The Sedona 's 5's Excellent Adventure

Five joy riders mountain-biked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon; five federal prisoners rode back up in shackles

Hurt No One, Ride Where You Please
The Sedona 5 weren't the only bikers to ride the canyon during the park shutdown. Two adrenaline hounds from Flagstaff had descended 20 miles down a remote, even more rugged North Rim trail three days earlier. The last eight miles, they say, were too steep to ride. "We were just following little rock cairns down, carrying our bikes for like five hours," says Paul, who asked not to be identified by his last name. The bikers eventually cut over to Roaring Springs on a side trail and ascended North Kaibab, hitching a ride out to the car with ". . . this guy in a Dodge Powerwagon who worked in the park and was showing his new Russian mail-order bride around."

But thanks to the dramatic bust and a Web site quickly set up by Wheeze, word of the Sedona 5's ride spread quickly through mountain-biking circles across the country. Several national mountain-biking magazines have run features on the ride, portraying the Sedona 5 as Edward Abbey on two wheels.

Of course, that perception is a long bunny-hop from the Sedona 5's original intent. "We weren't consciously on a civil disobedience ride," says Rama. "I can't even say all the attention has surpassed our expectations, because we didn't have any expectations. We were just out for the ride." Asked if he's glad they got caught, Rama says, "It's certainly helped me cultivate my bad-boy image," then adds, "Let's just say I believe some things happen for a reason."

Three mornings a week, the Sedona bike-store owner leads "Rama Rides" that leave from the parking lot of Mountain Bike Heaven. Anyone is welcome, and there's no charge. The rides, which last anywhere from a couple hours to all day, depending on Rama's mood, often venture into designated national wilderness areas around Sedona, where bike riding is strictly forbidden.

"That's where a lot of the best downhills are," Rama explains.
One recent Rama Ride was attended by Rama, seven local Sedona riders (two women and five men, including one 48-year-old known as "Gnarly Old Dude") and a freelance outdoors photographer from Florida shooting his way across the country who had an assignment from Bike magazine to spend a few days making pictures in Sedona.

The twin highlights of that eight-hour ride were a roller-coaster downhill through a wilderness area pass and a long "water ride" through a narrow river channel walled on both sides with lush blackberry bushes. During a rest break about three hours into the day, the riders gulped down water, honey and energy bars as the photographer packed a pipe of marijuana (pot, explains Rama, is an integral part of the mountain-biking lifestyle).

"Anyone here know the Sedona 5?" the photographer asked.
"Why do you want to know?" Rama replied.
"I'd just like to shake those guys' hands."
"Well," Rama said with a smug grin, "you can shake my hand."

Not all the response from other mountain bikers had been so positive. Forest tells the story of a sales rep for the Gary Fischer bike company who turned up his nose at the ride. "Someone introduced me to him as one of the Sedona 5, thinking he would think it was cool. He just stared at me for a while really cold and then he nodded and said 'jerks.'"

Wheeze has kept a running pro/con tally of e-mail response to the Sedona 5 Web site since he took it online in mid-December ( As of early August, the count for just more than 2,500 messages was 76 percent for the riders and 24 percent against.

"You people make me sick," wrote one critic in Georgia. "I'll bet you're a bunch of longhaired New Age types sitting there in Sedona with crystals around your necks. You clowns broke the law and you deserve to be punished. Perhaps the Sedona library should remove any copies of books by Ed Abbey so that you don't get any more bright ideas."

Fifteen years ago, when mountain biking was a fringe sport just starting to catch on, almost any biker who rode on public park land was technically breaking the law by using a trail designated for hikers only--no vehicles allowed. However, those rules were originally written to ban motorized off-road vehicles like dirt bikes and three-wheelers. Mountain bikes posed an unusual question--what to do with a new kind of "vehicle" that could move quickly over wilderness trails, but didn't have an engine. Most states have opened at least some of their state park trails to mountain bikers, but national wilderness areas are still off-limits.

"Essentially, the Park Service has decided that mountain biking is not consistent with the scenic and aesthetic values of the wilderness experience," says Herring. Pressed to explain, the wilderness ranger said it was "a matter of attitude, of a lack of respect for the park." However, Herring says the Sedona 5 caused negligible trail damage--far less than one of the commercial mule trains that routinely travel the park's major trails. "Yes, mules are a high-impact animal," he says. "But that's irrelevant. The issue here is respect for what this park is for. These guys [the Sedona 5] were not out to enjoy the natural splendor. They were there to put a notch in their belt."

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Mountain bikers' middle name is "Scofflaw".

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video:

In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: .

For more information: .

The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users -- hikers and equestrians -- who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

The parks aren't gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won't understand what I am talking about -- an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

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