Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
Riding the entire Ribbon route requires expert-level bike handling skills and cojones of steel, thanks to mandatory drops, steep rock rolls, boulder-filled rock gardens, and high-speed slickrock slab surfing.
However, if you're an advanced-level rider and are willing to walk a few sections, you'll still be able to enjoy 95% of the Ribbon's sweet charms! The top of the route begins with a bang, with high-speed two-wheeled surfing down a wide-open slickrock slab set on an angle, with speeds easily topping 30 or 40 miles per hour! Watch closely for the end of the slab, as most of the slab ends in a vertical rock cliff.
Flying off of it could mean death.
However, there is one rideable descent off the slab through the Toilet Bowl rock roll, but even that descent is very tricky.
Walking is always an option if you're uncomfortable. Once off the big slab, the slickrock surfing continues down the bottom of a gully.
It feels like you're riding a ribbon of rock (hence the name) as the scenery blurs by at around 40mph! Watch for the singletrack splitting off of the Ribbon, as passing that departure point will lead to another sheer cliff and again, possible death. One of the most technical sections of the entire route takes place after the Ribbon concludes--a gnarly, rocky, fall line descent with big drops and huge chunk.
Again, walking is advisable for riders who aren't expert-level.
Eventually the Ribbon shuttle route enters the main Lunch Loops trail system, with numerous route options.
Riders of the expert variety will want to head for Free Lunch to continue the gnar-filled descent.
The evac heli pad at the top of Free Lunch gives a hint of what's in store, with the easy bailout lines in Free Lunch easily black diamond level, and the double black lines serving up 10 to 15-foot rock drops to flat, and other technical insanity.
If you had trouble higher up on Ribbon, other than the two uber-technical spots described above, it's best to choose a different route down through the Lunch Loops and skip Free Lunch.
After Free Lunch there's no end of options to conclude the ride, but flowing into Holy Cross creates a great route, with more bouldery rock drops and rock gardens aplenty.
The Ribbon has grown into a legend through Youtube videos of pros blasting down the rock at high speeds and launching off of cliffs, and for the intrepid mountain biker who isn't afraid to walk every once and a while, this is the ride of a lifetime! But be honest with yourself about your abilities, as the Ribbon spares no one.