A Grand Junction Off Road Guide

The second stop of the Epic Rides series will take place in Grand Junction, Colorado this weekend and the race, bike expo, and music festival draw quite the crowd to our small town on the Western Slope. As a Fruita local, I’m thrilled to be participating in this weekend’s events, both as a racer and spectator. It’s exciting to partake in the sufferfest, hear race stories from the many locals lining up for the event, and to share our desert trails, restaurants, and Western Slope good vibes with those traveling from out of town. 

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I absolutely love my corner of Colorado, and my hope is that all racers traveling to compete in the Grand Junction Off Road enjoy their time here as well! With that in mind, I’d like to offer a bit of information not included on the Epic Rides website that will hopefully enable you to maximize your time and enjoyment this weekend.

THE RIDE: The Pivot Cycles Mach 429SL is the ideal machine for handling the technical and chunky terrain that we’ll race on this weekend. I’ll be running this capable, light bike with SRAM Eagle 1x12 drivetrain, Enve M525 wheels, Maxxis Ikon 2.35 tires, Ergon grips and saddle, and MRP Loop TR 130 fork (made locally and named after the Lunch Loops!). I’ll be riding the 429SL for the third year in a row in Sunday’s 40 Grand pro race, and my husband Noah is running a similar setup for Saturday’s 30 Grand race. 

If you have multiple bikes in your quiver and are still deciding what bike to run this weekend, my advice would be to go for a full suspension. Make sure that it’s built with tires sturdy enough to handle the rocky, dry, and loose trails at the Lunch Loops (Maxxis tires with their EXO sidewall reinforcements are my pick).

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THE PRE-RIDE: Even if you’ve raced the Grand Junction Off-Road before, you’ll get to experience riding on some new trails in this year’s edition! The full 30 and 40 Grand courses are available on TrailForks, and if you don’t have the app, I highly recommend downloading it prior to your pre-ride. Once you’ve downloaded a region, you’ll have access to maps, race routes, and trail stats even when your phone is out of service.  

One hour: If you’re like most racers and are arriving from out of town for the event, a quick hour may be all that you have for race recon. If your time is limited but you’d still like to get a feel for the terrain, I’d recommend riding Butterknife. This trail can be accessed by driving to the Third Flats Trailhead off of Little Park Road, and includes six miles of singletrack before popping you onto Third Flats Road. Take a right here, and climb for approximately four miles back to your vehicle. The whole loop may take a bit longer than an hour if you’re not going race pace, but riding it will give you a great taste for the physical, fun, and technical style of riding in Grand Junction. 

Two hours: If you’d like to spend a little more time on course for your pre-ride, parking at the Gunny Loop lot off of Little Park Road is a great spot from which to check out this year’s new singletrack. Start your ride by climbing Positive Vibes, continuing on Second Thoughts, and hitting Twist-n-Shout before you drop onto Butterknife. Following the climb out of Third Flats Road, drop into Second Thoughts before finishing up on Snakeskin and returning to your car

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Three hours: If you have a full three hours to ride, parking at the Tabeguache / Lunch Loops Trailhead lot and riding the 30 Grand (minus the to-and-from pavement connections to downtown) is a wonderful option to experience all of the singletrack portions of the race. For those racing the 40, the majority of those extra miles take place on doubletrack on a fairly remote road that you’ll hit after exiting Butterknife. If you have limited time and energy, I’d suggest skipping the Windmill Road section of the course and focusing on tackling the 30 Grand terrain. 

Any of these pre-ride options should enable you to get a feel for the style of riding here in Grand Junction. If you’re really limited on time, simple drive to the Tabeguache / Lunch Loops Trailhead off of Monument Road, and cruise around the beginning and end of the dirt portion of the race to get comfortable on the terrain. It will be hot this weekend, so bring plenty of water and wear your sunscreen as the trails are very exposed!

THE RE-FUEL: Whether you’re racing the 30 or 40, and pre-riding for an hour or ten, you'll probably be in need of a hearty and healthy meal following your ride! Keep in mind that Grand Junction does have a Sprouts and Vitamin Cottage if you need to stock up on groceries. If you’re looking for healthy options downtown, the following are some of my favorite restaurants. *Note, I do follow a plant-based diet, and all of these restaurants can accommodate those with dietary restrictions.

  • Cafe Sol - Healthy and generous soups, salads, and sandwiches. I’d happily eat here every day!
  • Kiln Coffee and Copeka Coffee - Because caffeine is necessary.
  • TacoParty - A simple menu but amazing flavor. Don’t skip the guac! 3 tacos for $8 this weekend (usually $12)!
  • Main Street Bagels - Homemade bagels, pastries, and sandwiches on Main Street. They also have coffee and smoothies.
  • Bin 707 - If you're in a celebratory mood following your race, Bin 707 is the place to go!They have a truly wonderful menu and offer a more upscale vibe. 
  • Pablo’s Pizza - Great pizza, with gluten free crust available, and tasty salad options for those who don’t do dairy. 
  • Nepal - Because Indian food is always a great idea, even before a big race!

If you’re willing to drive, Namaste Nepal in Orchard Mesa and Hot Tomato in Fruita are two of my other favorite restaurants in the area. 

OTHER ACTIVITIES: If you’re traveling with your significant other or family to the race, Epic Rides offers kid fun rides and a 15 Grand shorter course option on Friday evening. Watching Friday's pro fat tire crit, exploring the bike expo, and hanging out at the music festival are great options for those not keen on racing. If you’re interested in scoping out other parts of our town, consider the following activities to do with your family, or after the race:

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  • Hike in McInnis Canyons (awesome for dogs!)
  • Drive over the Colorado National Monument
  • Visit Palisade’s many vineyards (they've got a distillery, brewery, and recreational marijuana shop too)
  • Bike at Kokopelli or 18 Road
  • Do a recovery spin with your family on the Riverfront Trail (spans from Palisade to Fruita!)

Head to www.VistiGrandJunction.com for more tips on the area’s activities. 

FOR YOUR BIKE: In the event your bike needs a little love prior to the BIG event, there are plenty of bike shops in the area. Bicycle Outfitters, Gear Junction, Brown Cycles, Grassroots Cycles, and Ruby Canyon Cycles are close to the venue and should get you rolling in no time. Fruita’s Colorado Backcountry Biker and Over the Edge are other great options with friendly service and a wide selection of gear. 

Have a wonderful weekend, keep the rubber side down, race hard, recover harder, and enjoy your time on the Western Slope! Ride on.