Magazine article Sunset

Fat-Tire Heaven

Magazine article Sunset

Fat-Tire Heaven

Article excerpt

Fruita, Colorado, is the nation's other mountain-biking epicenter. Its de facto ambassador gives us an insider's tour of the town he put on the map

IF YOU BUILD IT, and "it" is a network of mountainbike trails in the remotest red rock country of western Colorado, will anybody actually come? Troy Rarick asked himself this question in 1994 as he stood on Aspen Avenue in Fruita, Colorado, en route to a new job as a bike-shop manager in Moab, Utah, the country's most popular mountain-biking destination.

As he looked around at the otherworldly beauty of his home terrain, an idea struck: Fruita could out-Moab Moab. He abruptly changed course, opened a bike shop in downtown Fruita, and began to build trails throughout the surrounding foothills and high, craggy, striated cliffs. In the process, he transformed the landscapes of Fruita and the sport of mountain biking.

Today, Fruita is a must-ride destination for knobbyists. The local joke is if you ask an insider where to find the best riding in Moab, he'll tell you it's in Fruita.

Q&A Sunset asked Rarick for his ultimate insider picks

Who is the ideal rider for Fruita's terrain? Experienced, but not maniacal, according to Rarick. "Our average rider is mid-sos to early 40s. We don't attract riders who live out of their cars and bomb down the trails."

Where would you send beginners? Rustler's Loop, a gentle s-mile introduction to slick-rock riding near the Colorado River. "You see families here, young kids. The sunset views are amazing. And we've put a series of signs along this trail that gives tips on riding technique, ecology, and trail etiquette. If you get tired, just stop and pretend to be really closely reading that sign."

Best teeth-rattler? Mary's Loop and Horsethief Bench, an 11-mile set of trails that begins by snaking along the rim of the river, but then plummets vertiginously to the canyon floor. "Walking your bike on the descent is normal." [Editor's note: Rarick doesn't.] "Once you're down, the ride is pretty easy" and the views of river-cut rock formations and candy cane-colored cliffs "could stop your heart."

Best recovery meal? Stinky Deluxe Pizza at the hot Tomato Café ($$; closed 5un-Mon; 207 E. Aspen Ave.; 370/858-1117). "Enough fuel to get you through any ride and enough garlic to keep the critters away. …

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