As chilly air and shorter days usher out the biking season, costume box season is just getting underway – perfect timing for mountain bike athletes, enthusiasts and spectators to put on their Halloween best and enjoy four days of skill-building, competing, touring and reveling in Moab.
Now in its 12th year, the Moab Ho-Down Mountain Bike Festival returns with four full days of fun from Thursday, Oct. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 29.
The festival has become a favorite way to wind down the mountain biking season for the community and visitors from around the country, festival organizer and Chile Pepper Bike Shop owner Tracy Bentley said.
“Mainly, it’s about getting people into town in the fall and having a good time,” she said.
Although the “busy” season in Moab extends well into November now, Course Marshal Andy Platt said he looks forward to the event every year as a way to celebrate the end of summer and take a breather.
“It’s super fun and way mellow,” he said.
The first day, participants can ease into the festivities on a Townie Poker Ride, winding out on any type of bike down Moab’s bike path and into town, stopping at some of the event venues. The tour ends at the Coyote Shuttle headquarters with a pizza party, and the person with the best hand from poker cards collected at each stop will get a prize.
Enduro Racers can register on Thursday or Friday until 6 p.m., and have ample time to practice the course at the Amasa Back trail network independently, or as part of a skills camp offered by Moab Mountain Bike Instruction, which is open to anyone. There are also group rides, a movie night at Star Hall, and parties on Friday and Saturday, which are open to all festival registrants. Individual tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
Sylvi Fae, an owner and instructor with Moab Mountain Bike Instruction, has taught skills workshops at the event for several years and said she enjoys watching the evolution of students and athletes who attend the Ho-Down annually.
A few years ago, one of the skill camp participants decided to register for the Enduro Race at the last minute, and now races frequently, Fae said.
“It’s really amazing to see people sign up for a skills camp and leave with more empowerment in general,” Fae said. “You see people facing fears and overcoming them, instead of shying away and backing down.”
It’s also just a fun weekend and contributes to a good cause, she added. All proceeds from the event benefit the Moab Bike Park, a free public park with jumps and tracks, and the Grand County Trail Mix Alliance, which builds and maintains non-motorized trails throughout the region.
Last year, proceeds were earmarked for building a restroom at the Bike Park. Construction work on that project will begin in the spring at the latest, Bentley said. This year’s proceeds will contribute to construction of a new shade structure at the park and pay for ongoing park maintenance, like weed removal and other track grooming.
“I can’t believe it’s in its 12th year; it seems like we just did it,” Bentley said. “It’s amazing how time flies.”
She looks forward to seeing new and familiar faces again this year, she said. Last year, Star Hall sold out for the movie, and she estimates nearly 500 people attended the Ridiculous Costume Party. This year, Utah’s techno club music band Muscle Hawk will return to play Saturday night, followed by KZMU DJ Oblio Jones.
“It’s kind of the same every year,” Bentley said. “It’s just fun; it’s really about getting together and having fun doing something we all really enjoy.”
Four days of fun to benefit Moab Bike Park, Trail Mix
What: 12th Annual Moab Ho-Down Mountain Bike Festival
When: Thursday, Oct. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 29
Where: Locations vary
Information: moabhodown.com; 435-259-4688
More information, festival registration and single event tickets are available at moabhodown.com, or at Chile Pepper Bike Shop, 702 S. Main St.