A Different Spin
It may be known as a mountain biking mecca, but Moab has some of the best road cycling in the region.
The second morning, we awoke to 60-degree temps, clear spring skies, and a hefty breeze. Luckily, we’d planned to be up in the mountains that day, which would offer some protection from the wind. The La Sal Mountains, located on the southeast side of Moab, rise to nearly 13,000 feet. Covered in thick pine forests and accented by snow-capped peaks, they stand in sharp contrast to the desert mesas that dominate the rest of the region.
We set out heading east on Spanish Valley Drive and biked the 60-mile La Sal Mountain Loop Road counterclockwise. The route (a no-brainer for the navigation-challenged—it’s just one road) gradually ascended through green pastures dotted with grazing cattle and continued through juniper and oak forests until we hit the Big Nasty—a stretch of smooth pavement that gains more than 3,000 feet in seven miles, or about an eight percent gradient.
While straining against the steep terrain, we looked up to see a wall of snow on the side of the road separating us from the stands of blue-green spruce. But the Big Nasty turned out to be less disagreeable than it sounded. The heaviest climbing occurred in three distinct sections, with ample time for recovery in between. After about three hours of total climbing, we were rewarded with a gradual downhill all the way to the Colorado River. We saw no cars until the end of the ride when we turned onto SR-128, which wasn’t quite as lonely as the other roads we’d taken that day. But I felt the small amount of traffic was a fair trade-off for being able to bike alongside the pristine river back to town.