Arizona Mountain Biking
South Mountain

Holbert: Proof of Life

Holbert Trail
Holbert Trail, South Mountain
If you want to know that you are really alive, a living, breathing mortal, ride your bike down Holbert. Every rock, every boulder, every foot of chunky descent will remind you that you are indeed human, balancing ever so delicately on the mortal divide known as a trail.

I set out on Saturday morning to find myself again. I’d been lost, off the bike for two long weeks… I planned to ride National coast to coast hoping to find myself along the way.

My plan was going well until I was crossing the road off National and the Holbert trail caught my eye. I could just barely make out the tiniest sign. “Well I’ll just go over there and look at it…” I thought. I had never ridden Holbert from this upper trailhead. It intrigued me. As I sat and watched the roadies gliding up the smooth steep pavement I tried to ignore the Sirens calling me down. It had been a year since I had ridden Holbert, what is stopping me from changing course? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Off I went. Upper Holbert was offering a fun descent. Not as chunky as lower Holbert, much faster, but still big. I descended quickly, there is one short climb, a bump really, and then the real fun begins.

I pass a few hikers as I find a line down. Stopping is not an option, there is no turn out, or safe rest. I have to say moving. I reroute to keep momentum and stay safe. One hiker looked at me like I was insane as I said hello and thanked him I passed. I swear out of the corner of my eye I saw him reaching for his camera to capture me going down what he just struggled to walk up.

A few switchbacks and boulders, later I stumble upon a group of 10 or so hikers rounding a switchback. We stop and chat for a minute, they warn me of a rattler at post 16. I thank them and set down the gnarliest section yet.

I am confident, clean, and rolling everything in sight. And then slow motion begins. I feel my fork compress further than normal, my weight shifts forward and I start to feel light. I know something is happening because I can see a new, freakishly odd view of the trail, like I am floating above it. The sound of my shoes unclipping flashes me back to the reality of the moment and I know I am crashing. Whether it’s instinct, pure luck, or a fleet of angels that ride with me, I am not sure, but I soar through the air, land feet first into a run, my Pearl Izumi Alps gripping the terrain like glue. As I slow to a stop, turn and see my bike in a mangle 20 feet up the trail all I can think is, “How did I land that?”

The crowd above me cheers when I signal I am OK. I check the bike for damage and set off again. Normally a crash like this would make me sketchy the rest of the way down but it doesn’t phase me. I’m back in the groove. Holbert chunk tries to buck me the rest of the way down but my WTB Wolverines stay locked on the trail.

Holbert once again reminds me that I am a mere mortal. But at least now I know that I can fly.

No pics (it’s really hard to stop for shots going down Holbert), no vids (the VholdR unfortunately stopped recording before the good stuff started). All I have are memories.

Some shots climbing National for your viewing pleasure:

From National Sunrise Ride
From National Sunrise Ride
From National Sunrise Ride

Sunrise Over National & A Side of Holbert

4 thoughts on “Holbert: Proof of Life

  • Chris

    Proof of life is that you actually updated your blog. Its been over a month!!!

  • Maad, I’m pretty sure I’ve used my two ninja dismounts up for the year then. Guess it’s time to buy some armor.

    Lenz, Holbert at Night? And I thought Chad Brown was crazy when he rode it on his Lynskey singlespeed fully rigid 29er.

    I’d like to roll down Holbert on your Behemoth, well not yours exactly, but you know what I mean :D

  • Lenz Guy

    agreed, the lower Holbert is TOUGH. Kicked my butt a couple of mos ago when I happened across it at night and had the bright idea to take it – at night. first time. No big wipeouts but i was kiking it a lot due to the chunk I kept hitting. Was worn out by the end.

  • Nice ninja dismount…..I think you only get 2 per year….after that, things get ugly.

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