Since October’s the best month of playing outside I’ll end it with one more classic ride: The White Rim in a day. I did this a few weeks back with my friend Jeff (partner during last year’s 25-hr Frog Hollow race) and we caught perfect conditions for this stunning tour of the Canyonlands.
The White Rim Trail is one of the most scenic roads in the world. Except for a few miles on the mesa you’re never not looking at postcard view. Unfortunately my phone broke en route, which is probably good for this post as I’ll use other, much better, photos, which also will provide reference links for anyone interested in more info on this classic adventure.
Doing it in a day is not requisite and, in fact, while a fairly-common tick for ultra geeks, is probably not the best way to do it. If I were going to pay a company to SAG for a long ride this might be the one. As Jeff said, “I can’t imagine there’s a better mountain bike tour in the world”. There are many Moab outfits happy to do this, like this one.
We, both ultra geeks, opted to skip the booze cruise option. If you found your way here it’s your lucky day as I’m going to provide some key beta. Jeff is a Moab local, spends an inordinate time exploring, and has thus learned many tricks for efficiency in the desert.
Look at the above topo. Now move the start to the bottom of the big finishing climb. We parked about a mile down this road, meaning that we had most of our climbing done before breakfast. We also stashed most of our water at the park entrance so we were able to climb without a ton of weight. Since it’s the least scenic part of the ride we also did it in the dark so that sunrise hit just as we were entering the good stuff. This piece of beta both gave us a nice warm-up during the chilly morning but also allowed us to finish on the flats along the river, instead of with a brutal climb. It was aesthetically perfect.
The riding on the White Rim, while technically easy, is challenging over the course of a day. Miles of slickrock beat you down and, by the end, my hands hurt more than anything else. At one point I made a comment on training for Paris-Roubaix and we spent a few miles mulling over the possibility of doing it on a road bike before dismissing it as nothing more than self-flagellation. You can ride the White Rim on anything but the more suspension you have the happier you’ll probably be.
For us the ride was more style. Doing the climb in the dark also allowed us more time for sightseeing. We spent close to 2.5 hours poking around and still finished well before dark. We even got lucky and found this.
Jeff is the most interesting man in the desert, surely. He knows everything about the canyonlands and its history. Not only can he suffer but he’s also an excellent climber and has spent the last few decades on the trail of the Anasazi and Fremont. He’s is constantly filling in the authorities on locations of new archeological sites, which means I had a first rate historical tour of the White Rim and everything you can see from it. This, I suppose, is another reason why you might want to do this one guided, even if you opt to do it in a day.