Moab Happenings Archive
Return to home


Enjoy a Ride in the Summer Heat:
Ride Early, Ride Late, or Ride High . . . in the Mountains

by Brooks Carter

Summer in Moab can be beautiful and exciting and . . . . really HOT! It’s not unusual for the high temps in July and August to run between 95° and 105° Fahrenheit. Mountain bikers have more than once gotten into trouble by not planning for a safe and fun ride. So how is it possible to have fun when it’s that hot?

One of the best ideas in the summer is to simply avoid the heat. The tours that I guide in the summer start at 7 a.m. For my personal rides, I start even earlier and try to be done by 9 or 10 at the latest – especially if I am going to be riding a physically demanding trail like Slickrock. The riders that I see suffering from cramps and other heat related problems are most often riding after 11 a.m. when the temperatures are climbing into the 90’s with the sun bearing down. If you are planning to ride on a summer day, be sure to take at least 4 liters of water (4 water bottles or a 100 oz. hydration bladder) for a 2 – 3 hour ride, and put some ice cubes in your water to keep cooler. Also consider, all that water does you little good unless you remember to drink early and often. Take along some electrolytes (to fight cramping and the life threatening condition called hyponatremia), and some energy food since bonking is no fun.

Riding in the evening is another option. Unlike areas with high humidity, riding in shade here in Utah will be noticeably cooler. Plus, the temperature at sunset is often about 10° less than the day’s high temperature and continues to drop as you ride. Starting just before sunset on the less shaded trails will give you almost an hour before darkness falls. I did a sunset ride on the North 40 Trail at Moab Brands, and found that while the temperature felt warm, it wasn’t hot. Making the ride even better, the trail had less people on it than during the day, I had a great view of the fading light on the La Sal Mountains and it’s big white thunderheads, and then there was a totally awesome sunset at the end of the ride! Some trails such as Hymasa, Captain Ahab, and Pipe Dream are in shade early in the afternoon and will provide several hours of cooler riding. If you want to get further into the evening, do what they do in Phoenix and buy a light system – it’s so hot there, almost everyone rides at night.

Another great way to beat the heat is to go to the La Sal Mountains and ride above 8,000’. When the temperature is 100° in the valleys, it can be 80° or less in the alpine areas and if you start early in the morning, the temps can be in the 40’s or 50’s. A couple of things to keep in mind are that the trails up in the mountains are mostly for expert riders, you will share the trail with cows (watch for fresh cow pies and give the bulls a wide berth), and watch for afternoon thunderstorms building during the summer monsoon season.

If expert trails in the mountains don’t sound like your cup of tea, rejoice! The Forest Service is currently building some new trails. That work is primarily being done by volunteers working under the direction of the Forest Service, and food for the trail crew is being provided by Rim Tours. Trails that may be more suited to the intermediate rider include Jimmy Keen (3 miles finished and rideable) and Burl Friends (near Medicine Lake, should be finished in August). The Warner Family Loop can even be ridden by experienced beginners and is adjacent to the Warner Lake Campground – a perfect place to bike, hike, picnic and maybe even catch a fish in the cool mountain air!

You can still enjoy biking in the summer, but go early, go late, or go high in the mountains to stay as cool as possible. Always carry extra water and snacks.

Brooks Carter is a mountain bike guide at Rim Tours. During the cold months, he’s a ski instructor at Brighton. As a volunteer for Trail Mix, he designed & helped build EKG, Mega Steps, Little Salty, UFO, Alaska, Nome, Homer, Miner’s Loop and Houdini trails (he has a lot more designs in the wings). Life is good!

Return to home

© 2002-2014 Moab Happenings. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of information contained in this site is expressly prohibited.