King(man) of the Hill
The 2020 Road Trip takes me to Kingman, Arizona where I ride the toughest trail in town. Beale Loop is short, but challenging!
Nested among the buttes is the small town of Kingman. Yes, it is the same Kingman that is mentioned in the “Route 66” song by the Nat King Cole Trio. This town is small and, if Highway 40 were ever moved, it would probably dry up and disappear. Aside from the landscape and wildlife, Kingman sports a vibrant downtown.
When I pulled into town at 6:00 p.m., the thermometer read 115ºf (that’s 46º c). I may have experienced hotter days in my life, but not by much. Climbing out of the truck felt like climbing into an oven.
While browsing Trailforks before starting my ride, I came across a small trail system in Kingman that contains a solitary black diamond trail. The trail is called Beale Loop, and I wanted to ride it before I left. After all; what good is a cross country bike trip if I’m not willing to stop and ride my bike?
Hitting the Trail
I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and tried to get out on the trail before the impending heat set in. I may have been successful by Kingman standards, but it was still 85ºf (29º c) outside. There just aren’t enough hours after the sun sets to radiate all the heat that the rocks collect during daylight hours. It never cools off.
The trail begins with a gentle climb. This is welcome because it allows riders to acclimate to the terrain and flora (deadly cacti that want to hurt you). Also, getting “warmed up” isn’t really necessary in this heat, but the blood can start pumping a little bit before the trail gets steeper.
Climbing the hill is fairly easy, but there are a few sections with substantial grade increases and that are filled with loose, rocky scrabble. These sections, while short, are very challenging. I dabbed on several of them while trying to get to the top of the trail.
At the top, riders are rewarded with a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. There are also some intermediate difficulty trail connectors that continue north. If this 3.5 mile trail isn’t long enough for you, there are options to lengthen your route.
The downhill is a nervous one. The trail gets steep in a few spots, and some of those spots also contain more of that loose scrabble. From a technical standpoint, this is great fun; I love a bit of tech on an otherwise easy drop.
The other major element to this downhill that causes it to stand out is the variety of cacti. Buckhorn Cholla, Engelman Prickly Pear, and Round Leaf Dune Brooms punctuate the trailside and threaten your safety if you make a wrong move or lose control. The prickly pear cacti grow right up to the edge of the trail and many bushes grab at your clothing as you pass. I learned very quickly to avoid them or else suffer unwanted wear and tear to my socks and jersey.
Dropping down the hill towards the truck, the singletrack rolls through the dry creek bed several times. The short drops and rises are fun to roll with some speed and present great challenges. These downhill sections emphasize the great tech that makes this trail so fun. There are not any big drop-offs or jumps, but there is enough to keep a rider occupied.
Overall, it was a great morning. The 95º post-ride temperature was rough, but the dry air made it tolerable. The good news was that it was sill early enough to shower back at the room before I checked out and continued on my way east.