Words by William Kirk
Photos by Josh Pekich
Red Bull Rampage is the ultimate spectacle in mountain biking. Large enough that big wave surfers and mega ramp athletes alike bow down to the athlete’s display of courage in the desert of Utah each October. That said, it is very much a spectator sport; very few of us will ever be able to fathom let alone participate in the enormity of the event. I have been following Rampage since its debut in 2001. Over the years, I have made several shallow plans to attend but always fell short. This year, I made good on my plans and with a few close friends was able to attend the most prominent mountain bike competition on earth. We showed up early on the morning of the event, with the canyons still casting a dark shadow on the mountain and the wind howling. It made me nervous to be standing there, but why? I wasn’t even riding…
I could give a recap of the event but, by now, many of us know the story; incredible runs by the worlds best, judging conflicts, and highlights we will be watching for years. We all know the event is well worth the journey but what do I do at Rampage while not Rampaging?
The first question to answer is, how do I get there? Well, the obvious way to get there is to fly into Las Vegas. I am relatively well traveled but never entirely made my way to ‘Sin City’ until this trip. When flying into Las Vegas, you get to spend some time checking out the scene for a night or two before you head out into beautiful Zion National Park. Get yourself a good meal, walk the strip, laugh a bit, sip some fruity cocktail at the pool, and get a good night’s sleep before crossing a time zone through Arizona and into the southwest corner of Utah.
The second question, where do I stay? Well, you have several options. There are various small motels and camping options in the area. We chose to have our first go on ‘glamping’ this time around. There happens to be a scenic canvas tent area available a few short miles (and a beautiful drive) from the venue. Under Canvas offers some expedition style canvas tents with all the amenities of home; comfortable beds, wood heating, and cow fur lined floors to keep you comfortable. Under Canvas also provides free morning coffee, great food, and wine/beer if you want to keep the post-rampage party going. The showers were an absolute luxury after a day in the desert sun and dust.
Where do I eat? Surprisingly, for being in the middle of the desert, there are great places to eat. Our favorite within a reasonable distance was the Stage Coach Grille just down the hill from the event. It offered excellent ribs and steaks which felt right at home in the middle of the desert. If you are looking for breakfast, head a few miles past the venue to Springdale UT, where there are several more options. We chose Oscar’s Café where we fueled up for the day’s events.
What do I do in the area? The answer to this is obvious, go to Zion National Park. I’ve been to many of our great parks, but Zion is exceptionally diverse and offers unique landscapes seldom found in the rest of the country. You can drive through portions of the park, others you will need to take a free shuttle to access. Our favorite highlight was Angels Landing hike accessed by the shuttle a few stops up from the shuttle pickup point. After a quick 20 min drive with some seriously knowledgeable drivers, you can begin the 2.5 ascents to the peak. Angels Landing starts off with a mellow paved path but quickly becomes aggressive in its elevation gain. Once you reach the primary viewpoint, things get a bit crazy with a very exposed chain guided ascent for the final half mile. It might be one of the most exposed hikes in the country but is worth the elevation gain, just be comfortable with heights and great views.
Though necessary, these activities do come secondary to the actual competition. If you are a fan of mountain biking, Red Bull Rampage is the most psycho event you could ever attend. The level the diggers and athletes go to showcase our sport is something all of us should experience regardless of the discipline we choose to follow. Here are a few photos we shot this year which you will miss out on if you don’t attend next year.