Best Ride Ever / Worst Ride Ever

03.26.2007 | 6:00 am

A Note from Fatty: Saturday, I went on a nice long road ride with Kenny — you know, the fast guy. By itself, this is not strange. What is strange is that Kenny was riding with me instead of doing a race he had planned on.

That, my friends, is unprecedented.

Kenny told me the story of how he pre-rode the course. It’s an epic story, and not to be missed. So I bullied and begged him to write it up for my blog.

Enjoy, and be glad you weren’t there with him. I know I’m glad I wasn’t there.

Pre-Riding the Rim Ride Race
My best ride ever was my worst ride ever.

I love endurance mountain racing and I love Moab, so when I heard there was a new race starting in Moab this spring, I was very excited to go down and give it a shot. The race is called the Rim Ride. It’s unsupported, it’s free and it’s ride at your own risk. To me, this sounds really cool.

Most of the course I had done already. It seemed like the organizer had put every sick ride in Moab into one giant loop. A general description would be; start at Lions park, head north up the old highway bike path, hook up with bar M trail, then the Sovereign trail, cross over highway 191 to the Monitor Marimac and 7 mile trail, continue up the dead horse point road to the upper Gemini bridges trail, down to hidden canyon metal masher trail, back to Gemini bridges road loop around to the back side of the gold bar rim trail, then follow the golden spike trail to the portal, descend on the poison spider trail to the potash road and back to Lions park. It’s about 90 miles. I figured that I could complete it in about 8 or 9 hours.

Big Mistake.

I thought that I could do the ride with a camel back and two water bottles.

Another Big Mistake.

I’ve been riding a 34-18 on the single and I couldn’t recall a lot of climbing on this course. That gear should be fine.

Strike Three Big Mistake.

I asked a few buddies to come preride this course with me. When no one could, I was actually somewhat excited to tackle this adventure by myself. I took the back seats out of my FJ, threw in my blow-up mattress, a few camping supplies and headed out for Moab late Friday night for Kenny’s Big Adventure.

Earlier in the week I had a cracked tooth prepped for a crown and it was causing me some pain. I didn’t sleep all that well, so when my alarm went off at 6:00 to start the ride, I decided to give myself a little more sleep. After all, the ride should only take me 8 or 9 hours. I got up around 8, made myself some French pressed coffee and some instant oatmeal. I was on the bike by about 8:30 with my map, trail description, ipod, a sandwich in my camel back and a whole bunch of gels.

First Blood
I felt really good for the majority of this ride. At the beginning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the trail was marked pretty well with blue tape at all the major intersections. I could occasionally feel my tooth throbbing with the beat of my heart, but it wasn’t painful. It was nice to have my mind off it. I wedged my front wheel into a technical drop and found myself flying over the handlebars and down the side hill into some nasty rocks.

I picked myself up pretty fast and gave myself a once over. I had a big gash on my knee, but it was only superficial. My hands were scratched up and a little bruised. I put some gloves on, thinking that I should have been wearing gloves in the first place. I made sure that my bike was fine and that I still had both water bottles and my bike computer intact. I remember thinking, “I can still take a pretty good fall for an old dude with osteoporosis.”

I started making pretty good progress. I passed some groups of riders that were stopped at some big climbs taking turns doing moves. Hey, I can do moves, but not today. Today is not for playing on moves. I waved politely and kept riding.

I had done the sovereign trail years ago, but I must not have done all of it. It was much bigger than I remember. By the time I crossed the 191 highway to the Monitor Marimac road, three hours had passed. Mmm, that was only 21 miles in three hours. Wow, I was only averaging about 7 miles an hour. This ride might take me a little longer than I thought. I’ll just pick it up a bit.

The road was good and I made up some time, but once I hit the 7 mile trail, it was really climby, technical and sandy. Rolling past the two giant rock formations named after the famous battleships was surreal. That’s about when my ipod quit, four hours is about all I can expect.

I descended down a large slick rock section called wipe out hill and found I was hiking more than riding the next 3 miles to the Canyonlands highway. By the time I got to the Gemini Bridges road, I was still feeling pretty good. I was having a lot of fun. I had done half the ride in about 5 ½ hours, but I’d used up about all of my water.

I stopped at the first camp site that I saw to bum some water. Not expecting any company the skinny old man from Washington in nothing but his red tighty briefs, seemed startled to see me. He was happy to give me water and commented that they don’t have any sand where he comes from. I only filled my camel back thanked him and took off. I was starting to think that I was going to cut it close to dark if I didn’t hurry.

Ominous Foreshadowing
The next couple of hours were splendid. The temperature was perfect. The trail was perfect. My bike was perfect. The views were more than perfect. As I was getting close to the Gold bar rim trail, I began to calculate the day light with miles left to ride. The sun was getting pretty low. My shadow seemed to be growing longer by the minute.

I was excited to be riding Gold bar. It was the most familiar trail I’d been on all day. I stopped and filled a water bottle from a guy who was setting up camp, by the big 4 ft drop. He asked if I had a pump. He needed some air in his tire. “You can’t do without water.” He said.

“Or air,” I said, as I started the first big climb of the evening.

I had done this trail at least ten times, but I never remember struggling up that first pitch. I had to get off the bike and hike a good part of it. That’s when it dawned on me. Man, I’m cooked. This would have been the perfect opportunity to bail on the ride.

I kept going. I was determined to finish the ride.

The Wall
I ate a gel, drank some water and got back on the bike. Hitting the wall is a great way to explain how I felt. One minute I was great. The next I had nothing left in the tank.

I was OK as long as the trail stayed level. As soon as it started to climb I would feel nauseated. I knew that I had to keep rolling or I would never get out before dark. By the time I reached the rim the sun was setting. It was so beautiful, but also nerve racking at the same time.

At this point I knew that I didn’t have enough time to drop down the Poison Spider Mesa trail. I had a new plan. The Portal Trail was a 3 mile descent down from the mesa to the Potash road.

The problem with this plan was people die on the portal trail. The trail is very exposed and dangerous. I had been down it many times, so at the very least I was familiar with the parts of the trail where people have died.

The problem I was having was I could hardly see the painted dots on the slick rock to follow the single track. If I lost those dots, I was for sure going to be stuck on top of the mesa overnight.

My predicament was becoming worse by the minute. At one point I lost the dots entirely. I put my bike down and ran in a circle with my head low to the ground. It took me a couple of precious minutes to find the trail and be back on my way. Finally things were beginning to look familiar. I had made it to the top of the portal trail.

I could look down off the mesa and see the lights of Moab. I could pinpoint almost exactly where my car was parked. It seemed so close. In daylight I could be there in about a half an hour.

In the state I was in, I was unsure that I would even make it to the car before morning.

At the top of the portal trail I took out my phone and checked if I had a signal and took note of the time. I had a signal and it was 8:30. I had now been on the bike for 12 hours straight. I considered calling my wife and letting her know of my situation, but I didn’t want to worry her. I figured that I had a signal and it was comforting to know that if things became worse that I would be able to contact someone.

The first part of the portal trail is a gradual descent with 500 ft cliffs off the left side. I could see surprisingly well at the beginning. I suppose that it was from the reflecting lights from the city of Moab. I rode up until I got to the signs that indicate how many people have died on this trail. I could only make out the square shapes of the signs as I clumsily hiked past, but I knew what the signs say: “Dismount your bike! 4 people have died on this section of trail.”

I would hike the rest of the way.

As I got further down the trail it became darker. I could no longer see anything more than a couple of feet in front of me. Every so often, I had to open my phone and use the LED screen to try and find the trail again.

I fell about 6 times, either tripping or slipping on the sand stone with my bike shoe cleats. One time, I stepped forward, the rock gave away and I tumbled face first down a four foot drop with my bike falling on top of me. I wasn’t hurt, but I just laid there for a couple minutes, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

I wanted to call someone and tell them to come get me, but I kept thinking of people watching the 5 o’clock news and hearing about the ill prepared idiot mountain biker who rode all day by himself, and had to be hauled out by the search and rescue.

I was not going to be that guy.

Well, actually I was that guy, but I got myself into this situation and I was going to do everything I could to get myself out.

My plan was working. I was making progress down the trail. I could see the lights of cars down on the potash road and they were getting closer. I figure it took me about an hour and a half to hike the three mile portal trail in the dark.

I had made it to the road, but I was still about 5 miles from my car. I was totally exhausted, completely dehydrated and starting to get the shakes. My plan was to thumb a ride, but there were no cars.

I spent 5 minutes getting on my arm warmers and another jersey and started pedaling. I just tried to keep my wheel on the white line. Those last miles, though very hard, seemed to roll by fairly fast. As I was crossing the Colorado River and approaching the Lions Park, where my car was, my phone rang. I knew it was my wife, but all I wanted to do was get to the car.

Finally, I was there. I drank as much as I could without feeling sick, crawled onto my air bed, called my wife and tried to explain myself. I laid there, shaking, for about an hour: half asleep, half awake.

Then I drove to a nearby spring, took a bath, drove back to the park and slept like a baby until 10 the next morning.


  1. Comment by GenghisKhan | 03.26.2007 | 6:19 am

    Great epic and glad you survived to tell the tale! Are you laughing and reveling in the event yet, or still dealing with PTSD? Good luck. As to sleeping like a baby, really? I’ve got one-month old twins and they sleep for 2-3 hours, wake up crying and take two-ish hours to feed and clean–is that how it was at the end of your ride/hike/stumble/fall through the dark deserts of Moab?! ;o)

  2. Comment by Boz | 03.26.2007 | 7:01 am

    I’ve limped home after hitting the wall as a young pup not knowing better, and I was on the road, not some wasteland after dark. Gives me the shivers, what you went thru. Hope a lesson was learned. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, so they say. I turned around and went back to my car Sunday , cutting a 50 mile group ride into only 20 for me. I hate cold, driving rain. The thunder and lightning didn’t help, either.

  3. Comment by Anonymous | 03.26.2007 | 7:40 am

    sweet story. so why did you decide not to race it? because you had already covered the course and weren’t interested in doing so again? or because you were worried about having the same result?

  4. Comment by Al Maviva | 03.26.2007 | 7:42 am

    Classic Fried Brain Reasoning:

    >>>>I had a signal and it was 8:30. I had now been on the bike for 12 hours straight. I considered calling my wife and letting her know of my situation, but I didn’t want to worry her.

    Any sane person would have called, said “look, it’s getting dark, I’m going to have to hike back the last few miles, going to be a late one, nothing to worry about, I’m at Widowmaker Trail just above the blah blah road. Just wanted to call because it’s late, no big deal.” Fried Brain Biker Reasoning is “I’d rather die of exposure out here and have a search party look, then give up on me, than deal with my mildly irritated wife, who is irritated only because I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t call home in situations like this.”

    I’m not throwing stones Kenny, just pointing out the mechanics of the situation. I have a similar trick is getting lost when I bonk or near-bonk. Doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I get totally disoriented and don’t recover at all until I’ve eaten a bunch. I have ridden ten extra miles because I rode right past my house, in a state of total bonk-itude… it didn’t occur to me to stop. It usually doesn’t occur to me that I have a cellphone in my back pocket either.

  5. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 03.26.2007 | 7:43 am

    Kenny didn’t mention that he was incubating a bacterial infection from the dental work and that a couple days after his ride, he had to go get a root canal and antibiotics.

  6. Comment by dug | 03.26.2007 | 7:53 am

    nobody would come pre-ride with you? what? i’m shocked. appalled. i mean, it’s only 100 miles of the most demanding and technical stuff in moab, right?

  7. Comment by barry1021 | 03.26.2007 | 8:12 am

    I once took a wrong turn heading home on a 30 mile road ride. The sun was going down when I finally pulled into the driveway. Talk about epic. I can sure relate to Kenny……


  8. Comment by Rick S. | 03.26.2007 | 8:30 am

    I can’t imagine riding or hiking that portal trail in the dark. Nice one Kenny. Glad you made it back.

  9. Comment by MTB W | 03.26.2007 | 8:47 am

    Holy cow! I can’t believe you went through 90+ miles of very technical riding for over 13 hours with just a sandwich, gus, and some water, plus being unsupported! Even though it took longer than you thought, you are the MAN. I can’t even imagine going through all of that, particularly with dental pain and a few falls thrown in for good measure, as well as walking the portal at night. Good to hear you are allright.

  10. Comment by Boz | 03.26.2007 | 8:50 am

    To expand on Al’s response, the brain operates on glucose, and when you bonk, it’s because your blood glucose level is low. It happens to me if I nick a vein when shooting up my morning Avandia. Your brain just kinda shuts off. I SUCKS big time. And it takes a while for the carbs you ingest to get where they need to go. Be carefull, carry glucose tablets for when this happens. They come in a tube and don’t take up much space.

  11. Comment by kenny | 03.26.2007 | 9:08 am

    Thanks all, It’s good to be alive. I was bummed not to be able to do the race this year. It looks like they had as many dnf’s as finishers. Even with normal glucose levels I don’t always make good choices. Nice job Sly Fox and Dave Harris for showing me how it’s done.

  12. Comment by bikemike | 03.26.2007 | 9:36 am


  13. Comment by jill | 03.26.2007 | 9:54 am

    That’s my favorite writeup of all of the Rim ride write-ups I’ve found. It’s entertaining and harrowing, and I can really see myself in a similar situation. That is one crazy race, and I really admire what Sly and Dave did out there, as well as everyone else that finished.

    If you guys want to read other great write-ups, you can find them here.

  14. Comment by sans auto | 03.26.2007 | 10:43 am

    I can do my 12 mile commute in my sleep, but 5 miles after hitting the wall is almost enough to push a guy to suicide.
    I was riding through Northeast Oregon last summer and we had this trip all planned and there was this city at mile 135 for the day where we were going to spend the night. I was absolutely spent about 5 miles before getting to this town. The one motel in town (3 mobile homes stuck together to make about 12 rooms) was booked. Some guy told us that there was a camping spot 7 miles up the road, but he wasn’t sure.

    We loaded up on food and headed toward the campsite that may or may not exist. I spent every minute of those 9 miles (he was wrong!!) looking for a field where I could pitch my tent without being chased out by a farmer with a shotgun. That was the hardest bike ride of my life, and it was entirely flat with no wind. We finally got to the campsite and they had a cabin to stay in and a hot tub. It was the most grateful I’ve ever been to find a flea infested cabin where I could be bitten by bugs all night.

  15. Comment by KatieA | 03.26.2007 | 12:20 pm

    See, this is why I don’t do mountain riding that much – I prefer to live.

    You honestly thought you could do that ride with a sandwich, some gels, and a little water? Even if you’d done it in the projected 8-9 hours, I’d still say it wasn’t enough!

    Mad man.

  16. Comment by Tg | 03.26.2007 | 12:32 pm

    I thought mountain biking was supposed to be fun. I have yet to read a write up where someone didn’t almost die or get mauled by a wild animal.

  17. Comment by Al Maviva | 03.26.2007 | 12:39 pm

    Barry, knowing you, my impression of “I took a wrong turn” and “an epic ride” and “not getting home until dark,” is that you meant to say, “I saw a house of ill repute and stopped, who wouldn’t?”, “then I took two hits of acid and walked in, with the expected results” and, “when I got home 36 hours later, all my stuff was on the lawn and on fire… either that, or I was still hallucinating.”

    That is what you meant, right?

  18. Comment by Bob | 03.26.2007 | 12:45 pm

    Kenny, we faced the identical decision a few years ago (before Dug’s teenage daughter was born), and we decided to ride down Spider Mesa in the dark instead of the hiking down the Portal Trail. You made the right call. There were four of us trying to find the little white markers in the dark, and we still got lost several times. If you can avoid falling off the cliff, the Portal Trail is the way out.

    Excellent write-up.

  19. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.26.2007 | 1:38 pm

    Gret story! One thing about achieving perfect bonkitude (that is a great term, bonkitude – Thanks, AL M ), which has only happened to me about three times.

    Once I was at the top of a hill dangerously close to the side of the road, laying spread-eagled, staring into the sky, seeing only dark spots. My riding buddy was declaring some hogwash about me being bonked, and it was not going to get better, and it was getting dark, and I had to follow him into town (another 15 miles). He could not convince me to move until he told me that we were at the top of the pass (Coast Range, Oregon) – a bald-faced lie – and I just had to get back on and stay on his wheel in to Newport. That took about 1-1/2 hours.

    But, I’ll tell you what – Mo’s clam chowder, and about sixteen baskets of saltines sure taste good to a bonked guy.

    And we still had an 8-mile ride in the dark along Highway 101 to the campground. But I was good for 15 mph by then!

    Glad you survived, Kenny – This sounds much scarier.


  20. Comment by Mrs. Coach | 03.26.2007 | 1:49 pm

    I can’t believe many cyclists were ever boy scouts. Otherwise they’d know the motto “be prepared”. I can’t count how many times Bob has called me to come pick him up from a training ride because he only took a banana and a bottle with him. How many years of riding does it take to learn?
    Great write up Kenny.

  21. Comment by MTB W | 03.26.2007 | 1:52 pm

    Oh yeah, I was so taken into the story that I almost forgot to compliment Kenny. That was very well written and entertaining! So, not only good job on surviving that epic ride/disaster, but also on the writing!

  22. Pingback by » Moab Rim Ride Race | 03.26.2007 | 3:54 pm

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  23. Comment by Born4Lycra | 03.26.2007 | 7:15 pm

    So how did the trip to the Dentist afterwards go? That also sounds pretty demanding.

  24. Comment by barry1021 | 03.27.2007 | 7:12 am

    Al M.

    Dude, you triggered a flashback!!! Look at the pretty colors…..woah!! I can see the bones in my hand, thisissocool, ihventhashsmuchfunhghritjgjv74nfjf8iurjfjfjf9rjfjffjfjfjfjdndjdkslfjfjfjfjf00ssnf.

  25. Comment by dpcowboy | 03.27.2007 | 10:48 am

    Thanks. Great writing on your escapade. My Gal Sal won’t allow me to do ‘envelope pushing’ of any type, anymore, and makes me call for her personal search and rescue…I have actually used her help three times in the last two years!
    But, I can live on the edge through stories like yours… Attaboy!

  26. Comment by axel | 03.27.2007 | 11:38 am

    I always thought us middle aged people are into endurance sports because it is adventure without the risk, facing a challenge with misery being likely, but death unlikely (say as opposed to the mountaineer or skydiver). Gotta take care of wife and kids… but still feel that you are not old…

    i guess it doesn’t always work that way…

  27. Comment by VA Biker | 03.27.2007 | 1:09 pm

    I hope no life insurance underwriters read this blog. I mean, from lacerations to boils to near-death experiences, we could be in trouble.

    I’ve wondered if insurance companies will ever put cycling on the “The List” of life insurance payment exclusions, e.g. – bungee jumping, parachuting, hang gliding, mountain climbing, surfing, scuba diving, etc.

    My goodness, that will be a sad day for all of us who have term life insurance that is scheduled to end when the kids are in their early 20’s.

    Hmmm, risking my life cycling on the highways of the world, or not riding and being able to take care of the family in perpetuity after I get say what, lamely electrocuted in home maintenance electrical mishap? Let me think about this awhile…

  28. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 03.28.2007 | 4:44 am

    That story right there is not helping to sell me on the whole concept of MTBing.

    I much prefer the velodrome where help is never more than 500 feet away.

  29. Comment by Lissee | 03.28.2007 | 8:53 am

    Glad you survived the trip!!!

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