The breeze flowing through my helmet vents reminds me that not everything was bad during those decidedly not-halcyon days of pandemic past. Many things, of course, were indeed quite awful, but not the reclaimed sense of freedom. Amid a perpetual cycle of takeout meals, questionable hygiene and missing puzzle pieces in isolation, the sense of wonder I found while rolling outside on two wheels was remarkable. I wasn’t alone.
Perhaps not since Karl Von Drais created the “velocipede” or “hobby horse” in 1817 has the bicycle seen such enthusiasm. Cycling’s bumper year was evident everywhere from barren bike shop shelves devoid of inventory to packed trailheads to the countless bike racks adorning every Outback and Tacoma in sight. Already a hotbed of bike activity, Utah is riding the cycling wave this summer, greeting riders with open roads and twisting ribbons of dirt. Saddle up.
Rubber Meets the Road
A lot of us grabbed those new bikes and tore around the streets exploring our neighborhoods like those kids in Stranger Things. It was great fun getting to know every nook, cranny and crack on the pavement, but it’s time to cover some miles through Utah’s dramatic landscapes with a few of our favorite road rides. No matter the fitness level or preferred geologic venue, there’s something for everyone.
Start with a classic ride on Antelope Island near SLC. Ditch the car at Centennial Park in Syracuse and ride across the causeway to the state park. The 47-mile out-and-back features a consistently flat grade and impeccable pavement quality, from which riders can enjoy gorgeous views of the Great Salt Lake and wildlife sightings of bison, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep.
As the weather heats up during the dog days, head northeast to Flaming Gorge for some cooler temps at higher elevations. This 68-mile out-and-back ride starts at another Centennial Park, this one in the tiny town of Manila on 200 West. Head South on S.R. 44 through stunning scenery in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area before connecting to U.S. 191 at mile 28 and the Flaming Gorge Dam at mile 34. Reverse the route and finish with a beverage at Flaming Gorge Brewing Company. You’ll have earned it.
For a short, sweet and scenic southern cruise, roll up to Capitol Reef National Park. From the Visitor Center, cyclists can enter the park for just $3 and ride along the eight-mile Scenic Drive through the park. Cool off in the shade in Fruita, the historic community founded by Mormon settlers in the 1800s and stand in awe of unique 240-million-year-old Moenkopi rock formations. At just 16 total miles, this out-and-back ride is short enough to be done early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are (relatively) cooler.
Catch a Lift
Enough with the leg-churning, calorie-burning road rides already. Across Utah, a ski-like culture of list-assisted, gravity-fueled mountain biking has taken hold. Gravity cycling is deeply rooted in history here, from the elite NORBA National downhill races at Deer Valley to the pioneering Red Bull Rampage competition near Virgin, but now you don’t need to be a pro-level daredevil to enjoy it.
Resorts throughout the state are spinning lifts like it’s January in July, some with standout bike parks offering expert-level downhill tracks and beginner-friendly flow trails. Deer Valley (2250 Deer Valley Dr., Park City, 435-649-1000) has the famed rough racecourses of yore like NCS along with smooth, berm-filled trails like Holy Roller. Woodward Park City (Woodward Park City: 3863 Kilby Rd., Park City, 435-658-2648) has trails and features ranging from entertainingly benign on Easy Rider to legitimately gargantuan on Spiral Jetty. Both resorts have progression-friendly instruction available as well. Lift access starts at about $60 for a full day.
If chasing a bucket-list mountain bike experience, consider a helicopter bump to the high country with Whisper Ridge (4776 E. 2600 North, Eden, 801-876-4664). Starting at $200 per person, riders are whisked in a whirlybird over 3,000 vertical feet to the top of Whisper Ridge’s private mountain bike trails. With so few people accessing the terrain, riders can expect pristine conditions with tacky dirt devoid of blown-out corners and braking bumps. The helicopter ride alone is worth the price of admission. Shredding high-mountain terrain above Eden with the only heli-bike operation in the lower 48 is the icing on the cake.
Local Rigs for Local Rides
Whether you’re auditioning for a spot in next year’s Tour of Utah or are an aspiring gravity fiend, Lindon-based bike company Fezzari (520 N. Geneva Rd., Lindon, 801-471-0440,) has your next ride. A direct-to consumer online sales model means big savings on your end, while 23-point custom setup ensures a dialed fit out of the box.
Named for the epic road ride up Empire Canyon, the Empire is a blazing fast road bike that’s tuned for comfort mile after mile. Starting at $1,800.
La Sal Peak
With 150 mm of real travel, a 170-mm fork, 29-inch wheels and progressive geometry, the La Sal Peak has your back on the fastest, roughest descents you can find. Starting at $3,600.
Read more stories about outdoor adventures in Utah.