If you’re not familiar with the 24 Hours of Moab, allow
me to explain. Mountain bikers flock from all over the country
to the desert to ride their bikes from noon on Saturday until
noon on Sunday. These insane people bike through deep sand,
technical downhills and rolling desert – over and over
again. They beat up their bodies and bikes; exhaust themselves;
and brave heat, sweat, dirt, blood and bruises. And they actually
have a good time. Or at least I did.
| The morning after: DHS
sophomore Sabina Kraushaar after a rough night on the
trail in Moab./Courtesy photo.
The race begins with the first person on each team sprinting,
in bike shoes, about half a mile, inhaling tons of dust along
the way. The racer then grabs his or her bike and embarks
on the first lap of many. Each lap is about 15 miles, with
riders starting and finishing in a tent where the wooden baton
is passed, ID cards are swiped to keep track of times, and
finishers attempt to scramble out of the chaos.
Most riders choose to be on a team made up of either two,
four or five people. This year, there also were 78 diehards
who rode the race solo, biking for 24 hours straight.
I found my team, “Waterside West,” off a message
board on the Internet. Out of the five people on it, I was
the youngest by a long shot and the only girl. Our captain,
Mike Eland, was a purist; he rode a singlespeed with no suspension
and didn’t believe in Spandex, Lycra or bike gloves.
“It’s just you and your bike,” Mike told
anyone who would listen.
The race started at noon with the chaotic running, and the
riders disappearing down the trail while the dust settled.
I was eagerly awaiting my teammate Brad LaRochelle as he came
in from his first lap, and almost tripped over myself sprinting
out of the tent to grab my bike. The second rider in our line-up,
I rode my first lap, passed the baton, went back to camp,
got a massage and rested. It seemed simple.
The next lap I took was to be in the dark. This was going
to be my first night ride ever, unless you count the times
I’ve ridden home in the dark because I don’t drive.
All the caffeine that I’d shoveled into my body was
flowing in my bloodstream, and my hands were shaking by the
time Brad came in. I readily took the baton and swiped my
card, oblivious to what I was getting myself in to.
Starting amid the cheering of my mom and teammates, I grinned
as I flew through the tent and past scattered campfires. My
lights shown bright, and my bike seemed to be in an agreeable
mood. I felt good in my own little world, which spanned only
about 15 feet in front of me.
And then I heard the most dreaded sound that can possibly
pierce the silence when you’re riding at 11:30 p.m.
– a faint pop followed by a hiss. I had a flat, and
a wave of panic hit me as I realized I had never changed a
flat on my tubeless tires. I wasn’t sure whether to
cry, scream, kick something or ditch my gear and hike to the
finish. I slowly got off my bike and trudged off the sandy
trail. Time didn’t matter now, I thought bitterly to
There were a few others who shared my fate, spread out in
the dirt also fixing their bikes. I was surprised at how optimistic
they were, stranded with flats, in the middle of nowhere,
in the dark. I also thought how bizarre it was that I was
one of them. “And we actually paid money to do this?”
one of them yelled.
I threw my bike into the sand and tried to take off the back
tire. I soon realized that my head light was failing, and
within minutes it was dead. More panic. “I’m screwed,”
I thought to myself.
With nothing to do but try to make the best of the situation,
I wrestled with my tire in the dark for half an hour, until
I finally threw it down in disgust. It simply could not be
done without a light, especially by someone like me, who obviously
didn’t know what she was doing. In the end, I relied
on a generous biker who stopped to help. Soon, I was on my
way again, with a fixed tire and only the light on my handlebars
to guide me.
I crept along, my eyes straining, as I tried not to kill
myself on the downhills. “I can’t believe I’m
doing this,” I kept thinking to myself. Somehow I survived,
and I was never so glad to see the headlights and campfires
of the starting area.
I pedaled in with the baton that had been rubbing against
my sweaty leg for the past 2BD hours clenched in my teeth
and a huge smile spread across my face. My teammate was obviously
freezing as he shuffled out to meet me; he had been waiting
in the cold for almost an hour. He managed a grimace as he
swiped his card and started out on our team’s next lap.
I went back to camp and managed to get a few hours of sleep
before I had to peel my eyes open again and start out on my
third lap. I struggled out of my cozy sleeping bag at five
in the morning, threw on my dirty bike shorts and tried telling
myself I was having fun as I ate a plate of hot hash browns
and drank a mug of chai tea. As I rode, the sky gradually
began to lighten, and soon I switched off my lights. I could
see the sun peeking over the desert, and I noticed my shadow
on the ground beside me. I instantly felt the warmth creeping
into my tired body, and smiled knowing that the night riding
That morning was incredible. With the Rolling Stones playing
in my headphones, it was just me, my music, my bike and miles
of desert. My bike flew over the rocks and sand with ease,
seeming to subconsciously pick the best line.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better,
I found myself sprawled on a rock with a mouthful of sand
and my breath and bliss knocked out of me. With a red and
purple bruise forming on my leg and that harsh snap back to
reality, I realized I wasn’t done yet. My faithful Jamis
had a bent headset, so I got out an allen wrench and fixed
it. Then I jumped back on the piece of metal, rubber, and
grease that had carried me this far and kept riding.
I passed the baton one last time (so I thought) to my teammate
Bob Binckes and watched him ride away. With a great sense
of satisfaction, I enjoyed a long shower and flopped down
in a lawn chair.
The happy delirium was quickly shattered when a teammate
found me at camp and asked if I would be willing to ride one
more lap because our singlespeeder would probably arrive before
noon. At first I was unwilling, but after some persuasion
and bribery, I finally agreed, threw on my smelly clothes
and waited for my teammate in the starting tent. He came in
20 seconds before the deadline, so I was one of the last riders
to take off for the final lap of the race.
In the end, my team “Waterside West” finished
in 40th place, which wasn’t all that bad considering
my incredibly long night lap and that only one of us had done
the race before.
Regardless of our time, the energy I took from 24 Hours of
Moab was awesome. My passion for cycling, adventure and life
in general was renewed. The support that I received from my
family, friends and complete strangers was overwhelming, and
I was lucky to be part of something like this. The 24 Hours
of Moab is like a little community that pops up once a year,
and then disappears leaving only empty beer cans, Power Bar
wrappers, ash-filled fire pits and tire tracks that cover
a collective 65,235 miles.
Many people think we’re crazy to do a race like this;
and in some ways I would agree. But there is so much positive
energy and excitement at the event that it makes up for the
exhaustion and sore legs. It is the quintessence of adventure
and challenge, and I’d do it again without a doubt.
– Sabina Kraushaar
(Sabina Kraushaar is a sophomore
at Durango High School.)