White Rim Loop in a Day : Gear Testing for the Tour Divide 2018

2/4/18

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Sun is waking up – let’s ride! – Parked at the lot on Mineral Bottom Rd

The White Rim Loop in Moab, UT at least on paper, seemed like the perfect ride to test out some new TD bits on the Cutthroat, and my body.  I hit up my buddy Adrian, and the trip came together quickly.

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Shedding layers with the low sun rising and warming the soul.

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Riding down Shafer in the shade.  Simply magical.

After some interweb recon, we decided it would be totally feasible to do in a day (although most people camp for a night or two along the route).  The loop is about 96 miles with 6,500′ climbing according to my gps and Adrian’s (a little more than bikepacking.com led me to believe – great planning resource, btw).  I read a blog from the Petervary’s and Grizzly Adams that confirmed the choice to do it in a day.  I spoke to a Ranger from Canyonlands NP about the plans – he tried to discourage it at this time of year – park is closed until March, it’s cold, nobody around if crap goes sideways, ice/snow/mud in parts, etc.  Adrian and I kept an eye on the weather, which has been abnormally warm.  We saw a nice window, and decided to give it a go.  Got our day use passes and paid for park entry online to be legit.  And we were off!

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Waiting for Adrian to drop a deucer!

Logistics and Geeky Stuff:  We camped on BLM land the night before, and then drove to the start/finish around sunrise.  There are no resupplies along the route.  I tried out my new 4L Dromlite water bladder, and carried about 6L water total – roughly the max I’ll  ever carry on the TD.  The bike was fully loaded except for a sleep kit (that’s the next bit I’ll be dialing in – stay tuned).  For a little peace of mind, we each had emergency bivy’s and I carried a Spot Tracker.  I wore the merino wool baselayer I hope to use on the TD and was trying out some glove options and new shoes.  Most importantly, I rode with no chamois/no cream – to see how my backside would handle approximately 12 hours in the saddle completely bare-assed.

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Views for days!!  Adrian!!

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Lunch break #1

New gear and stuff to try for TD Prep: This was my first ride since adding a Fred Bar and tweaking aerobar positioning.  I also just got a Garmin eTrex 30x GPS, Sinewave Revolution USB Charger, and Exposure Revo Dynamo light.  Couldn’t wait to try powering my GPS and charging my iPhone simulaneously, and using the kLite steerer mounted switch to swap between charging and powering my light.  Geek mode explode.

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Fred Bar.

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Geeky electronics stuff – dynamo light, usb charger, and switch with some custom wiring

It seems most people start/finish at Islands of the Sky Visitors Center.  We decided to follow Jay P and Grizzly Adams recommendation for doing it in a day, based on their experience – and that is to start at the dirt parking lot by Mineral Bottom Rd and Mineral Springs Rd.  This turned out to be perfect.  We started around 7:15am, a little after sunrise.  You get the most boring 15ish miles of the route done first (a subtle dirt road climb up Mineral Bottom Rd to warmup, and then a fast pavement flat/descent to the park entrance).  This also set us up to ride the last portion of the loop along the river with beautiful light at the end of the day, and you finish with a grunt of a climb up from the river back to your car at last light.  Perfect way to cap off the ride, and the way I’d recommend it to anybody going for it in a day.

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Yes, that’s me.

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Lunch break #2 – we found some bikes, but never the owners… Spooooky…

Here’s some notes / thoughts about the day:

  • All in all, it took us about 10.5 hours total with just over 9 hours of ride time.  Even with the short winter days, we made it back in plenty of time before dark.  A little bummed I never got a chance to test out my new dynamo light – oh well 🙂
  • Adrian was on a plus bike and we each had areas where our bikes were better suited.  A plus bike with squishy fork is definitely a good choice for this one, but my Cutty held up fine.  I was having an easier time in some sections, but the slickrock pounding and sandy bits were better for the plus.  The mix of dirt, slickrock, punchy climbs and fast descents keep you on your toes the whole time.
  • No mechanicals for either of us – yahoo!
  • Perfect amount of water.  We each had a couple liters left (better safe than sorry).  Temps were cool (50’s mostly) so we didn’t sweat a ton either.
  • Packed the perfect amount of food too (3 bananas, an apple, 3 picky bars, salami, cheese, cashews, macademia nuts, sour patch kids, pb&honey sandwich)
  • Other than a few short sandy spots, some mud/ice on Schaffer and around the river, conditions were super awesome.
  • We saw no living souls in the park.  We found 3 Surly bikes (2 krampuses and a karate monkey) parked by White Crack, but never saw the owners.  Figured they had a support vehicle and were off driving somewhere.
  • The views were rediculous.  90+ miles on insane 360 degree beauty, with the La Sals looming for much of it.  My favorite was coming along the river towards the end.  So beautiful.  And that ass-kicker of a climb up from the valley floor to finish was the icing on the cake!
  • The “White Rim” reminded me of salt on margarita glasses and had me jonsin for Fiestas! (we ate there the night before)
  • Lots of out houses all along the route – Adrian made good use of one 🙂
  • Burger at the Brewery after to celebrate with a Root Beer float.  Camped again, and jammed home!!  Highly recommended ride!!  Do it in a day or get an overnight permit and camp – either way, super dooper memorable!!

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    Are you frickin kidding me???!!  The views along the river were insane!!!

Gear Notes:

  • Absolutely love the Fred Bar.  Gets my aerobars to a super comfy position.  Gives more cockpit mounting room for gps, light, etc and opens up access to the top of my handlebars for more hand positions, mounting feed bags, etc.  I found myself riding in the “Mary Poppins” position too – back straight up and down, with hands in the elbow pads of my aerobars for a nice resting position while still pedaling… will definitely come in handy on the TD!!
  • Learned some stuff with electronics.  If you power the Garmin eTrex directly through Dynamo power, it will constantly (and annoyingly so) warn you that you’ve “lost external power” and ask if you’d like to keep it turned on with batteries (and gives you 30 seconds to decide before it shuts down.  So when you’re pedaling around 5mph on climbs, etc it’s constantly wanting to shut down and start back up as the dynamo makes enough power / goes to battery power.  Two fixes – first, turn off the annoying beep alarm.  Second, which was on my list anyway – get a USB cache battery.  Charge the battery via dynamo, and then use the battery to power the Garmin so it’s getting “clean” power.  Good to have a cache battery anyway so you can charge stuff when not moving, etc.
  • Also realized it was super easy to bump my charging switch the way I had my wires routed.  On technical terrain, the wires would hit the switch and I wouldn’t notice my light was on, but nothing was charging.  Easy fix.
  • The MSR Dromlite is a great bladder.  Realized I need to order the drinking hose for it.  Initially I thought I’d just use it as storage and refill my bottles as necessary – but that’s too much of a pain… I need to be able to drink straight from it so I don’t have to stop and refill bottles as often.  I also decided to order the 2L version, and mess around with some Platypus soft bottles for more modular water packing options, best use of my frame bag space, etc.
  • My arse – no chamois.  no cream.  no saddle sores at all.  Score one for the gipper.
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    Finished the last grueling climb out from the river / back to the car right at Magic Hour.  Couldn’t have dreamt up a better way to finish this adventure!!

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.

 

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