Hundreds of mountain bike enthusiasts joined the "Hell's Pedals Parade" downtown and raced over sandstone dunes in the back country recently as part of an annual celebration of slickrock biking.
The third annual Canyonlands Fat Tire Festival, culminating Sunday with a "combo" jet-boat and mountain bike tour to Hurrah Pass, drew an estimated 2,000 participants by Saturday, said Sandy Griffith, registration officer.Cyclists came from nearly all states, Canada and Denmark, Griffith said. Among VIP's from the biking world were Davis Phinney of Boulder, Colo., winner this year in the International Coors Classic bike race, and his wife Connie Carpenter-Phinney, gold medalist in women's bike racing in the 1984 Olympics.
Several major magazines also were represented, including a biking publication from West Germany, Griffith said.
Official registration totaled 600, nearly triple the participation of the first year. Registration is not required, and Griffith said organizers figure more than double the number of registrants actually show up.
What makes the southern Utah festival a big draw is the time of year it occurs and the terrain, several cyclists said. The Slickrock Bike Trail, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, also has received considerable national publicity in recent years.
"It's big stuff up in Jackson. Everybody makes the 12-hour pilgrimage to come down here," said John Hindman, 27. He was with a group from Jackson Hole, Wyo.
"It's a different type of terrain for us to ride. Here, you can come down and jam on all this nice rock. It's such a neat place to ride," Hindman said.
Griffith said things were better organized this year, the town was more accommodating and the weather cooperated, unlike last year. "The Slickrock trail ate a few bikes and it ate some skin (but) there were no real bad accidents. No one got lost."
Amy Sherk, 24, arrived early with a group from Salt Lake City for their second year at the festival - an event she said they all consider "a must."
Michael Fannin, 42, came from Sandy with his wife Carrie on Thursday for their second stint on Slickrock. "It's demanding, that's what makes it fun," Fannin said. "It's like being at Lagoon on a roller-coaster ride, but you don't pay admission."
From Provo, Joy Diamond and her friends Joan Seeley and Scott Bales agreed the trail was among the best.
"Slickrock puts you in your place. It's very intimidating but fun, and having tons and tons of bikers here - it's fun to watch people," Diamond said.
The event has grown from 225 participants in 1985, when Robin Groff, his brother Bill and sister-in-law LaVonna Groff established the festival as an annual event. It originated in 1984 as a simple party.
The Groffs own and operate Rim Cyclery, the official "base camp" of festival activities. Sponsors are the Canyon Country Cyclists.
Activities began Thursday with guided group rides along 10 trails, which kept most cyclists in the back country until Saturday morning's parade. Brightly dressed in mountain bike gear, some wearing Halloween masks, the pack that assembled downtown filled three blocks as they trailed police escort along Main Street.
From the parade, participants chose bicycle polo or a trail riding demonstration and then went on to the big event, the "poker run" on slickrock.