It’s chilly out. For whatever reason I thought going to the American Southwest in early November would still be light jacket weather: not quite. Due to the method of my madness there is no way to be holding a cup of hot coffee–although I was tempted to test the thermal limits of my CamelBak this morning. The sun is coming out though and I’m feeling it already hit me. Pedal on.

This almost feels surreal. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine a place like this existed on Earth, maybe Mars, but it’s real and I am blasting down an amazing single-track trail watching Hot Air Balloons rise up out of a slot canyon I didn’t even know was below me to the east. Suddenly they seem everywhere.

The town was buzzing this morning, and I didn’t know why; I figured this was just part for the course tourism. I had a photo tour scheduled at Antelope Canyon this afternoon, hoping to catch some mid-day light even know this isn’t the optimal time of year for it. I had several hours to burn and the local breakfast favorite had a line out the door. I saw a small bicycle shop across the street “Rim Trail Bike” and decided to wonder over and talk to shopkeeper who was setting her bikes out in a little row hoping to attract the likes, well, me I suppose. I had never known Page as a biking destination, but why not? It has many of the same sandstone features that have helped make Sedona a mecca for the sport.

I walked over and we started to chat. I couldn’t help but laugh a little at the size of the tires on these bikes–they looked like balloons! Literally I think if you could maintain your balance you could pedal this thing across a water. The owner explained they were for sand. I figured, “what the hell. I’ll go for it.” She gave me a map and set out on my balloon bike to find the Rim Trail.

The bike has no suspension, but it doesn’t need it. I could almost argue that these tires have a softer recoil than my full suspension bike at home. It’s comfortable soft, like going from a sports car to a big Cadillac floating down the road. I arrived at the trailhead on Sage, per the shop’s recommendation. The owner seemed very excited for me to go out this morning, and it wasn’t until I got out there that I realized why. I was totally oblivious to what was going on here, and I think she was oblivious to my obliviousness. The trailhead parking lot was packed with photographers taking photos of air balloons. I saw several chase teams (as they called themselves) watching in pick-up trucks; this was some sort of hot air balloon festival.

I decided to hit the trail before it got too late. I was still hungry and wanted to get a ride in before my stomach started to argue with me. I’ve biked around a bit and been on some great trails at the Wasatch ski resorts, Gooseberry Mesa, JDM and this trail is different in that it is a loop. It doesn’t just require some skill to complete, but there is an endurance factor to it and time aspect that drives you to ride it hard. This thing is like a racetrack made by the hand of God. You can ride it easy if you want but the flow is there to ride it fast and that’s what I did. The rental shop told me that a local pro rider ran it in 45 min flat, 10 miles. I hit what the locals call “the runway” with Tom Petty’s Learning to fly playing in my earbuds. I was hitting close to the 13 mph pace this Nike of the southwest had set, but I knew I couldn’t hold it. Up and down, this trail flows like a pump track built for speed. I blasted off a little berm with enough speed to catch some decent air… and a mouthful of sand. The trail pitched at an awkward angle, caught the tires and flung me like bull. No harm aside from some nasty stickers I later found out were called “goatheads” which I suspect was derived from the effigy of Satan as these were clearly designed by the Devil himself.

I brushed myself off and that’s when I saw a balloon literally rising out of the earth. I pulled out my phone to try to snap some photos. As I tagged myself, I saw the marker say that the crevasse was actually Antelope Canyon. This confused me for a minute because I could see the Navajo Power plant in the distance and I knew that the tour company I had booked at was to the southwest of that. I had no idea how large the canyon was.

With my unrealistic goal now shot, I resumed my ride at a more casual pace filling my phone with some incredible images. For the most part the trail maintained its flow but the north section had a few larger hills to climb as I ascended into the golf course. The shop had a single downhill bike and the gold course section almost made me wish I had rented it; you could bomb off these ledges with reckless disregard. One crash is enough for the day. I continued for the full loop and when I looked at my phone I was shocked- 45 min. I knew this couldn’t be right but it made me feel pretty damn good until I remembered the hotel front desk lady telling me my phone would swap time zones unless I turned the auto feature off. 1 hour, 45 min, good enough. I pedaled back through town and saw balloons landing in the streets, some still in the sky, and to my disappointment the breakfast place still packed.

This trail is really a diamond in the rough. If Page develops a few more trails and gets some organized signage, it could absolutely rival its neighbor to the south Sedona. A few hours on the XC racetrack of the Gods was enough to make me want to ride it again. I might try one the 27.5 bikes tomorrow to pick up my speed. I used the bike to cruise around the rest of the day which was defiantly worth it because the town was a zoo and parking the rental car would have been a nightmare. Tomorrow , with fresh legs I’ll chase Nike again.