Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT


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"Technically, cyclocross is a form of bike racing, but here at Cyclocross Magazine, we also    
think of it as a lifestyle that involves grabbing any bike, and navigating any type
of terrain or obstacle, in the fastest and most efficient way possible. It's also
an adventuresome style of riding, with a versatile bike that allows you to
explore any gravel or dirt road, park, or trail that you stumble upon."
~ Cyclocross Magazine webpage re: what the sport is about

Yay!! I have another bike now and it's a beauty!

Exactly two weeks ago one or more low-lifes smashed the window in one of the sliding doors of our Odyssey minivan while I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail above Ridgecrest, CA and stole my Specialized Tricross cyclocross bike. I reported it to the police but it hasn't been found. [2018: and never was.]

This is what I found when I got back to the trailhead:

Dammit. I knew right away that I wanted to replace it with another cyclocross bike but didn't know when, where, or what brand and model. The Tricross was several years old and I knew that Specialized no longer makes this model.

I'd already been thinking about getting a new bike in a year or two. We just weren't prepared to get one right now and we had planned to use the Tricross as a possible trade-in to save some money.

After an accelerated online search the past two weeks, and visiting a couple bike shops while we were in Vegas, I decided the closest model I could get to what I had was a Specialized CruX Elite cyclocross bike.

Fortunately, finding one was easy. Jim and I were already familiar with Cedar Cycles in Cedar City, UT because we'd been there last fall while we were staying at Red Canyon. We both had Specialized bikes and had visited this shop on one of our weekly trips up and over the mountains past Cedar Breaks National Monument to Cedar City to get groceries and run other errands.

Photo of Specialized Tricross from the company's website (no longer produced)

Once I figured out what I really wanted we debated when to get it. I didn't want to wait indefinitely because there are so many places I could ride in Utah and Colorado this spring and summer.

We'll be going over to Cedar City several times in May when we're staying at Red Canyon again, but we realized it's closer and faster to get there from Springdale, where we're staying now just outside Zion NP, if Brian, the manager at Cedar Cycles, either had one in stock or could get one by today. We're leaving here tomorrow for the Moab area.

I called Brian three days ago and told him the model and size I wanted. He quickly located one at the warehouse in Salt Lake City and it arrived at his Cedar City shop in two days (yesterday).

After we got back from Bryce Canyon yesterday afternoon I called Brian to see if the bike came in. He was about done putting it together at 5 PM and adjusting the brakes, cables, etc. He said it was a beautiful bike and we could pick it up this morning. Yay!! He let us know he wouldn't be there today but one of his employees would help us. If we need any adjustments, we can take it back for servicing at the end of April when we are at Red Canyon.

My new Specialized Crux

One of Brian's college-age employees spent an hour with us this morning when we went in to test ride the bike, install my choice of pedals, water bottle carriers, and hand pump, adjust the seat and handlebars to fit me, etc. 

This morning it was dang cold and windy in Cedar City, which is about 2,000 feet higher than Springdale, so I didn't ride for long -- but I knew within a couple blocks that the bike felt great!

Snow and snow-laden clouds above Cedar City this morning

I ended up riding it a total of 19 miles today, mostly in Zion National Park where it was sunny and warm. That was a lot of miles for the first time on a new bike but I felt fine at the end of the ride.


Cyclocross bikes are a type of hybrid bicycle designed for both on- and off-road use but since they are designed for a specific type of racing, they are lighter and much more nimble than your typical granny hybrid touring bike.

Even though I'm old enough to be a great-granny, I didn't want a more cumbersome touring bike.

"Cross" bikes have drop handlebars like road bikes but sturdier frames and wider, beefier tires to handle the rough, loose, or deep grass, dirt, sand, gravel, rocks, roots, mud, water, snow, steps, barricades, ditches, steep slopes, and other obstacles they throw into cyclocross races, which are gaining popularity in the USA after originating in Europe in the early 1900s. These events have been compared to steeplechase.

Cross bikes are almost as lightweight as quality road bikes. The top tube is slanted a little bit and flatter on the bottom side so competitors can more comfortably carry them on their shoulders while running up steep slopes, through creeks, mud, or snow, and over various obstacles like logs in races.

Google has lots of cyclocross race photos, including this one from BikeRadar.

This Wikipedia link and the one with the quote at the top of this entry describe the types of courses for which cross bikes are designed and how they are constructed to handle the rigors of competition. You can find lots of other photos and videos online for more information about the sport and the bikes.

Cyclocross bikes are also a very versatile option for more casual, but still somewhat adventuresome, riders like me because they aren't as heavy as other types of hybrids or mountain bikes. I really like them for the varying types of terrain I ride. I have no interest in the racing part, especially since I can't run or carry a bike on my shoulders like that any more.

My Tricross bike takes a break during a long ride on rough dirt and gravel
Ferguson Road on BLM land in southern California this past winter.

I used to ride only road bikes until we started traveling so extensively in a camper and I needed something I could ride just about anywhere we go, on both paved roads/bike paths and dirt roads/trails.

In the past fifteen years while we're spending most or all of our time traveling around the continent in an RV, we've had to limit the number of bikes we're carrying with us to just two. We don't have room for three or four bikes. Even two is a hassle sometimes.

Jim is happy to ride his Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike anywhere, from paved roads to the gnarly high-altitude mountain trails at Leadville, CO and everything in between.

Picture of a Stumpjumper mountain bike from the Specialized website

I don't like any mountain bike I've ever ridden, mostly because of their weight, handling, and straight handlebars. I sometimes rode one of Jim's previous mountain bikes on our trips but after a disastrous wreck on it near Silverton, CO in 2009, I never rode it again. [To this day, I don't know how it happened. It knocked me unconscious for 20-30 minutes.]

I needed to find some sort of hybrid with drop bars I liked so I could ride off-road, too.

I was really happy when I discovered the lightweight cyclocross option six years ago. Since then I've been taking just the Tricross to ride while we've been traveling so much in the Cameo and leaving my Terry Isis road bike at home. Now that we're full-timer RVers, the Isis is in storage 'way across the country in Virginia.

Sue's Terry Isis road bike:  great on pavement but useless off-road.

I love my new CruX! Its various components and carbon frame are even more lightweight than the aluminum Tricross, and it has disc brakes that are easy to use. The cantilever brakes on the Tricross hurt my arthritic hands because I had to squeeze the levers so hard to stop.

One disappointment with the newest Specialized bikes is that they don't have as many gears as the older ones. Jim is putting off getting a new mountain bike because of that. My Tricross had three gears in front and nine in back = 27 speeds. The CruX has two in front and ten in back = only 20.

I might miss the very easy gears going up steep hills! The good news is that the shifter is easier to use on the new bike.

Scenic view from a bridge on the Pa'rus Trail over the Virgin River

I haven't ridden off-road yet but sure got in a bunch of miles today on pavement in Zion National Park, Springdale, and our campground.

The bike came with relatively smooth tires that are great on pavement and should work well on short grass and and hard-packed dirt, sand, or gravel. We'll get knobby tires later if I find that I need more traction on rocky, rooty surfaces or loose sand/gravel.


Jim has ridden up and down this nine-mile-long scenic road through the main part of the park several times this week but today was my first opportunity since I haven't had a bike to ride.

Bikes are allowed on all the paved roads in Zion, including this one. Passenger vehicles are not allowed on most of the length of the scenic road because it is too narrow and too popular. Zion Canyon is where the majority of the park's trailheads and famous rock and water features are located. 

Shuttle bus stop at Canyon Junction

Visitors can drive their own vehicles on all of UT 9 east and west through the park but not north on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive beyond Canyon Junction at shuttle stop #3 unless they have a reservation at Zion Lodge at shuttle stop #5.

Beyond that, only shuttle buses and official park vehicles -- and bicycles! -- are allowed on the road. That means cyclists have about five miles in each direction where they don't have to deal with hardly any traffic.

Nice shade, no traffic. Sweet!

There are some cycling rules, though.

In the very heavily-trafficked area from the visitor center to Canyon Junction, e.g., bikes must share the paved Pa'rus Trail with pedestrians instead of using the road.

And while riding on the scenic road, cyclists must move completely off the pavement to let any shuttle buses pass that are coming up from behind them. Although the road is two-lane, it really is narrow.

I had to pull off the road for that shuttle bus to go by as we were approaching the lodge.

Stopping for shuttle buses wasn't a problem for me today, nor for Jim the times he cycled this road. Only a few passenger cars went by this afternoon on their way to the lodge (going faster than the buses) and I had to pull over for only three shuttle buses the whole way -- on a busy Saturday with free admission to the park! Not bad.

I wasn't in a hurry and stopped plenty of times for pictures anyway. A couple times I was at overlooks when some buses went by, and missed them.

Above and below:  I pulled  into the large parking area at Big Bend
to take pictures and found a surprise on one of the very high walls: climbers!

Although it was cold and very windy on our drive up I-15 to Cedar City and back this morning -- enough to make driving even the minivan difficult -- it was sunny and in the mid-60s F. in Springdale and Zion Canyon this afternoon.

It was still quite windy as I was riding my bike northbound on the scenic road, however. A sudden gust of wind in one gap between the mountains just about blew me over. The tailwind was nice going back south, but an unexpected deer running across the road right in front of me at the very same spot almost knocked me over, too!

Above and below:  Two perspectives of Angels Landing (red dot) and Observation Point (yellow dot)
from the road -- Observation Point is actually 500+ feet higher than Angels Landing, as shown below:

Other than almost getting knocked over twice, the memorable things about my ride were all positive -- the gorgeous river and rock scenery I could observe more closely on the bike, the pretty wildflowers, the friendly people who waved to me, the birds and furry rodents near the road, and the feeling of freedom as I wheeled up and down that beautiful road under my own power . . .

It was a great afternoon in a gorgeous canyon on my new bike!

View south from Big Bend

The Great White Throne looks the most white in the afternoon
when the sun is shining on it from the west like this.

They are hard to see in this small photo of the Virgin River, but two people
at center bottom of the picture are wetting their feet in the water.

It was obvious today that more people were riding bikes southbound toward the visitor center than were going northbound -- uphill and into the wind.

Each shuttle bus can carry three bikes on front. I saw a fair number of bikes on buses going northbound today. Apparently a lot of folks ride the buses uphill to the end of the road, then ride their bikes back down to the visitor center.

Weenies. <grin> The uphill grade is very gradual. It was tougher today only because of the wind.

I suppose some folks get off and lock up their bikes while hiking but I've never seen more than a couple bikes at any of the trailheads.

Above and below:  Landslides on the west side of the river have shut
down the scenic road more than once over the years.

Jim's done quite a bit of cycling this week so today he just rode slowly with Casey with the WalkyDog attachment from our campground to the park, through the campgrounds, and out and back on the Pa'rus Trail to Canyon Junction, for a total of five miles.

Since today was the first day of free national park entry there were even more people in the park and the paved Pa'rus Trail was packed near the campgrounds and visitor center. Casey enjoyed all the attention she got!

Jim and Casey on a bike ride/run at Nellis AFB last week; he's on his Stumpjumper.

The only other place besides the Pa'rus Trail that I ran into a lot of vehicles and pedestrians while cycling was the half mile along UT 9 in Springdale from the park entrance back to our RV park.

There were so many people still lined up in their vehicles or walking on the sidewalk on their way into the park in mid-afternoon that it was difficult to even cross the street with my bike, let alone ride it home. I just got off and walked it the rest of the way.

Here's a picture of Jim and Casey riding on the sidewalk in the same stretch last Sunday afternoon when there weren't nearly as many people around:

This is our last full day at Zion National Park. We can't believe this week went by so fast! Despite the crowds in some places, we've really enjoyed our visit here and may come back again this fall.

Next entrythe drive to Arches National Park and staying at the Spanish Trail RV Park in Moab

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil