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And There I Was...

Nate J.



I pretty much met my match out on the trail this past weekend. I was out for a nice ride on some easy trails I knew up in the mountains above Salt Lake City when I proceeded to make a cascading series of mistakes that got me in a heap of trouble. My 1st being riding on unknown trails alone. I ended up tired, embarrassed, and feeling like a bit of an idiot.


I decided to try a trail I had never been on before. On the GPS it was only a couple miles long and ended up back on the main road. Easy! I headed down the trail and it was great at first. The usual rocky trail that I’m used to, somewhat narrow, minor washouts, thin surface mud and puddles in places, you know all the things that make riding a trail fun! Not to mention the scenery and views were amazing!


01 Easy.jpg


The first obstacle on the trail was a bunch of rocks firmly planted in the ground with sharp craggy tops - all about a foot or more tall. Nothing like the soft fuzzy rocks I’d been riding through so far. Just below that was some loose scree and then a coffee sized boulder. Beyond that the trail looked like more of what I’d just been riding. I wasn’t crazy about this obstacle, but sometimes you’ll find a nasty spot in an otherwise good trail that if you can just get around or over all will be well. There was a side-hill whoopty that I could use with a bit of momentum to get around the rocks. Fortunately the whoopty dumped into the scree with the perfect line to get around the boulder. I made my 2nd mistake and proceeded around the obstacle that I knew would be very difficult to surmount in the opposite direction. If I needed to return I’d have to ride uphill through scree, turn in the scree while keeping up momentum, and hit the whoopty perfectly to get around the rocks again. I wasn’t worried at all at this point though as I figured the rest of the trail would be just fine, and in a couple miles I’d be back on the main road.


Around the next corner? Crap. The trail started to quickly degrade. Steeper downhill slopes, worse washouts, more scree. At this point I knew I would have a very difficult time going back the way I came. So on I went. I did find one wide enough and flat enough place to dismount and rest in the shade which is where I snapped the first picture above. From there I walked a little back up the trail to try to get a more representative picture. Here’s a section I actually rode through. Meaning I was up on the pegs actually riding the bike. I wasn’t willing to waste the energy needed to walk back up to one of the “less than 2 miles and hour sitting on the seat paddling and screaming for my mommy sections”! What this picture doesn't represent well is the 30 to 35 degree downslope of this section.


02 Sorta Ick.jpg


From here I took it very slow. I’d walk a little ways ahead on the trail, scout out my lines, ride the lines, stop when I could, and repeat. The trail just kept getting worse and worse and I was digging myself deeper and deeper into the crap pile. I just kept looking at the GPS and thinking “It’s only 1 mile to the main road! How bad can it be”? Then I’d come up on something like this. Plan my line. Make it through.


03 Lies Ahead.jpg


At this point returning the way I came just didn’t seem like an option. I was doing alright though. Hadn’t dropped the bike once, was making progress, and more or less feeling pretty good about myself. Hell, I even ran over a rattlesnake with my front tire, he struck, hit my boot… Meh - I’m invincible.


This section made me feel particularly good about myself. A narrow weave through a washout, but what you can’t see is the 30 yard long 45 degree downhill scree slope right after the left turn in the pic. I pulled it off - managed the bike with some rear brake down the scree which ended in a nice meadow.


04 Not Excited.jpg


Took a long break after that, and walked some more trail. Looks like it might be getting better finally! Yay! I was just getting ready to push on when this Jeep came down the trail I had just ridden from above me.


05 Jeep.jpg


It’s a CJ of course, and naturally the guy’s name was actually CJ. The nicest, and most helpful guy you’d ever meet. He was quick to tell me he wasn’t going any further down the trail as it was impassable a bit past where I’d just walked. Very steep, covered with scree, and pretty much washed out to non-existence. At least 3 times worse than what I’d just come through. In fact, two months ago a jeeper died trying to come up that section when he rolled his jeep over backwards. Now, I realize I’m on two wheels and am not a jeep, so it’s very possible that what he sees as impassable may very well be passable to a bike, but at this point my confidence was completely shot. After a bit of deliberating internally I decided the only way out was back the way I came through a trail I did not want to go back through. Double crap.


CJ said he'd follow me up and make sure I got out. An amazing guy. So up I went. At first not so bad. Moving at a pretty good clip keeping up momentum over the rocks when I took a bad angle and ended up in a bush. Sorry, no pic of the bush. CJ caught up and helped me yank the bike out of the bush, get it back on it's wheels and off I went again.


Another nasty obstacle - had a bad line and had to stop. Good thing I did cuz down came 2 Tacomas and a FJ. Now the predicament of getting me out of the way, and CJ's jeep out of the way to let the 3 Toyotas get by and out of our way. Classic trail dilemma. Lucky for me the 3 Tacoma drivers looked like they lived at the gym, and we just literally picked the 560lb bike up off the ground and moved it over.


I Didn't have much room to get a run at the obstacle which was on a really steep sideways cant. Lost the rear end into the ditch and the bike ended up on it's side and upside down. The three huge guys were still around thankfully, so we just picked the bike up and carried the damn thing the rest of the way up the obstacle. Off riding again. Completely wasted, burnt out and tired.


Finally came up on the big doozy of an obstacle. You know, that first rock pile I’d navigated around knowing it would be exceedingly difficult to get around in the opposite direction? Yeah, that one. I though about it. Thought about it some more. CJ finally says - "you're not doing this. your too wiped out and you'd have to be completely on your game to pull this off. If you screw it up you WILL break bones. I don't give a shit about your bike, but your not breaking any bones." As luck would have it AGAIN two more jeeps pulled up behind us, both with Andre the Giant at the wheel. We got the bike out of the way enough to let CJ in his CJ by, and he went up past the rocks, turned around, and payed out his winch. Yes I said payed out his winch. We winched that damn Tenere up around the rocks. BTFA! If those guys hadn't been there I would have been leaving the bike and walking home - I am forever in their debt.


06 Obstacle.jpg


AltRider - your crash bars and skid plates are indestructible! Unfortunately I don't have video of winching over the obstacle itself as the camera operator had to go run the motor in the CJ's jeep so his battery wouldn't die. You can get a pretty good idea of what we were up against though.



After that it was smooth sailing back to the road. CJ met back up with me there and we aired the tires back up on the bike and his Jeep, fixed some bent crap on my bike, had a couple beers, and shot the breeze for about an hour. Great guy - CJ wherever you are, YOU ARE MY HERO!


If it hadn’t been for all those 4-wheelers being in the right place at the right time I would have been screwed. I either would have had to leave the bike there and walk out to return later for it, or more likely done something I shouldn’t have done in my wiped out state.


Lessons learned?

  1. Never ride an unknown trail alone. For that matter it’s not really a good idea to ride any trail alone whether known or unknown. You never know what kind of crap you’ll get yourself into.
  2. Never cross an obstacle you are either A) Not willing to cross again, or B) Can’t cross again in the opposite direction. Option B is exactly what I did in this situation, and as you’ve read it got me in a serious pickle.


In the end it all worked out ok. No damage to me, and some minor damage to a couple of the guards/plates on the bike, but meh… that’s what their for right?


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Wow that was some adventure for sure!


Glad you made it out with the help of such nice people.  Don't plan to repeat that on the IDBDR okay?  :)

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perfect timing. I was nearing the point of "eff it and ride alone" then I read your post. Going to wait for a group ride and cooler weather. Most of the dirt here is unfamiliar to me, better to have a tour guide at this point.

Excellent write up.

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Hey, just glad my story could help someone out. Probably get away with it 99 out of 100 times, but that 100th time is really no fun at all. I was fortunate and wasn't truly alone, but had I truly been alone I would have been in the hurt locker. It's all about the risk:reward ratio. That day my ratio was upside down and I ignored it.

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Sounds like a ride I had a few weeks back on my Tenere. Attempted a single track section that looked "only a few miles". My altrider gear took a beating that day. Hey it was a learning experience and we are both better riders cause of it. Haha. Good write up.

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Alone, on a large adventure bike, headed downhill on a 4x4 trail , with no recovery aids ? Don't we all love an adventure! Let's be honest , this type of trail should be left to the Jeep guys or only attempted on a lightweight enduro or the like. It's the big adventure bike complex we all ride with, the feeling we can go ANYwhere with these machines. Until the fact that these are plus 500lbs and bulky knocks some sense into us !

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