Snow bikes in the desert

I am in Vegas for Interbike. Being surrounded by bicycles isn't a bad way to spend a week, but if I were to list my "10 places I'd be least likely to visit under my own free will," Vegas would be near the top. It's a terrible place. I'm sorry, it just is. Huge crowds ... smoke everywhere ... traffic ... no winter ... flashing lights ... casino mazes ... long lines ... strangers yelling at me ... too intimidated by yelling crowds to go out for simple evening runs after dinner ... unbearable heat ... everything costs a fortune ... no winter ...

I try to make the best of it by reminding myself that I'm here for Interbike, which is kind of cool. Today we attended the Dirt Demos, out at Boulder City. The high temperature was 102, with a constant 20 mph wind that steadily cranked up past 30 mph as the afternoon wore on. Shade is just a bad joke here in the sun-baked valley. I sucked down my two liters of water within about an hour and went on to down two big lemonades and all the free liquid I could get my hands on - three 20-ounce water bottles, a 24-ounce sports drink of some sort (name forgotten but it tasted like a vitamin pill), and several shot glasses of some kind of recovery drink (also gross.)

BUT ... I got to ride awesome bicycles.

The Salsa El Mariachi: A hardtail 29'er full of rock-gobbling goodness. This bike was super comfortable and a great climber, and had this strange ability to float up rock headwalls ... not even sure how, because I certainly wasn't helping it along. But it was a fun bike to ride on the rocks, even if you're not a particularly huge fan of riding in the rocks (I'm not. Another strike against Vegas in my book. I'm a native Utahn who still prefers forested trails of the roots and mud variety.)

Grag Matayas of Speedway Cycles came all the way down from Anchorage with brand new Fatbacks. It was fun to catch up and ogle the new offerings in the snow biking niche.

My co-worker, Josh, and I took high-end BH cross and women's-specific road bikes on a fast spin down the bike path. The wind tossed us around and I ran out of water, which even on a shortish ride made me feel a little woozy. It was a fun spin, though. I think if I were ever forced to live in Vegas, I would become much more of a road rider, because pavement offerings here are superb, and the trail riding is, well, full of rocks.

But if you're going to ride rocks, I really think fat bikes are the way to go. Forget huge travel - skinny mountain bike tires still force you to pick a line. With fat bikes, you just point your monster truck in the general direction of where you want to end up, and hold on tight, because you're in for a wild ride. Then, when it's time to ride uphill, you can plow through the loosest gravel and weeds, just for fun. Josh and I did a long demo of the Salsa Mukluk today - the latest addition to the rapidly expanding snow bike genre. I love my Pugsley, but I have to admit that Salsa made several big improvements with the Mukluk. For starters, I can actually maneuver this bike without feeling like I'm trying to steer a tractor. It has a lower bottom bracket which allows for more comfortable pedal stance, and feels more like a "normal" mountain bike that just happens to have huge wheels. The jury is of course still out on how it performs in the snow, but I have to admit ... I have a little crush. Hopefully Pugsley doesn't find out.

Meanwhile, Interbike continues to be a spectacle. I can't wait to see what the actual show is like.


  1. Vegas isn't all bad. If you can work in an early morning spin around Blue Diamond while you're there, it might soften your heart a bit...

  2. Vegas is all bad. I can't stand that place. Maybe they should hold Interbike in Salt Lake sometime.

  3. Like you I'm not a big fan of Vegas, but being paid to be at Interbike.....that doesn't suck at all - have fun!

  4. I hate Vegas, too. But when the hubby and I were out there in July, we discovered Red Rock Canyon. It's a must for some great hiking! Check out the Icebox Canyon trail. And as you know...take lots of water and some snacks, because there is nothing out there once you leave the visitors' center. Red Rock is the best thing about Vegas that I've found so far!

  5. You should definitely visit both the Salsa and Surly booths. I'm sure they'll welcome you with open arms. Don't worry about Pugsley finding out, Mukluk is like his little brother.

  6. Vegas is pretty awful but is a lot of fun if you embrace its kitsch. And if you're a lush + glutton like me -- there are some good restaurants.

  7. I am totally jealous of you being at Interbike. Being able to ride all that stuff looks like a LOT of fun. I'm waiting to see if I like rocks when we head to Colorado/Utah in October. And - that jersey looks great on you. Fer serious.

  8. Anonymous3:29 PM

    Vegas has actually grown on me a bit - I avoid the Strip like the plague whenever I'm down there, but there's a lot of fantastic country surrounding it - Red Rocks and Spring Mtns to the West, Sheep Range to the North, Valley of Fire to the East, and the McCulloughs and Christmas Tree Pass area to the South. I don't really bike much, so I can't answer for how they are to ride, but they're a lot of fun for hiking and running!


  9. Jill - Make sure to check out the Cross Vegas race tonight! It should be awesome. Go Team Planet Bike!

  10. Anonymous4:06 PM

    When we visited for a wedding in July (don't know why anyone would want to marry there), I couldn't get past the fact that I would die if I attempted to ride in that type of oppressive heat. That said, I do fantasize about riding a nice road bike down the Strip at night because the pavement is soooo smooth, quiet, clean, and well-lit from the neon!

    Also, on your trek back to MT, try to take a short detour to Valley of Fire.... its absolutely otherwordly prehistoric! You will get photos like none you've ever posted on your blog, Jill... I promise!

  11. montanapat6:02 PM

    Super psyched you liked the Mukaluk! I have one on order from Hellgate Cyclery....It'll be here in November!

  12. Jill, sorry, I couldn't find your email address. Are you going to be in Vegas all week? I'd love to chat about your book, your trips and your blog. Seems like a great fit with our magazine, Bicycle Times.

    If you're here, give me a shout and let me know. Thanks!

    Adam Newman
    Online Editor, Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times
    adam at bicycletimesmag dot com

  13. Hey Jill!

    You sound like you're having so much fun! So glad I discovered your blog - I love the posts on the Tour Divide, too. I want (someday) to do that race, but the if/when got pushed off to the distant future when I wrecked my mountain bike in July and broke my back. I've gotta wait to see if the fusion heals to go off-road again & your blog is helping to fill the void. Sort of. Nothing really substitutes, though, ya know? But thanks for doing what you do and for keeping all of us involved! I love your adventures!

  14. Wow! that's amazing. Adventure is what I like too.

  15. Vegas...never been there nor do I ever want to go there. Although, I do hear that it is a great place for people watching if that is your thing.

    I'm really lovin' the new Salsa products. The Fargo and El Mariachi are high on my "needs" list. Or would that be "wants"? The Mukluk looks awesome, but like you, I love my new Pugsley and hope to be riding it for some time to come.

    Enjoy your time and Vegas :)

  16. Wow the tires on those bikes are huge! I rode a bike that looked kinda like that in Park City. What an amazing place for this event!

  17. really amazing and as the wise man Elvis said

    Viva Las Vegas

  18. Wow this is a very successful event. It seems that race is very interesting. The pictures and the post are the evidence.

  19. Hi! how´s it going? Very cool your pictures. This sky is so cleanned.
    I´ll add you. Add me?

  20. I agree Jill,I only like Vegas from my rear view mirror.

  21. Steve Winn has a tiny museum of his art collection in Vegas. Even though it's on the strip, it's my favorite place to go in Vegas. Take a few minutes and go. You'll be glad you did.

  22. When people ask (and in the Deep South this question gets asked alot) where I will be spending eternity, I always reply "Vegas". Elvis impersonators, show girls, Wayne Newton, sleazy wedding chapels…what’s not to like?

    By the way, that cattle car of bikers looks very uncomfortable.

    Great post, Jack

  23. Hi Jill, Since it's not mentioned in your post, I thought your readers would want to know that Interbike next year will be held in August, and in Anaheim. Which is one of my *other* Least Favorite Places.


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