Biking Around Bryce and Zion
Last month Escape Adventures invited me to join an electric bike tour of the area around Bryce and Zion National Parks. Until then, I thought I was done with cycling. At age 63, it had been almost twenty years since my mountain biking days.* But I’d never been on an electric bike, so I thought I would give it a go, even at my ripe old age and sketchy skill level.
A Little Worried
I have to confess that after I agreed to participate in one of the Escape Adventures E-Bike tours, I was a little worried about my abilities. The electric bicycle tour was billed as an “Electric Pedal Assist Road Bike Tour,” and I was concerned that I would be uncomfortable riding on the road. You see, my previous cycling was done on backcountry trails. I would find out soon enough how my nerves would fare on roadways around Bryce National Park and Zion National Park.
My other trepidation for the electric road bike tour was that my bottom side was not in shape. Would I be in butt agony after the first 25-mile day? I packed my cycling pants. Then there was the shoe quandary. Should I bring my old cleated, clip-in bike shoes or use the toe cages that typically come with rental bikes? I hesitantly left my cycling shoes at home.
|Shadows look like otherworldly petrogylphs on the canyon walls as we climb to Cedar Breaks NM|
Well, I’m here to tell you that none of my fears came to fruition. I fell head over heels in love with my ebike, whom I nicknamed ‘Mr. Green.’ He took me all over the Bryce and Zion area in Southern Utah, making sure that I had a smile on my face the whole way. Escape Adventures provided the equipment, guides and service that helped put me at ease and get my inner child jazzed.
First of all, the seat on the Specialized® Turbo Como was très comfy. “These are state of the art and designed for comfort,” said Troy, one of our Escape Adventures guides, as he answered my questions before our first ride at Snow Canyon State Park outside of St. George, Utah. Mr. Green sported a cruising seat, or saddle in bicycling terms, which was extra wide for support and cradled my ‘sit bones’ perfectly. The top of the ergonomic saddle had a V-groove that is said to increase blood flow and I guess that it did since I didn’t get saddle-sore on the three-day electric bike tour.
|Mr. Green in all his electric bike glory.|
The frame of the Specialized® Turbo Como is designed for comfort as well. Mr. Green’s top tube was positioned lower for easy get-on and get-offs. Not as low as a “girls’” bike, but not as high as the top bar on my old “men’s” mountain bike. I could quickly put my foot down when we came to a stop sign. The handle bars were positioned for sitting upright so that I could pedal in a more relaxed position than on a traditional road bike.
|Arizona Travel Writer Stacey Wittig in Snow Canyon, UT|
Photo by Meghan Young of www.missmeghanyoung.com
The Secret Sauce
I loved the pedal assist electric bikes, which made each stroke of the pedal feel like a natural pedal, but with just enough added power to help you reach the top of the hill or keep up with the others. The added assist is not “on” all the time like a gas-powered bicycle would be. The battery-powered motor reacts to the amount of force you apply to the pedals. It is only “on” when you pedal – it is off when you coast. The more force I applied to my pedal, the more power the motor put out. It was a real natural, not mechanical, feel. Escape Adventures’ e-bikes made my ride more leisurely and the hilly terrain easier to climb.
|Paved biking and hing path at Snow Canyon State Park|
Additionally, my new love Mr. Green, unlike my husband, had a control device where I could choose the amount of help that I needed from him. I could breeze along under my own power, shifting my rear derailleur when necessary and then, as I approached a hill, press a button for “the secret sauce” – the motor power. There were three power settings from which to choose from a device near the grip on the left handle bar. By the way, the electric assist bike had no front derailleur which actually made the e-bike a little easier for this old brain to use. The ebike’s 9-speed shifter on the right handle bar gave me plenty of options.
I made a good choice of leaving my cycling shoes behind. Mr. Green came with the latest in bicycle pedals – and, thank God, not the unsightly and embarrassing toe cage pedals. He was quite the fashion plate wearing low profile commuter pedals with grip tape and reflectors. My feet stuck like glue and never slipped off the pedal surface.
With the extra power from the integrated Specialized motor, a heartier brake system was necessary, and so Specialized outfitted Mr. Green with hydraulic disc brakes. Wow! My feathering finger braking technique came right back from my old days of riding, so I didn’t have any problems with converting to the new technology of the electric bike.
|Escape Adventures downloading at Snow Canyon Overlook|
The engine on our electric assisted bikes was almost invisible to the untrained eye. The body of the e-bike is slightly wider to house the motor and the battery. Of course that makes the ebike heavier than a standard bicycle, so our guides, Merrick and Troy really got a workout lifting the electric bikes on and off the bicycle rack positioned high on the roof of our Escape Adventures luxury travel van.
The Specialized battery in Mr. Green’s frame was lockable and easily removable for ease of charging. I didn’t experience charging the batteries as that was done every night by our Escape Adventures guides. Each morning when we pushed the on button, our electric bikes showed a complete charge on the digital LCD display. Another benefit to going on an electric bike tour rather than trying to do it on your own.
|Lunch spread after Bryce Canyon NP hike|
Benefits of organized cycling tours
Having someone else charge our electric bike batteries at night is an excellent segue into the benefits of choosing a tour when going cross-country on electric bikes. My experience was with Escape Adventures, and this is what I found to be the advantages of touring with them.
1. Provides Up-to-Date Equipment
Escape Adventures provided the latest in e bikes, the Specialized ® Turbo Como 2.0 650b. And you can tell from what I have said above that I really enjoyed riding new, state-of-the-art electric bikes. If I were to buy this electric bicycle for myself, it would cost around $2,850. Escape Adventures also provided helmets, complimentary water bottle, seatpack and gloves. I didn’t have to pay extra to ship my electric bike or carry any of that gear on the airplane.
2. Reduces Planning
I loved that our guides knew the national park rules and regs and had all the appropriate fees ready when we drove to the Bryce and Zion National Park gates. We hiked when electric assist bike riding was not allowed, and I didn’t have to read all the confusing government websites to plan the trip. Further, all our lunches were preplanned, and a great lunch spread was waiting for us when we returned from our ride or hike. The Bryce and Zion eBike tours included accommodations at casual inns that were vetted and reserved by Escape Adventures. I didn’t have to worry about making reservations months in advance like you typically have to do at destinations located near national parks.
3. Saves Time
Not only does an organized tour save time during the planning stage, but it also saves time when your boots are on the ground at your destination. Having the lunches made and waiting saved us the time that we would have to stand in line with the hordes at a national park concessionaire. Furthermore, we didn’t waste time looking for our accommodations as our guides chauffeured us right to the front door.
4) Offers Convenience
Having someone drive me around beautiful landscapes seems like such a luxury for me. I love to drive, but it was so convenient to have drivers who can keep their eyes on the road while I snapped pictures or ogled at views that I would miss if I were doing the driving. As I mentioned earlier, it was very convenient for me at age 63 to have someone lift my bike off the roof rack, charge Mr. G’s battery at night, and – not previously stated – repair or change flat tires.
5. Creates a Tribe of Like-minded Individuals
I had previously met only one of the others on the Escape Adventures ebike tour. But we all bonded on the first day and were sad to say goodbye by the end of the electric bike tour. I think that was because we all shared the same challenges and adventures which drew like-minded individuals and that the guides were skilled at getting the group to interact.
Cedar Ridge National Monument
|UNSTOPPABLE STACEY at Cedar Ridge National Monument|
The Specialized electric bicycle gave me just the boost and confidence that I needed to ride 24.3 miles the first day at Snow Canyon. I loved our later stop at Cedar Ridge National Monument where we took the most Instagrammable pictures and got our first glimpse of Southern Utah’s hoodoos. Since the park is at 10,000 feet, we experienced snow (in October) and the dark blue skies only seen at high altitude.
Bryce Canyon National Park
|Plenty of time to stop and take photos at Dixie National Forest|
The next morning we rode on separate, paved pathways through Dixie National Forest to Bryce Canyon National Park, ditched the e bikes and hiked the amazing Navajo Loop Trail to Queen’s Garden. Merreck said that although he’s trekked and cycled with Escape Adventures all over the world, this was his favorite hike. It had been over twenty years since I visited Bryce Canyon and I was once again blown away by the hoodoo rock formations.
|Bryce Canyon National Park overlook on Navajo Loop Trail|
Zion National Park
On Day Three, we rode along Utah State Highway 9 from Mount Carmel Junction to near Zion National Park. That was the only section of our ride that had me nervous about the traffic, but I had a grand sense of accomplishment once we ended the leg at the park sign.
|Strangers became friends on this Escape Adventures eBike Tour|
Riding and Learning
On this electric bicycle tour, I learned a lot about myself:
- I have the strength and endurance to accomplish a cross-country road bike trip (with a little bit of help from Mr. G.),
- It’s easy to travel as a single woman with a tour group, which offers a way to make new friends, and
- I wasn’t “done” with cycling, and I’m not too old to ride.
It all came back – just like riding a bike.
Your Escape Adventure
This tour is perfect for families, couples or groups with different levels of riding skills. Learn more about the Utah Bryce and Zion Backcountry Electric Pedal Assist Road Bike Tour at:
10575 Discovery Dr
Las Vegas, NV 89135
*I have to admit that I was quite an experienced mountain biker … twenty years ago. I rode twice a week with my boyfriend (now my husband Dan) and another couple Mark and Lisa. When Mark’s friends from back East would join us on Flagstaff’s rugged trails, they ended up with chipped teeth, bloody legs or broken arms. Us girls would just keep pedaling.
“Unstoppable Stacey” Wittig is a travel writer based in Flagstaff. The Arizona travel writer was hosted by Escape Adventures, and although that does not affect her opinions, she believes in full disclosure.
|Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park|