Springtime Siestas on the Black Canyon Trail
Photos and words by Locke Hassett
A month or so ago, a friend and I decided to use a long weekend to explore the treasure that is the Black Canyon Trail (BCT). This flowing ribbon of almost all singletrack brings riders through distinct desert ecosystems bordering the eastern edge of the Bradshaw mountains between Mayer and just north of Phoenix. Being able to flow through prickly pear and ocotillo into the Sonoran desert, packed with Saguaros is an amazing experience, and to be able to do it over fantastic quality singletrack is icing on the spiny cake. We rode this trail in March, but it was still incredibly hot (90+ degrees at noon) especially for my Montana bones. We had the fortune of having plenty of water, while still having safe river crossings. To avoid the heat, we took siestas in shade near water sources and made trailside margaritas.
We sighted mule deer, jackrabbits, horny toads, plenty of cattle, and the occasional raptor, which excited the bird nerd in Cooper greatly. Track and sign of Javelina and raccoons with their mid trail latrines were abundant. Again, we were reminded of the very real threat of rattlesnakes in these ecosystems. Upon hearing a rattle, Cooper alerted me of the critter, and after firing a rock or two into the bushes with a slingshot and hearing no rattles, I elected to coast by the spot with my feet above my fork crown. A loud rattle sounded, reminding us that this canyon belonged to snakes long before we decided to play bikes there. Another friendly(?) reminder to tread lightly, leave no trace, and that snakes really dislike chromoly and rubber.
The next few days were the typical story of two goofs in the desert with bikepacking gear and tequila. I’ll let the photos tell the story for that. Now, for a few notes about our gear. Cooper was riding a singlespeed (32/22) El Mariachi, because he’s a fool and a masochist. His Rogue Panda Picketpost seatpost bag was insanely stable and voluminous, and his custom RP frame bag fits perfectly.
I rode a prototype 26+, 140mm hardtail from Crust Bikes, dubbed the “ShredEagle”. This bike is still in development, but my god, Matt and Darren have done something truly absurd and wonderful with this rig. The bike rides like an anti-mullet: all party up front, and business in the rear. High volume tires and a stiff front end with plenty of travel from a Fox Factory 34 kept this thing lively even when loaded down with bagels, smoked salmon, and nearly 6lbs of water and all of my camping gear. The geometry was on point, and I’m sure the v.2 will be even more dialed.
I also had the pleasure of testing out a prototype “Ripsey” seatpost bag from Rogue Panda Designs. This is a seatpost harness system, which I prefer because I can pack the dry bag without having to balance my bike as well. A recessed “nose” brings the harness right up to the seatpost to keep the profile minimal, high, and stiff, all while protecting the seals of your dropper. This is by far the most stable as shreddable seatpost bag I’ve used. If high quality, bombproof, USA made goods with an insane attention to detail are your jam, check these bags out.
Along this trail, you don’t veer far from society. Halfway through, you’ll hit Black Canyon City, which you absolutely should stop and eat some classic diner food at the Rock Springs Cafe. Though you aren’t far from I-17 and Phoenix, the quality of the trail is absolutely worth the ride. Is this a true “backcountry” adventure? Nah. Is it high-quality mountain biking or bikepacking that’s accessible and fun to varying skill levels in a beautiful place? Absolutely yes.
An uber-athletic margarita for serious bikepakerz
1 or 2 citrus (flavor negotiable) electrolyte tablets (must be effervescent)
2oz tequila or mezcal (don’t skimp, this is classy stuff)
Chili-Lime coated mango slice, for rim rub, garnish, and blood sugar
Serve in a dirty tin mug, drink with enthusiasm: this is the desert after all…hydrate aggressively.
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