Moab Solo Mountain Biking: How To Ride The Whole Enchilada Trail On Your Own
The cool desert breeze rises above the sheer bluff overlooking Moab, Utah’s pristine Castle Valley. The only noise is the crunch of gravel and sand as my mountain bike tires roll over the weak track. It’s just me, my ATV, and the Whole Enchilada.
My 20 mile solo ride is part of the famous Entire Enchilada in Moab, which starts high in the mountains of La Sal and combines some of the best mountain biking trails in the world – Burro Pass, Hazard County, Kokopelli, Lower Porcupine Singletrack and Porcupine Rim – with breathtaking desert landscapes as far as the eye can see .
I only encountered four other riders on an unusually warm fall day, as the unique sections of trail descended over 4,000 feet, covering everything from fast and smooth singletracks to technical rocky terrain along Porcupine Rim.
The secluded trail traverses some of Moab’s most diverse desert terrain: full of spiers, buttes, and buttresses in endless shades of red. The ride descends into Jackass Canyon before happily spitting you into the Colorado River.
If the Whole Enchilada isn’t on your must-see grocery list, add it now. This trail is famous in the mountain biking world for good reason.
Doing it alone takes an extra level of courage and fortitude, but the payoff is well worth it.
How to mountain bike in solitude
Mountain biking is generally a group sport. Having a crew fuels your excitement – it’s always great to have someone to share the experience with and a festive beer after the ride. There’s also the safety bonus of having a buddy to watch your back as you crash, pick up, and dust yourself off. As good as buddies are, there is something liberating about just grabbing your bike and riding the trail on your own.
Solo mountain biking is a form of escape rarely encountered today. You can go as fast or as slowly as you want. You can stop and sit and enjoy the view whenever you want.
When riding on your own, you don’t have to follow anyone or slow your pace as the crew catches up with you, and you have the freedom to redo fun sections of the trail. You can get away from it all. The ride is yours and you can do whatever you want.
To make sure you stay safe and come home with stellar stories, not injuries, there are a few basics to keep in mind.
At first there can be a little trepidation. However, the “what ifs” can enter your mind. Over time, the fear is smothered by the silence of riding alone in nature.
Lesson # 1: Don’t start riding on your own by heading to Moab and trying the Whole Enchilada, unless you are already an expert level rider.
It wasn’t my first time riding the Whole Enchilada. I knew the trail, having hiked it before with friends. I worked my way up through the ranks knowing I had the skills and fitness level to ride it safely.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with being alone on the track by making short back and forth trips to start. It gives you a certain degree of cushion. Trips closer to town usually have more people on the trail who can help out as needed.
As you get more comfortable with soloing outings, you can start to go deeper into the wilderness and take more technical trails. Soon you might find yourself more comfortable in a solo than in a group.
Know your limits
Know your limits. Mountain biking alone will help you find a good comfort zone for your fitness and skill level. When I ride alone I tend to err on the side of caution. There’s nothing wrong with reducing the excitement a bit, and there’s no shame in walking sections of the trail.
At the same time, get to know your bike and make sure you have the proper tools to repair common malfunctions such as a flat tire or a broken chain. Have a small medical kit in your bag to help you or other runners in the event of a problem. When you are mountain biking solo, you are your own first responder, so be prepared to deal with any safety or health concerns on your own.
As you ride on your own, you will find that your confidence and comfort level increase as well. In no time, the trails that once seemed impossible are just a simple solo hike for you.
Common sense = stay safe
The same rules apply to solo mountain biking as in any other sport when it comes to taking the necessary precautions beforehand. Make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.
Bring enough food and water for the trip, and take a map or GPS device for long journeys. A cell phone is good to have in an emergency if there is coverage.
I download maps from Gaia GPS application on my phone for my trips. So even though I don’t have service, I have a topographic map with GPS on my phone. On long trips, I even carry an external battery charger, just in case.
It is also good to have basic first aid and wilderness medicine skills. Consider taking a Wilderness First Responder Course so you know what to do in an emergency. The same goes for basic bike maintenance 101.
While mountain biking alone doesn’t require a lot of gear, you carry everything you might need on a solo hike, just in case. From a flat tire to a broken chain, mountain biking in remote areas alone means being prepared. Here is a list of some basic gear to have with you when riding solo:
A good, well maintained and loyal Mountain bike is a must. Make sure the bike is designed for where you are taking it. Front suspension may be enough, but full suspension and a drip seat can make a ride difficult to manage. Make sure to make a inspection every time you get on the bike.
It is a good rule of thumb to always wear a mountain bike helmet when you ride, and especially when you ride alone.
A good hydration pack is essential to make sure you are carrying enough water to keep you going, along with all of your gear. Make sure you have a bag big enough to hold everything, but not so heavy that it weighs you down.
Always carry a few spare tubes. Just put a few in the bag, even if you’re tubeless riding, just in case you have a puncture.
Shock pump / tire pump
Shock pumps and tire pumps inflate and deflate shocks and tires as needed. Often during the same trip, I inflate and deflate my tires several times depending on the track conditions. In addition, if you get an apartment, have a Bicycle pump This is the key.
There are some basic bicycle tools that you will always want to have on hand. A good Multi-function tool will take care of everything most of the time in a small kit.
Jerseys and shorts, such as PNW component line, are specially designed for mountain biking and will make your ride easier and more comfortable.
A good pair of Sun glasses is a must when riding in the sun. Polarization is even better for reducing glare.
Energy and protein are the key to long solo trips. Make sure you carry bars, GU, Clif Shot Bloks – whatever you want to avoid the dreaded bonk. Longer trips may require more food, such as trail mix or a sandwich.
A little medical kit along with basic first aid is good to have on hand in an emergency.
GPS / map (preferably both)
Make sure you have a way to navigate in case you get lost or confused. You may want to consider taking a GPS satellite messaging device such as a PLACE Where Garmin inReach mini.