I love riding the Maah Daah Hey. In fact, this is my third time in 3 years. Last week I shared my set up. I'm from the camp that if there is an opportunity to ride the Maah Daah Hey, I will take it every single time. This is a special place. It is remote. It is beautiful. It is challenging. It evolves every year. It is big country without sound or light polution. It is an incredible country that is almost untouched and harkens back to a time gone by.
Many folks planning to ride the Maah Daah Hey often ask me what to expect or what gear to bring? There are some easy answers and some not so easy answers. Here are my thoughts on my last 3 trips.
- The riding isn't that technical. It is slow, almost always under 10 mph. The climbs are not that hard, but they are endless and unrelenting. The trail sort of lulls you into thinking it isn't that hard and then at the end of the day, you are physically pretty hammered and crushed. At a comfortable pace, we did 50 miles in 8 hours with stops for pictures & lunch.
- Water - You need to have a great plan for water. There are pumps at some of the campgrounds. You can also pay Dakota Cyclery in Medora, North Dakota for support of various levels. I even hired them one year to drop me off. They rock and you should stop in and suppurt them.
- Map - Buy a map. The trail evolves and at times erodes. I've helped folks that were lost (on horseback) and this year, I couldn't find the trail at one point and had to spend some time orientating myself to find the trail.
- Bike - First, 29ers are ideal for this trail. Suspension is nice too. I've ridden it with a softail, a hardtail with front suspension, and a full rigid bike. Again, I personally don't think that the trail is that technically difficult, but there are a lot of hoof prints and erosion along with countless short climbs. Comfort is king. Bring what you are most comfortable riding for hours on end.
- If it rains, the trail is unridable. On this trip, both my brother and I brought cross bikes to ride pavement and/or gravel in the area if it rained. My recommendation is to have a back up plan because you simply can't ride if it is wet.
With that, here are a few pictures from the trail. Special thanks to my brother that went with me and served as my model. He was riding his Salsa Big Mama.
There were a few road blocks and we had to occassionally share the trail.
Trail markers make it pretty easy to navigate but I still recommend buying and using a map!
My brother winds around, over and through the big country.
Western North Dakota has received quite a bit of rain and the trail was filled with flowers and green prairie grass. I've ridden it each of the last 3 years and every year I've gotten something just a bit different.
In the end, both my brother and I left refreshed and felt fortunate that we got to experience this beauty and remoteness on two wheels and under our own power. There is simply no better way to experience this part of the country. I've said it already, but if you ever get a chance to go ride the Maah Daah Hey, go do it. You won't regret it.
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Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.