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1952 Red Hercules
by Terry Morse

Admittedly I’m an old timer whose first bike was a 1952 red Hercules three-speed, a hybrid. Not a mountain bike, they came decades later; not a road bike, they were unavailable in the US, or if imported from Europe, too costly. The first order of business was to make this fantastic motion machine into a beast. Remove the chain guard, fenders and brakes. That should lighten it up enough to qualify as an imaginary road bike. Leave the tires, probably 30mm, and the hub gearing with the three-speed handlebar shifter. Perhaps the precursor to a mountain bike. Tie a string around your jeans at the ankle to keep them out of the crank. No worries about the fenders. If it rained, it was a blessing. The rain gave a rare and always needed cleaning to the monster. Always wear sneakers. Braking was accomplished by sticking your right foot in between the back tire and the back frame tube. Worked well but hard on the sneakers. The beauty of that bike was that it served very nicely as a mountain bike and a road bike. It took me all over the valley and mountains of my Colorado home for years with only a few tire patches and a can of 3-in-One Oil and numerous pairs of sneakers.

Now, some fifty years later, the ride is different. I prefer a Seven titanium frame, Dura Ace components, and a darn good bike shop, of which there are many in Moab. Having a favorite wrench at your favorite shop is a necessity and a luxury, which is part of the riding culture of today. For today, it is two bikes, mountain and road. Can’t do both with one rig. Those days date codgers like myself as dinosaurs. Okay. So I came to Moab years ago for the mountain biking; loved the desert the trails the camaraderie, the whole scene. Mountain biking was my “thing” until one day I decided my innards had been shaken up enough. What to do? Road biking.

Road riding in Moab is one of its well-kept secrets. There are enough varied routes to keep one amused. You know them. Ride round-trip from Moab to Potash if you want a flat cruiser on an easy day. Moab to Canyonlands’ Grand View Point for a century. Follow the Colorado River up Highway 128 to Dewey Bridge. Moab to Dead Horse Point. The La Sal Mountain Loop over the Big Nasty. Moab to Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park. Any bike-riding local or bike shop can point the way. I’ve ridden a bunch of miles, no haven’t kept track of them, and have found that there is something that makes road riding in the Moab area unique. Like no other place I’ve done consistent riding, altering the time of day and riding in all weather conditions creates rides that are always a new adventure.

In other areas the rides become predictable. Not Moab. Example: Use the bike path to access Potash at dawn in the summer, and you are blessed with perfect temperatures and an upriver wind or a downriver wind depending on prevailing weather patterns. The thing is, most of the time, if your timing is right, you can make it out and back with the wind in your face one way and at your back the other. Fast forward two hours for your departure and you stand a good chance of having head winds both ways. Or ride 128 up the Colorado River on an early morning in late November. The autumnal light on the red rock above, solitude, cool air-tights and finger glove weather: it’s all magnificent. Ride the bike path up toward Canyonlands to Highway 313, then up to Canyonlands National Park. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a ringtail cat crossing the road just before Seven Mile Canyon and the beginning of the initial climb. Wild turkeys are often spotted on the Potash ride, bighorn sheep in Arches, deer on the La Sal Mountain Loop, and the list goes on.

If you want to ride like the wind, join the Saturday ride. The valley’s aficionados welcome visitors to the peloton. If you do join them, prepare for a workout. They are not slackers. Again, talk to any local bike shop for information. Whether you ride early in the morning, late in the afternoon, with your best buddies, or alone, the key is to be safe and ride, ride, ride.

Terry Morse was raised on a ranch near Aspen, Colorado, and he and his artist wife Anne Vitte have lived in Moab since 2005. Terry writes, meditates, works with wood, and bikes throughout Grand County. He competed in the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, in the sport of Biathlon (cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship), and rode his Seven road bike on a self-supported trip across the United States in the summer of 2010, a trip that became the basis of a memoir.

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