The Skinny Tire Festival takes cyclists to iconic landscapes like Dead Horse Point State Park. [Photo courtesy of Beth Logan]

While Moab has a well-known reputation as a Mecca for mountain bikers, the hundreds of miles of paved roads make for some of the best road biking in the world. The 17th annual Skinny Tire Festival is around the corner – setting out to take advantage of pre-spring weather and low traffic levels.

“It’s about seeing an obstacle and knowing you can get through it. It’s feeling the reward on the downside of the climb…” the festival’s website says.

The event’s empowering approach to cycling translates into much more for event founder Mark Griffith and many others, creating the basis for a proactive support network in fighting cancer.

Since Griffith established the Skinny Tire Festival benefit ride for cancer survivorship and research 16 years ago, more than $6.6 million has been donated to programs nationwide, including contributions to Moab Regional Hospital’s Infusion Therapy Room.

“We’ve had cyclists attending this event since its inception,” Griffith said. “We’ve shared laughter and tears as we’ve all gone through a cancer experience; we put purpose to our cycling.”

This year’s festival will be held on Saturday, March 11, through Tuesday, March 14, and will summon cyclists from across the globe to participate in two to four days of riding through Dead Horse Point State Park and the Colorado River corridor. Festivities include the Banff Mountain Film Festival, live music, beer and a Western Adventure Dinner at Red Cliffs Lodge.

Griffith lives with his wife, Beth Logan, in Moab full time, and Logan said they believe in contributing to the community.

“This is our way of making a difference for those in the cancer situation,” she said. “The events are a very part-time job for us … our full-time job is creating homes in the White Horse Subdivision in Spanish Valley.”

Logan said that more than 60 volunteers put on the event.

“We’ve chosen March for the festival to beat the ‘tourist rush.’ While this will help avoid automobile traffic, be prepared for unpredictable weather,” she advised. “Daytime temperatures average in the 60s, but be prepared for cool temperatures as it can change quickly in the canyons. Bring warm clothing and rain gear just in case.”

Cyclists can expect rides to be fully supported with sag wagons, bicycle mechanics and aid stations along the way. Aid stations supply a variety of snacks and fresh water.

Support at the Skinny Tire Festival extends beyond physical aid, and the event has gained a reputation for its “family-feel” due to the number of returning cyclists each year.

Alice Brown and her husband have returned every year for the last 14 years.

“We keep asking each other why this is the one trip we repeat,” Brown said. “There seems to be a magnetic draw to Moab. The town is bike- and recreation-friendly.”

Kristy Philippi, Ph.D., and her husband have also been coming for over a decade – originally being pulled from New Orleans.

“The scenery is amazing (and) raising money for cancer survivorship programs is important, Philippi said. “But what keeps us coming back every year is the support. The volunteers and organizers make this ride one of a kind.”

The festival is broken down into four different rides, selected to highlight the area’s diversity.

“Some of our more memorable rides are coming over the first hill in Arches (National Park) only to see the fog settling between the Courthouse Towers or watching the moon fall below the red rocks along the bike path,” Philippi said. “The weather is usually perfect for the rides, but one of the early years was very cold. Even getting caught in the snow leaving Dead Horse or finding ice in our water bottles at the turn-around along the Colorado River couldn’t keep us away.”

Skinny Tire Festival to raise funds for cancer research

“We’ve shared laughter and tears as we’ve all gone through a cancer experience; we put purpose to our cycling.”

When: Saturday, March 11, through Tuesday, March 14

Where: Locations vary

Cost: Varies from $190 for four days or $150 for the weekender; $25 of each registration is donated to cancer survivorship programs, and additional donations are encouraged. There are additional costs for a Western dinner at Red Cliffs Lodge and tickets to the Banff Mountain Film Festival at the Grand County High School auditorium.

Information: 435-260-8889, or beth@skinnytireevents.com

For more information, or to find out how your favorite beneficiary can be included, visit skinnytireevents.com, or call 435-260-8889.