Monday, April 28, 2008


On Saturday I rode the White Rim Trail for the first time as part of Kenny's annual RAWROD event. I love reading the descriptions for the trail and the inevitable references to doing it in one day, such as this nugget from "Most riders spend 3 or 4 days to ride this trail, spending the night at campgrounds. Two days = Monster. One day = Lunatic."

I hardly think of myself as a lunatic. And since, according to the BMI tables, I am overweight and have been for my entire life, I have a hard time thinking of anything I do on a bicycle as remarkable. But I guess most folks don't enjoy spending eleven or more hours in the saddle. I won't say that all eleven and a half hours were enjoyable, but most of them were. It was a great day. Not perfect, but I'll certainly be back next year.

Here's what went well:
  • The scenery: I love Southern Utah redrock country, and there is no better way to enjoy it than on a bicycle. At every turn I could look up to behold remarkable vistas unlike anything else in the world.
  • The people: the other riders were as good a group of people as one would ever want to spend a day with. I didn't have a designated group that I planned to ride with--I just rode at my pace and chatted with whoever happened to be near me at the moment. Without exception, they are people I would choose to ride with again.
  • 29er: the bike was comfortable to ride all day even without rear suspension, and the big wheels allowed me to ride through all the sand traps without dismounting.
  • Bratwurst: Kenny and Elden spent the evening cooking brats for dinner. I was concerned how my system would handle them the next day, but they tasted so good that I ate two. I had no problems from them during the ride, either.
  • The trail: White Rim is a good trail to do for an endurance ride. It's not so long or so steep that it made me really suffer, it was just fun riding with some good climbs and challenging descents spaced at just the right intervals along the way.
  • Miles 70-85: Like all big rides, I had my moments where I felt really strong and other moments where I felt lousy. Miles 70-85 stand out as a period during the ride where I didn't expect to be strong, but I was and just felt good.
  • My fitness: I was nervous coming into this that I didn't have the endurance miles for a ride like this; my longest ride since September of last year had been 45 miles, and that was on the road. My longest mountain bike ride ever was about 35 miles. I did OK, though. Lisa commented after 87 miles that I wasn't as chipper as I was at 30 miles, but about the only thing that was as potent at 87 miles as it was at the beginning of the ride was LJ's gas.
  • The support: Kenny's in-laws drove one vehicle, and LJ's friend Rob drove another, allowing us to refill with water and food and drop unnecessary clothing along the way. And they had smiles on their faces from bell to bell, as if we were doing them a favor by letting them watch us ride our bikes all day.
What didn't go so well:
  • The dust: I'm asthmatic but can usually keep things under control with use of an inhaler. The dust on White Rim is so fine and there is so much of it, though, that from about mile 60 on, I couldn't take a full breath without coughing. I sucked on the inhaler at every stop but never got my breathing back under control.
  • Pillows: the hardest thing for me about camping is not sleeping on the ground--it's sleeping on the ground without a proper pillow. Instead of one camp pillow, I should have brought two regular pillows.
  • Nutrition: I need to find something that I can eat after a few hours on the bike. I was pretty cooked by the end of the ride, but I'm pretty sure I would have done better had I eaten more during the day. I just get to a point where I can't get myself to choke down anything else, no matter what it is.
  • My drivetrain: early in the ride, we were riding on flat, fast roads, so I shifted into my big ring. When I hit a hill, I forgot I was in my big ring and shifted into my big cog. I cross-chained with a too-short chain and had nearly disastrous consequences. Fortunately, I didn't break the chain, and the bike still shifted OK. But it made funky noises whenever under load and made me nervous that it was going to break down for the next ten hours. I think next time I may try it on a single speed.
There's been a lot written about this ride, so I'll end my writeup at this point. Please take a look at the following, though, as others have told some great stories about the trip, including Kenny, Brad, and Adam time-trialing the trail the day before the group ride.

I'm sure there are others that I have missed, so leave a comment if there's an account you'd recommend. Either way you'll get a good feel for the event by reading these.

Finally, a special thank you to Kenny for organizing the whole thing and inviting me along, as well as to Kris for hauling my body, bike, and gear from Orem to Moab and back and for providing great company along the way. Also, thanks to my parents for spending the weekend with my three-year-old son (who I think had more fun than I did and was quite a bit more reluctant to come back home) and to my beautiful wife for letting me have the weekend away.


  1. So beautiful! And grueling at the same time. Maybe someday I could ride a 10-mile stretch of it. Or hike it.

  2. Rachel, you could do it over a few days without any problem. I'd love to drive it with the kids when we're down there next month, but I don't think they'd be up for that.

  3. Nice write-up. Good riding with you (car and bike).

  4. mark, i can't sleep without my pillow either. i brought my normal pillow from home, and it worked great.

    only problem is, now that it's back on my bed, it smells like campfire. which is fine when you're camping. not so good in your bed at home.

  5. I'm sure your wife is thrilled to be next to the nice hickory-smoked pillow. Sounds like you'll need to get a camping-specific model.

    What I'm wondering, though, is if it causes you to wake up craving bacon?

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