I didn't even know how to pronounce the town when I moved to CO some years ago. Fruita, Cahlaradee. Say it: Froo-tah. And it was, as legend already has it: epic. Our family and about 5 others packed up Griswald style and pointed our Family Trucksters towards this great town Thursday through Sunday. We set up camp and commenced some serious play.
First, some background: Fruita as you'll see on Google Maps is essentially as far west as you can get in Colorado before running into Utah. It's right near Grand Junction and on a couple of our MTB excursions were right at the border. The town of Fruita has...well not a helluva lot. It's got dinosaurs, shale oil deposits and mountain biking. And, oh, the mountain biking. I've been on epics before and this ranks at the top. The riding is very 'high desert' but is pure single track. What you trade for in deep-woods East Coast rooted single track, you make up for in other was like slick rock features, riding up through snake-like riverbeds (e.g. imagine a star wars like 'tunnel' of twisty/rhythm singletrack with walls on either side of you and you're railing this thing at mach speed). So, the terrain is very Colorado/high desert, but not all open and exposed slick rock riding in barren desert. It is single track amongst tons of greenery, over rock features with vistas like you see above.
Before I left, a team mate of mine, AC"2", sent me a the most beautiful and thoughtful note on Fruita about its riding, the beers...you name it. Written as a local due to the fact he was one. While I am an advocate of trail preservation as an IMBA and BMA member, AC had a very particular and personal way of putting it. And I quote...
So Fruita virgin,
First of all you are gonna love the one track man!!! Can't wait to hear what you think after all the hype and shit over the last decade.
I am envious of your "first time". Remember one thing though, it is bad ass cuz its narrow!!! Keep it narrow!!! All the trails in the valley were 18 inches wide for a long time until the onslaught of front rangers and the like in the last half dozen years. One simple rule... Your tires should NEVER leave the trail. Not to pass oncoming traffic, not to "go look over there", not to pull up beside your homey and chat about how this is better than workin', nor to avoid that cow pie.
The Desert doesn't heal, one tire track in the harmless looking grass or "bare dirt" will be there for years, and if it doesn't attract more tires it will surely act as a water channel and really eff up things after a while. If you do "miss your line", and we all have, take the time to stop, lift your bike back to the trail and kick dirt over the tire track, thank the desert for its mercy and giv'er.
I tell you all this, now, at you most vulnerable time, as a virgin, and out of respect that I believe you have the wholesomeness as a bike rider to appreciate it. Preserve this for your kids!
Perfectly said AC. And it was as pristine as he describes. The singletrack is PERFECTLY carved into the terrain. Each side bordered with this micro-biotic plant life. Think lichen but softer and greener and leafier. The trails were clearly designed by someone who has a vision of literally making someone smile for hours. The trails rhythm perfectly and leverage the terrain to keep you sailing and railing. If I were to explain them very generally (e.g. across many of the rides we did), I'd say that they were like a flat land dual-slalom course with high banked berms that come in succession one after the other after the other after the other so in some sections your momentum and skill at rhythming without pedaling will keep you flying. There are PLENTY of climbing sections if you link up the appropriate trails which we did along with natural stair cases going up and of course down...all formed from layers of rock. Some were so beautiful I actually said "Is this legal stuff we're on????".
I asked about some of the history when I met locals and all roads seemed to come back to Troy Rarick. This is the apparent Godfather of MTB-ing in Fruita and founder of Over The Edge Sports. While I am not here to spark a debate, on many occasions of the conversations I had, Troy was described as the guy who essentially 'saved' the town of Fruita. In other words, pivoting the town's economy from nothing to a true destination spot for mountain bikers...and with them, an injection of cash for the economy. It was he and others who worked hard to create the trail networks and work with BLM et al to make the trails what they are. I went into the shop to see if I could talk with him but he was at Sea Otter this weekend. Bummer. There is however an interesting interview Troy gave on Fruita and its 13th Annual Fat Tire festival in the latest 5280 Magazine (cover above) if you can source it.
To the riding specifics....
There was a GREAT crew for the weekend! It ranged from Rocky Mounter team mates Rich Z and John G and their posse of friends like Li'l Dave, 'Precise' Andy, Rally Sport Paul to our mutual family friend, supreme fast man and former GT rider Antonio G. In addition, ALL our wives and kids were there and had this huge, fun communal atmosphere. We did 3 epics....with the last day being the mother-load.
Day 1 we did at dusk which was beautiful. We railed for ~ 2 hours parts of the Kokopeli system...e.g. Horse Thief, Prime Cut among others before it got too dark and we needed to get back to the families.
Day 2 was a semi-epic wherein we did the "18 Road" network including Joe's Ridge which we did parts of in reverse...e.g. I climbed and cleared the 31% climb you see to the right. Ha! The Ahrens 29'er was SICK on the steep climbs! Don't worry, we railed it all in reverse to get in the spine-like descents at speed. Unbelievable. My day ended prematurely (although at the very end which was cool) with my Mavic Cross Max 29'er front wheel essentially coming 'undone'. I couldn't believe it! I have the 26'er version on my 1 x 1 and have NEVER taken a trui9ng wrench to them in 100's of miles. On less than 300 miles the front whee; undid itself. The front effectively came un-tensioned and spokes popped out of their hub housings. I was able to get it dialed in though at Over The Edge in Fruita.
Day 3. Boing! Epic. we went back and railed a fairly monster section of the Kokopeli system at fairly insane speeds. We did Mary's amongst a variety of other trails. This should be on EVERYONES must-do-before-I-die list of trails.
Each day, all the wives would do their own daily epics as well, covering much of the same ground the guys did. A whole crew of the ladies would gear up and take off while the guys watched the kids, then we'd switch off when they came back.
As you can see above, the trails literally circumnavigate the whole rim of the mountainside and give you insane views of the Colorado River. The terrain is mostly single track, extremely technical rock sections and short link-up sections of fire road. We did one section, Troy Built, which was ridiculously fun. It was a complicated set of 'problems' that had you thinking and thinking...if you are drilling it at speed like we were. It traversed through this whole bizarre volcanic rock section then sent you up, climbing single track to you gain altitude to come back down a bomber decent.
Best of all was the 'scene'. 5 or so families all camped out in tents and pop-ups around a communal cul de sac with no less than 15 kids ripping around on their bikes, unicycles, Razors in addition to fishing at this huge lake and eating 'smores until they were all collectively psychotic from the sugar rush. Nothing better on earth than seeing the kids in that much bliss.
So kids, the Fruita trip will become an annual. I do not feel like I 'completed' enough and am craving to get back. So go and have an epic time but heed AC's advice above and keep those fat tires center lined with the singletrack!
Some digital celluloid....