Breaking from the ease of getting to the trailhead at Bear’s Best, I wanted another mountain biking option and was curious about riding the network at the Cowboy Trails. A quick Google search led me down a path I won’t soon forget. I watched a YouTube video from the good folks at Awesome MTB and the adrenaline instantly flowed. In it, Mo and Hannah climbed what I would learn is the oh so technical Kibbles-n-Bits and descended on Bone Shaker. I couldn’t wait to get to the trail.

Side note: sometimes the do it yourself mountain bike videos become uninteresting quickly. Especially those covering slow climbs. Hannah and Mo nailed it by adding real-time commentary on each of the difficult/fun climbing sections. Great work!

The trailhead was immediately confusing. After 15 minutes of not trusting Trailforks to ride into what looked like a dried up creek bed, Trailforks was, in fact, telling me to ride into a dried up creek bed. The technical features of the ride introduced themselves quickly.

I’m on a hardtail. A 2015 Salsa El Mariachi. I’m decent on the bike. I’m good. Not great. I can’t jump. I have little flash. I’m not the fastest. Where I do well, and what I prefer, are slow technical climbs. The ascent up Kibbles-n-Bits was pure technical heaven. Loose rock, 2 ft step-ups, difficult transitions, and cliff riding made up every bit of the 1,250 ft ascent and didn’t let up until the top.

I learned, only because I did it, that a brief detour must be made along Sheetrock Spur. A technical delight and difficult mix of cactus and cliffs, had me on my toes. Pedals?. . .What made the section so challenging were the cactus that force you to choose lines that would otherwise be avoided. Those near a cliff, for example. This is a loose loose situation if not done well. Avoid one, you die. Avoid the other, you die; or at least wished you were dead with cactus spines sticking out of your face. I didn’t die nor did I need to remove anything from my face. A big grin, perhaps.

The ride winds past strange rock formations. I’ve never seen anything like it. Wind swept, jagged towers of crumbling rock, caverns, strange erosion patterns, and slabs of rock covered with what look like barnacle fossils are common throughout. The trail is a part of and goes on, over, and through each of these standout features, multiple times.

I was by myself. A little more caution is always taken into account. I could have jammed down Bone Shaker, but thought best to ease my way back down on something more tame. After a quick loop around First Finger at the top of the climb, Fossil Canyon provided the thrills on the way down. It was enough. So good. That too was technical and had a number of difficult up and over sections along with off camber drops.

You never want to interrupt the thrill of speed and G’s sucking you into the earth. It makes recalling specifics more difficult. I remember there were a few big humps; a build up of rocks that came to a peak. One could roll or fly over them. I did both. I also recall a cliff on the right and a couple sections that required weaving through overhanging rock crops. It was the perfect reward to a tough climb and complemented it well.

I returned to the car in one piece 9.5 mi later. Not a big ride, but a good ride. There is so much more to explore here.

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