The Hurricane Mountain Bike Festival

Getting ready to ride Gooseberry Mesa

It is quite a funny coincidence that there was a LDS (Latter Day Saints) Homeschool conference in the community center right by the Bike Festival. Every time a rider had to go to the restroom, he/she was greeted by scriptures from the Book of Mormons and images of Saints. The funniest moment was when two girls and I were washing the dirt off our legs in the restrooms, sweaty and in tank tops and shorts, and two well-dressed (and well-covered) ladies walked in with their daughters and gave us a dirty look. What a clash!

Meet Mr. Cru Jones, the mascott of the festival, or festivals I should say, since his owner teaches bike clinics in the mountain bike festivals and brings him with her! He is a rescue malamute pup from Colorado and even has his own Instagram page!

Playing Hangman while waiting for dinner to be ready.

We tried some local beers at the Beer Garden. I really liked the Cutthroat, but the other one was bleh...

Awesome dutch oven cooked meal. I wish I had taken a picture of the pile of dutch ovens covered in charcoals. Only Jerud, Ching and I had Festival tickets, but between the 3 of us, there was enough food to feed JF, Aïsha and Mara (Mathilde was with Martin and Isa). The servings were HUGE!

Saturday and Sunday breakfasts were served at a super cute local coffee shop. We expected a coffee and a muffin type of breakfast, but we got served an awesome complete breakfast on the back terrace. 

First morning was a delicious breakfast burrito with all the fixings, everything homemade. Second day was blueberry buttermilk pancakes, eggs, ham, sausages, bacon, fruits, you name it! And the coffee was very good too. Oh and look at that view! The sun rose on the mountain as we ate...

Getting ready to ride up one more time!

Mara riding the Niner RKT 9 RDO. It was really cool that the girls (and really, all the kids!) could try the bikes I was trying since they were the right size for them too. 

Sunday morning girls' ride!

And the winner is: the Ibis  Mojo 3. The smile says it all.

Mara completely fell in love with the Scott Spark 720!

The Hurricane mountain bike festival was a pretty fun event! Not too big to be pricey and overlwhelming and just big enough to allow me to sample many great bikes. For $55, I got 3 days of unlimited bike rental, a huge Friday night dutch oven cooked meal and two delicious breakfasts at the local coffee shop. And up to 3 shuttles a day to the top of JEM Trail. Talk about a great deal! When you think that renting such bikes for a day goes from $50 to $80! And compared to the upcoming Moab's Outerbike Festival (same thing but with higher shuttles for $175!)

The whole weekend felt like a blur of grab-a-half-bagel-forgotten-by-a-girl-on-the-table-and-a-banana-and-go-ride-more kind of thing. 

Here are the geeky juicy details: 

We went back to Gooseberry Mesa on Friday, where I tested the Pivot and Liv bikes. I had taken the Pivot (429sl), but quickly found it way too big for me even if it was a size small. It felt like biking on high heels! I was glad I ran into Ching on the trail who was pretty unhappy with the Liv Lust bike she was trying because it was too small and compact for her. We switched and were both happier bikers!

On Friday night, I took out the Ibis Mojo 3 with 27.5 plus wheels. It was love at first spin! Even after riding most of the day, I went for a ride after sunset with the girls on the Jem trail to test this awesome machine!

On Saturday morning, I went to get a Scott Spark (27.5 wheels) and had JF drop me higher on the trail so I could ride it down. Five minutes in, I discovered how touchy the brakes were by going over my handle bars on a 5 inch drop... This bike felt like a purebreed race horse, incredibly responsible, very light and nervous. I get why advanced mountain bikers and racers like this bike, but it is too unforgiving for me at this point. Then, I did our usual two-hour loop in Hurricane Cliffs Trail system with the Ibis Mojo 3 and had a big smile on my face the whole time! 

I went back around lunch and got the same Niner I had tested at the Tucson bike demo and had fell in love with (The Jet 9 RDO). I did that same loop again (and yes, I was exhausted by the time I came back) and loved it. However, the frame felt a bit too big (I would need an XS in that brand and model, but they only had a S to demo) and the stand over height was too much for me. 

On Sunday morning, I tried the Niner RKT 9 RDO in XS (the only bike they had in XS to demo) and was glad to be able to compare it with the Jet 9. The stand over height was definitely better, but the cockpit felt too compact (same problem I have with my XS Giant Trance XW1).

So, here's a summary (and my great shoe analogy):

Pivot Mach 429sl: The S frame with 29 in wheels felt way too big for me. I felt I was sitting on top of the bike instead of *inside* the bike. Unfortunately, they don't make XS frames for that model. As I said earlier, it felt like riding on high heels. 

Liv Lust: I didn't care much for that bike since it pretty much felt just like my bike with bigger wheels (27.5 in instead of 26 in). Same too compact cockpit and a very twichy feel. This one felt like a pair of old sneakers that I know but do not like every time I wear them.

Scott Spark 720: As I said earlier, this bike felt like a race horse that I had a hard time taming. To continue with the shoe analogy, this felt like track cleats running shoes: very light, fast and responsive.

Ibis Mojo 3 with 27.5 plus tires: This is a funky looking bike with its big 2.8 in tires, but what a sweet ride this is! I love how the reviewer describes it on Pinkbike:

The bike's Nobby Nic tires are grabbier than a prom date when the lights dim and the slow music comes on.

The red Ibis, with its 2.8'' wide rubber, is more playful and alive than the large majority of bikes with tires that are half an inch skinnier and hundreds of grams lighter. Think Olympic gymnast who kills a large pizza every night and then scores a perfect ten despite it not looking physically possible. You know, don't judge a book by its cover and all that cliché stuff. 
Note that the 2.8'' tires are an inch shorter than the 29er tires. In order to fit 29er tires, the chainstays would have to get longer. So the bottom line is that it's a better 27.5+ bike because it's not also a 29er. 
The Mojo 3 handles like a regular mountain bike - there's no awkwardness or strange gyroscopic effect like you'll find on a true fat bike - and the Ibis scoots up complex and challenging climbs so well that you'll be forgiven for thinking that you're better than you actually are.

So the Mojo 3 was like a pair of Moon boots on steroids. The fun factor of this bike is through the roof and it is such a confidence builder. If only I could afford it, it would definitely be my next bike! 

Niner's Jet 9 RDO and RKT 9 RDO: I wish I could have tried the Jet 9 in XS. It would probably be a very close second favorite. I LOVED the geometry of the Jet 9. These two Niner felt like beautifully built Italian hiking boots (think Scarpa) with a Vibram sole. Sturdy, reliable, comfortable and they fit like a glove. 

By the way, these were all carbon bikes.

It was such an incredible opportunity to try so many high-end bikes and to see how different they all are. JF had been telling me for over a year that my bike doesn't fit me, that it's not the right bike for me and I keep saying that I am the problem (my lack of skills and experience). Now, I believe him. I just need to find a few extra thousand dollars...  

That was a lot of riding! And I feel stronger than ever! All that rock climbing and biking in Tucson, and now biking almost everyday. I know it's common knowledge, but I am blown away by the fact that the more active I am, the more energy I have. My legs feel super strong (now, if only my cardio could follow!). One of the many things I love about our lifestyle is that we don't "exercise", we explore. We are active because we want to discover all these beautiful trails and places around us. It's never been easier to be in shape!

That being said, I am now pretty sore from all that riding (and from the fall... I have a handle bar shape bruise on my left thigh...) and a few more scratches, but that's it.... Whereas JF broke a finger... Poor guy... He has a tendency to break things just as we hit the most epic bike spots (last time was in Burns Lake, now here and Moab...). Oh, and his vacation starts on Thursday and we were supposed to go rock climbing in Red Rock, NV. Back to the drawing board...

Mountain biking on the Hurricane Rim Trail network, Utah

Jerud and Ching's Toaster reflects the light so beautifully.

Once again, we found an amazing free camping spot right by an incredible mountain bike trail network (also called the JEM trail since it is one of the main trails here). Biking from our bus is such a treat and we've been on our bikes almost everyday since!

We've been having fun trying to locate the trails that we see in the movie Where The Trail Ends  (some of it has been filmed right here in Virgin!), and have seen a few crazy lines out there on the mountains.