Mtb’s movers and shakers select their favourite places to ride
Geoff is the godfather of mountain bike photography. As well as being the original mbr snapper, he’s shot riders and portraits all over the world from a time before digital, picking up awards, front covers and acclaim along the way.
“Now this is tough one. Over the years I‘ve been lucky and privileged enough to ride many great trails in lots of epic locations; some iconic, others known only to local hotshots and their mates. Some ancient rights of way made by drovers and hersdmen and others painstakingly carved from the soil. But the one I have in my mind right now conjures images of dust, of eternal sunshine and the noise of tyre rubber skipping and chattering on solid earth. The sound of mtb.
“Joe’s Ridge Trail is in the 18 Road System of tracks in Fruita, Colorado. I rode the trail as part of a road trip that ended in arguably the most famous mountain bike destination of Moab, Utah. Fruita was a small desert town on the up as far as mountain biking was concerned, overshadowed by its bigger brother in the neighbouring state. Whatever, riding the trails of the 18 Road was a revelation and remains a stronger memory than the slickrock.
“For a pasty Brit used to trail centres, Fruita was like landing on the moon’s surface. A parking lot – the trailhead! Desert as far as the eye could see and a horizon punctuated by mountainous ridges. The feeling of isolation is real.
“And Joe’s Ridge was the first track we hit, recommended, as it was, as the warm-up line for the other trails in the system. A warm-up! Ha ha, honestly, I’m not the all-day epic kind of rider and the idea of hitting this track repeatedly is manna from heaven. I would never get bored of trying to master each corner at full tilt.
“The trail is a narrow ribbon of buff (and I use that word with no irony at all) singletrack probably no wider than a metre at any point that winds its way up through the kind of hard, spiky shrubs that only survive in arid climates. It switches through compressions and dips and short ups before breaking out onto the ridge line. For someone used to being surrounded by trees when riding, this offers a weird feeling. You can see for a long way; more desert mostly, but the steep sides of the ridge offer a mild feeling of exposure that adds to the exhilaration of riding a new venue. The mild vertigo-inducing ridge keeps the adrenaline-o-meter high as you hack along the knife blade, clearing the odd cluster of boulders and larger rock steps.
“Steep rollers make the ridge such a joy to ride. Lay off the brakes and let the bike have its head, rolling as far as gravity will take you before picking up the pedals to steam ahead for the next rise. Then hit what in my head I called a gulley, but locals may call a gulch – which is the kind of wall-to-wall type of riding that I defy anyone not to grin like the proverbial idiot after experiencing.
“I rode the trail as the low, late afternoon sun shone through the golden desert grass. It felt like I had hit the jackpot. At less than two miles, and with minimal elevation gain, Joe’s Ridge isn’t likely to tire you out. You can do it as many times as you like, but then there’s the bigger and funner (!) Zippity Do Da trail close by, or the Zippity Do Da loop for extra mileage. The beauty of returning to the car park with sweat- soaked helmet pads and the knowledge that your bike can be cleaned with a hair dryer rather than a jet wash, can never be underestimated.”