Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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    Flying down the trail: Falcon Flow lives up to its name

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    Sand Flats’s newest bike route is fast-paced, not so technical

    Writer Carter Pape on Falcon Flow
    Writer Carter Pape rounds the top of the initial Falcon Flow climb on a ride Sunday afternoon. After the short uphill, the trail has 1.5 miles of nearly uninterrupted descent, and they are as fast and flowy as the name suggests, Pape writes. Photo by Carter Pape

    I would like to extend a warm welcome to Falcon Flow, Moab’s newest mountain biking trail. It is the product of 1,800 volunteer hours organized by Moab Trail Mix, headed by Madeline Logowitz and Tyson Swasey. Many kudos to the volunteers and county staff who put in the work to make this trail a reality.

    I did my first Falcon Flow ride on March 8. My first impression is that the trail truly lives up to its name, and I am looking forward to returning to it for many more rides.

    First, the basics: Trailforks, an online trails database, rates the trail as a blue square for mountain bikers, which is in the middle of the difficulty scale. A round trip down Falcon Flow and up Sand Flats Road is 8.3 or 8 miles, depending on where you park. If you prefer your dessert last, park at the lot near the bottom of the trail, do the Sand Flats Road climb first, then enjoy 5.4 miles of downhill freedom.

    The trail has a brief climb at the very start, leading to a wonderful overlook of the Grandstaff Canyon Wilderness Study Area. This turns into a half-mile descent, including a few modest drops, flattening out for a short stint, then for one glorious mile after that, it is all downhill.

    Following the descents at the start of Falcon Flow, the terrain is up-and-down for the remaining three miles until the finish. There are a handful of steep ascents, but nothing as grueling as Moab’s more difficult climbs. The trail does not at any point demand to be walked the way Porcupine Rim’s boulders and Slickrock’s fins do. As such, and in the absence of any particularly technical obstacles, the trail has a blue square rating on Trailforks, an online trail database.

    To give a bit of perspective, when I am properly conditioned, I can muscle through all of Slickrock’s climbs, but some of the obstacles on Porcupine Rim are out of my league, so that is about where my limit is. Even this early in my biking season, I did not need to walk any part of Falcon Flow.

    The trail has a few segments of cliff exposure, but they are considerably less intimidating and deadly than the back quarter of the Whole Enchilada. The few segments of edge-riding on Falcon Flow are more akin to what Pipe Dream presents, but only in a few parts. The rest of it is free flowing runs up and down winding sand trails, buffered by shrubby cryptobiotic soil.

    Once you find your way to Falcon Flow, keep the singletrack single by staying on the trail. The ride is considerably narrow in parts, which is probably normal considering how new it is, but it would be good to see the route stay narrow for as long as possible.

    The sandy base is pretty loose in some parts. I had a small spill early in my ride caused by the depth of the sand. The base would present a serious challenge on an uphill trip from west to east, but in its current state, it is firm enough to support a good downhill trip from east to west. Moab Trail Mix said on the Facebook post announcing Falcon Flow’s opening that staff would “prefer people to only ride downhill on it for now,” pending bedding to firm up the ride.

    Although it is currently marked as a two-way route on Trailforks, I agree with the Trail Mix staff and strongly recommend only riding the trail westward.

    A few final notes about Falcon Flow:

    • The trail is nonmotorized. That means no e-bikes and no pedal assists. You have to do it with your own legs. The same goes for the upper part of the Whole Enchilada, uphill from Porcupine Rim.
    • I got through my 8-mile Sunday ride in 68 minutes, with a few short stops at sunset for photos. As someone who enjoys longer rides, the length was a bit short for my taste, but perhaps I will just double up for a two-circuit ride on my next outing.
    • The trailhead is less than a quarter mile from the head of the 4×4 Porcupine Rim access trail. That is obviously not as close to town as Slickrock, but as someone always hoping to get in a ride between 5 p.m. and sunset, I am happy to have another fun trail so close to my apartment.

    Many thanks to Moab Trail Mix and the volunteers who put in hundreds of hours making this trail happen. It is a blast! I look forward greatly to the two additional segments in Raptor Route.

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