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White Rim Trail, unsupported, in a day, on a CX bike.

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbround Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

White Rim Trail, unsupported, in a day, on a CX bike.

Old 04-25-19, 09:26 PM
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rosefarts
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White Rim Trail, unsupported, in a day, on a CX bike.

I get an idea and I usually have to follow through. It's a disorder.

For those that don't know, the white rim trail is a 100 mile jeep trail that circumnavigates much of Utah's Canyonlands Natl Park. 70 miles of it is mostly rough, permit only, 4x4 only Jeep road. The remaining 30 is a mixture of dirt, sand, a 3000ft climb, and 7 miles of paved. It's typically done in 3-4 days on a mountain bike with 4x4 support. It's totally done in one long day too, just less often. I've always wanted to do it as a big solo ride but I'm such a roadie.

Last year I got and rebuilt a great old bike. It's a Voodoo steel cross bike. I'm unsure of the age but it's got clearance for 45's and a 1" fork. I gave it a healthy mix of modern components and a powdercoat and I've got a 22.25lb tubeless 1x gravel grinding machine. Seems capable of just about anything I throw it at, so why not this.

I want to walk you through the week before the ride, just for good measure.

Sunday, the seat I had wasn't fitting well (blister) so I looked close and noticed one it was a factory defect and I needed to scramble to get something before the ride.

Monday, my phone took a dump on me. Wouldn't stay on more than a minute, and it was supposed to be my camera. I scrambled and fixed it.

Tuesday, I took a ride to test the new seat and brought the bike trailer with my toddler. My entire seatbag toolkit fell out the back. Again, scrambling to reassemble what I thought I needed.

Saturday night (supposed to drive Sunday). I was in the totally packed and ready but ended up rewiring my camper trailer that me, my dog, toddler, and parents (babysitters since my wife worked and couldn't make it) were to sleep in for the trip.

It all worked out and I made it. I stayed at Horsethief campground and made an impromptu Easter egg hunt for the little guy. Horsethief is 1/4 mile from the paved start of the loop. It's first come first served and I found a spot. I got my free permit and got ready for the day.

So the plan was to ride clockwise, from Horsethief. I was told that this put the sandy sections on downhill and was supposed to be easier. My plan was to start at 5:00 and just shiver through with a windbreaker until it warmed up.

Lets start this journey.

4:40 my alarm went off. It was cold. Like way colder than I wanted to ride in. I grabbed my sleeping baby and stumbled over to my mom without waking him. After coffee and bathroom and a little procrastination, I finally got my butt out of camp at 5:30. The road to Canyonlands is nice. I was at the entrance at first light and was glad I didn't leave a minute sooner, otherwise, I would have had to ride down this monster in the dark.



A disturbing amount of elevation to drop early in the day.

My first thought was that the road was rough. Nothing I couldn't ride but it was rough. Once down, the miles started ticking away. The technical sections weren't too bad. What really kicked my butt early on was the slickrock sections. It wasn't smooth. It was like riding the wrong way on a tile roof. With no suspension an 40mm tires, I just couldn't race through it. It was OK and I kept a good average speed other than pics.



Monster Tower and Washer Woman. I've actually climbed these on previous trips.


I was surprised to find myself so close to the Needles.



Rare smooth road




Leaving Canyonland, about mile 80.


Can you see the road up, not obvious.



So I made it. 12:15 out and 10:15 on the bike. With a max low of 40x36 on 700's, I had to walk the three significant climbs of the day. Murphy's Hogback (not entirely sure I could ride this on anything, with any gearing), hardscrabble (totally could have done it), and the final monster switchbacks up to 313. If I had it to do over, I'd have put the 11-42 cassette on the bike and switched my Campy crank for the SLX with a 32 that's sitting in my garage. Still, for 90% of the ride, my bike was more than adequate, naysayers be damned.

This was an amazing ride. Hard, isolated, self supported, and something I have always wanted to do. As a rock climber, I've spent hundreds of days in the desert. Almost never on a bike. This was a fantastic way to re-explore some of my favorite terrain on the planet.

I'd do it again. Maybe a hardtail plus bike would be faster. Maybe not. I would say that this is the absolute limit of "gravel" for me. I can't imagine taking this bike another standard deviation from it's intent.
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Old 04-25-19, 09:51 PM
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looks like a fantastic place to ride (I'm in New England).

Nice photos too.
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Old 04-25-19, 10:54 PM
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Awesome, I remember your other posts about this. Looks like a great time.
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Old 04-25-19, 11:15 PM
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I was there a few weeks ago, and wanting to do this. Congratulations. Excellent photos and write-up. Water is my biggest concern (apart from just croaking in general).
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Old 04-26-19, 01:30 AM
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
Water is my biggest concern (apart from just croaking in general).
That was my question. How did you do 100 miles on two bottles?
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Old 04-26-19, 01:34 AM
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Incredible intense outing, big mileage and great pictures. That first drop in ...

I did a solo overnight in the Needles district (on foot) many moons ago. Looking back on it, I see I should have carried another gallon of water, but it worked out. The silence was striking.
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Old 04-26-19, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
I was there a few weeks ago, and wanting to do this. Congratulations. Excellent photos and write-up. Water is my biggest concern (apart from just croaking in general).
100oz on my back. Also left early enough that it was cold. It was nearly 3 hours in before i started drinking. I finished empty.
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Old 04-26-19, 06:54 AM
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That looks awesome and I want to do it just for that winding road in the first pic!

Also....100oz of water in the desert for a full day is still some badassery.
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Old 04-26-19, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Skipjacks View Post
That looks awesome and I want to do it just for that winding road in the first pic!

Also....100oz of water in the desert for a full day is still some badassery.
Those switchbacks are the beginning of Shafer Road, from which the White Rim road splits off after the steepest part. (I think it goes down 1400 ft). Shafer Road itself then continues down through some very scenic canyon country along the Colorado River, and then through an ugly potash plant and then turns into a paved road (279) back into Moab.



Although the Shafer Road ride isn't as difficult as the White Rim road (it is primarily downhill, and about 45 miles), it is hard enough (at least for me). It was the first significant ride I did after breaking my ankle, and it definitely was a stress-test.

I found out the hard way that in August you need more water.

Last edited by wgscott; 04-26-19 at 10:26 AM. Reason: Clarification, spelling
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Old 04-26-19, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
That is Shaefer Road, and it continues down through some very scenic canyon and through an ugly potash plant and then into Moab. It isn't the White Rim, but it is hard enough. It was the first significant ride I did after breaking my ankle, and it definitely was a stress-test. In August you need more water.
At about 14 miles, left turn goes to potash, right to white rim.
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Old 04-26-19, 08:08 AM
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Nice ride! I've hiked and backpacked all over that area...It's some of the most scenic territory I've seen.
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Old 04-26-19, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
At about 14 miles, left turn goes to potash, right to white rim.
Thanks. That is what I was trying to say. Still half asleep. I've edited it now so hopefully it is less ambiguous. Sorry. I had a few quite poorly constructed sentences in there.

(BTW, I think the split-off is at mile 5, but the terrain makes it seem 3X longer, even though it is downhill.)

Last edited by wgscott; 04-26-19 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 04-26-19, 09:53 AM
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I've been waiting for this trip report. Congratulations!

Did you run into any 4x4 drivers out there?


Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
Still, for 90% of the ride, my bike was more than adequate, naysayers be damned.
Amen.

Some of the outfitters in Moab told me there was no way this could ever be done on anything but a suspended bike.

When asking about routes I've been told, "We did it on 40's but you are going to need wider tires" or they tell me it can be done on such and such a bike, just not comfortably. If I want comfort I'd hire guides to drive out and cook me dinner.


-Tim-
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Old 04-26-19, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
Some of the outfitters in Moab told me there was no way this could ever be done on anything but a suspended bike.
I had a similar conversation there a few weeks ago. But based on my (limited) experience, I found fatter tires helped more than full-suspension under these kinds of conditions.
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Old 04-26-19, 03:29 PM
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Epic. Glad you did not run out of water!

So, would you rate this a 5.8, 5.10, 5.12, something else? ;-)
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Old 04-26-19, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
Epic. Glad you did not run out of water!

So, would you rate this a 5.8, 5.10, 5.12, something else? ;-)
Mostly cruiser 10 with a few stout 11 sections with an endurance 12 at the end.

Harder than The Diamond in a day but no weather concerns.

Last edited by rosefarts; 04-26-19 at 03:58 PM.
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Old 04-26-19, 04:00 PM
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Some people reacted like i was planning to do it on a 75x11 fixie with 8Ē bars and a disc wheel.

Has anyone ever done it on a unicycle?
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Old 04-26-19, 05:02 PM
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Fantastic first picture. What beautiful country.
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Old 04-27-19, 08:57 AM
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Congratulations! That sounds like a great ride.

One of the YouTube channels I follow just did it, too. Amazing scenery.

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Old 04-27-19, 09:30 AM
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Nice Socks! Great accomplishment reminds me some of Big Bend NP.
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Old 04-27-19, 01:12 PM
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20+ years ago, I did the White Rim Trail with a hardtail mountain bike in 3 or 4 days with support. Wow. Awesome to do it in in one day! And Hogback - I was the only one in a large group to make it up. I was in the granny gear, hands on the bar-ends and chest on the stem to keep the front wheel from lifting. So yeah, it's hella steep.

Great photos and story too!
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Old 04-28-19, 04:20 AM
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That's an epic ride. Would like to do it with support on mtb someday. Those moab backroads are prime territory for a hardtail mtb.
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Old 04-30-19, 02:49 PM
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Hey! We (a group of 6 on gravel bikes) are going to be there on Friday of this week. The plan is to ride from the potash plant to the switchbacks on Shafer, and then turn around and go back. I hadn't quite realized how much elevation gain there is on the switchbacks up to the top - I was thinking that would be an option to extend up the switchbacks and ride to the Island in the Sky visitor center if we needed extra water, but it looks like that would be significant climbing.

I'm assuming that section from the end of the pavement on Potash Rd, to the bottom of the switchbacks, is fairly easy - it looks mostly like jeep road. How much sand is there?
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Old 04-30-19, 03:51 PM
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So envious, I gotta do this some day. (maybe with e-assist, seriously)

Last edited by Barrettscv; 04-30-19 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 04-30-19, 08:57 PM
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Gladius, I havenít ridden those sections. The part from the white rim is not sandy at all in that area.

Tue climb is a monster but i failed on the other side for 2 reasons.
1. I started the climb at 85 miles on a very very big day.
2. I left my lowest gear as 40x36 instead of 40x42 or even 32x36 or 42 for the ride. I had options I didnít take prior and it got me.

Eliminate either and iíve had made it. Fresh legs with my gearing, no sweat. Dead legs with super low, again iíd have done it.

Consider that itíll be 3 weeks hotter when you get there and it was plenty warm for me.
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