Ride Gallery: Ryan Sigsbey on the Monumental Loop
Ryan Sigsbey first took on the Monumental Loop in 2017 and returned a year later to finish it. Find his account alongside an excellent gallery of photos in our latest Ride Gallery. Plus, notes on tire selection and the route’s difficulty…
Back in late January 2017, I headed out to New Mexico in hopes of riding the entire Monumental Loop. Pedaling out toward the Northern Loop from Las Cruces, I had every intention of grabbing a World Famous Green Chili Cheeseburger from Sparky’s for dinner. I’m sure that’s the plan for many folks who ride out on the route – it’s about 60 miles in, doesn’t look like too much climbing, and the last 15 miles or so are on a flat gravel road. Surely I could make it there!
I quickly realized that the riding was going to be much slower than I expected. Though a few sections of the trail seemed to effortlessly flow by, the Monumental Loop can best be described as miles of winding, technical singletrack that snake their way through the rugged mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert. Needless to say, I had to lower my expectations of how far I was going to be making it that evening. On that first night I sat in my tent on top of Tonuco Mountain eating my last few pieces of beef jerky and a few Peanut M&M’s for dinner. Surely I wasn’t the first person to be in that situation.
The next morning I awoke with a new plan: Just take it one pedal stroke at a time, stop and smell the roses (or cacti, rather), and enjoy the solitude the desert provides. The rest of the route was amazingly beautiful, even surreal at times. On the third day, I circled back around towards Las Cruces and had a choice between a quick, direct route back to town or the twisting, rollercoaster-of-a-trail known as the SST. Naturally, I opted for the trail!
I only ended up having time to complete the Northern Loop on that trip, but I instantly knew I would be back to do the Southern Loop the following year. So, in January 2018, I headed back and did the Southern Loop, this time with lower expectations and more time to relax and enjoy the route. It truly provides some amazing scenery and such a diverse glimpse into what the desert has to offer.
A Note on Tire Size – 2.35 vs 3.0
In 2017, when I ended up riding only the Northern Loop, I rode a hardtail with Maxxis Ikon 2.35” tires. The Northern Loop has considerably more technical terrain and less sand, so my 2.35” tires worked really well for me. My choice of tire size resulted in only minimal extra pushing. I’ll admit that I did push my bike for many other reasons, but such is the nature of the route.
I was equipped with a rigid Karate Monkey with 3.0″ Maxxis Chronicles when I came back to tackle the Southern Loop in 2018. I do believe the wider tires made a huge difference there. The Southern Loop is notorious for its sandy sections. Depending on conditions, it can vary from a few unridable sections here and there to long, seemingly endless pushes. Using plus size tires, I was able to float through many of the sandy stretches, and it definitely saved me some walking.
A Note about the Difficulty Rating
Be sure to read the description of the difficulty rating at the bottom of the route page as well, but here’s my take. The difficulty can really fluctuate and will likely depend on what type of riding you are used to. For some, it might register more as a 7-8 out of 10, especially if you go into it knowing it’s going to have some challenges. I think compared to other routes on the site, its rating of 9 out of 10 seems appropriate. Be sure to also check out the Pace Chart and lean toward the doubletrack and singletrack time frames for the entire route.