solo mission…

The weather could hardly have been finer and recent rain/snow had tuned the dirt up fairly nicely. Apart from riding alone, it was a perfect outing.

I had some definite goals in mind for this session – I wanted to climb and descend steep, gnarly hills. In the near vicinity, the Moon Rocks area has these in spades.

Right out of the parking area there is a reasonably nasty hill. It’s probably a couple hundred feet tall. The trail forks about a quarter of the way up. The right hand fork is pretty easy – just keep on the gas and you get to the top without problem. The left hand fork is another matter. It is a good bit steeper and just before reaching the top a patch of boulders emerge from the sandy trail. Here is a picture of the hill taken from about a mile away – my iPhone zoom is maxed out so the resolution stinks, but you can clearly make out the salient features:


I made a quick run up the right-hand trail and rode down the left-hander to start with, just to reassure myself that there was some possibility of clearing the rocky patch. It looked tricky, but possible so I made a full-on attempt. Plenty of throttle on the approach resulted in good momentum when I arrived at the rocks. I climbed over the first few without difficulty, but I slowed to nearly a standstill before hitting the next bunch. I tried to pre-load the front suspension and wheelie onto them, but the back wheel just spun out in the loose sand and the front clunked uselessly into the next rock. Engine out…

In retrospect, I should have taken advantage of this opportunity to practice pushing the bike up the remaining few feet that would have been required to clear the rocks and finish out the climb, but I didn’t. I wrangled the bike back down through the lower rocks and rode down to the turn-around at the bottom. Oh well.

From there I rode over the hills to the actual “Moon Rocks” proper. From here several nice single track trails can be accessed to allow for some “steep” practice. The first one is a long, loose climb that leads into a multi-mile stretch of technical single track, which I have ridden many times before. I conquered same with relative ease. The previously mentioned rocks aside, I felt that my ability to climb these steep hills was markedly better than it has been in the past. I attribute this to an increased level of control over the clutch. I have always just dropped the clutch and held the throttle open – while the engine inevitably bogged down in the steep stuff and eventually died. Thanks to a great deal of practice riding in my favorite rock-garden, I have developed a much greater degree of control over the clutch – to the point that I am working the lever, seeking out more traction and keeping the engine lit without even thinking about it. This skill worked fantastically on the hill climbs. Rather than the inexorable descent of RPM’s toward zero, I was able to keep the engine revved-up, on the pipe and cranking out the ponies all the way to the top of the slope. Revolutionary!

(I realize that experienced riders are probably muttering to themselves “Well, duh… everybody knows how to do that…” turns out that I didn’t…)

She's a dirty girl!

She’s a dirty girl!

In addition to the main hill climb leading to this lovely bit of single track, there is another approach off to the right-hand side that is steeper and more “straight up the hill” in nature. It actually climbs higher than the other trail, then drops down to join it over the hilltop next-door. My buddies and I have sat in the safety and comfort of the large flat “parking lot” at the bottom of the hill watching other suckers trying their luck on this bad boy. With humorous regularity this hill rejects the efforts of nearly every single rider attempting it, and whose failures I have had the pleasure to watch.

The last time I rode Moon Rocks I joined the ranks of losers on this damned hill! I discovered that it is really steep, really long, really sandy (punctuated of course with the required boulders and unexpected hardpacked ledges) and really scary to ride down when you don’t quite make it. I expended several sincere runs on its middle slopes before retreating in shame.

Yesterday, after completing a wide circuit on the single track, I found myself at the fork in the trail that would lead me either up into the teeth of this monster or down toward gentler, flatter, more “civilized” riding below. I pondered this choice for a moment before punching the throttle and heading directly into harm’s way. I came there to climb hills, and hills I would climb!

As expected, the motor started to bog a little, but some quick clutch work had her back up and screaming in no time. Maintaining speed as I climbed the increasingly steeper grade, I was able to maneuver the bike much better than on previous attempts – where I was barely moving forward when the path got iffy. I swung back and forth across the trail aiming toward the smooth bits between the rocks and ruts, easily avoiding the pitfalls where my runs had ended before. Of course it seemed like minutes had crept by, but perhaps twenty seconds after the moment of full-commitment I was cresting the hill’s highest point, asking myself “What was so hard about that?”

I know I can’t seem to shut up about it, but the rear-end hookup was as fabulous as could be expected everywhere I rode. On the rocky sections of single track it shone like a diamond, and on the loose hill climbs the big knobbies did what they are supposed to do – digging in deep and pushing the bike hard! Long live the Tubliss!


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