Making the Most of a Day on a Bike

It seems like we’re always being told to make the most of every day, that we should be utilizing every waking moment for something fulfilling, productive, and enlightening. Of course, the issue is that we’re all human. Even those of us who work hard to live mindfully throughout each day will occasionally get sucked into YouTube and endless Taylor Swift videos for hours on end. Wait, did I just admit to being a T-Swift fan?

Nature's own distraction ...

With all the distractions of the world vying for our time, I’ve found that there’s one surefire way to make the most of an entire day–a pre-dawn to post-dark bike ride.

The White Rim, a 100-mile dirt road lap around Canyonlands National Park in Utah, is the perfect all-day ride and will qualify as pre-dawn to post-dusk if undertaken at the tail end of October, when the days are short and the temperatures are cool. With no water on the route and hard-to-get permits needed to park at the many backcountry campsites, the single-day traverse is the easiest way to see the vast country, at least logistically.

Mineral Bottom at dawn ...

Camped out along Mineral Bottom Road, just outside of the Canyonlands National Park boundary, Scott and I were treated to a cold morning of breakfast preparation and were rolling just after the sun broke the horizon, something not hard to do when the sun doesn’t come up until after 7.

Rolling down the road and the switchbacks to Potato Bottom, we made calculations–10 mph average with no stops is 10 hours, which would get us back by 5, before dark. 9 mph would get us home by 6, dark. Pee-breaks, gaping, and the scenery and food breaks would most likely be an hour. Good thing we brought lights!

photo courtesy of Scott Morris ...

We encountered our first mud just past Potato Bottom, where the route closely parallels the Green River. Several days of rain had filled in the mud bogs, which lead to walking through the grasses on the side, doing everything possible to keep tires from hitting the peanut butter. Our moving average speed was not climbing.

Navigating the peanut butter--photo courtesy of Scott Morris ...

Soon the road climbed away from the river, and we started seeing our first groups of supported riders. A heavy-duty 4x4 vehicle can be used to turn the ride into a three- to six-day ride, providing water and food support. We saw groups ranging from families with kids not even 10 years old to a group wearing Halloween costumes, including a banana and Captain America.

The White Rim is an immensely popular route for many in the spring, often used as a single-day big ride fitness test, but in the late fall, it was relatively deserted. The groups were few and far between, and we got to enjoy the views in silence.

photo courtesy of Scott Morris ...

The route follows a white geologic layer of rock. Below, canyons of red fall away down to the Green and Colorado rivers. The Maze and Canyonlands surround the route in all directions; 1,200 feet above sits the Island in the Sky plateau, housing the National Park Visitor Center and the single paved road leading to and from the area. A handful of trails closed to bikes connect the top of the mesa to the river, but once you drop into the White Rim, you’re pretty much committed to the full 100 miles.

A rainbow of rock ...

Mid-morning turned to mid-day as we rolled over the Murphy’s Hogback, the only significant climb in the middle portion of the road. It was also the only section that required a non-mud-related hike-a-bike.

The "big" view ...

While the entire route can be done in a vehicle, it’s not just a graded dirt road. A combination of rocks, sand, ledges, and mud puddles makes for consistently engaging riding. And the views! There are those, too.

photo courtesy of Scott Morris ...

As mid-day turned to afternoon and the miles ticked by, we saw supported groups starting to settle into their campsites for the evening. They’d be treated to a beautifully dark night with endless stars in what feels like one of the most remote roads in the west.

One of the most remote roads in the West ...

We pedaled on, finally losing the sun behind the cliffs, as we turned west to face the Schaffer’s Switchbacks. Stories of gloom come from this section of road that switchbacks steeply 1,200 feet up at the back end of an unlikely canyon. The road is nothing short of an engineering marvel and maintained to accommodate two-wheel-drive vehicles. But regardless of the road surface quality, a massive climb at the end of 100 miles is never a welcome sight.

The infamous Schaffer's Switchback ...

We topped the climb out at dark, stopping at the pavement to put lights and jackets on for the final push back to our car on Mineral Bottom Road. Few cars passed in the darkness as we followed headlamps down the pavement, nearly missing the turn to Mineral Bottom in the middle of a high-speed descent.

The odometer ticked over 100 miles just feet before our headlamps illuminated our car, parked in a pull-off with our tent tucked safely behind some juniper trees. Something on the order of 12 hours after we’d started, we could look back on a full day with every second of daylight spent.

As a human, I find it impossible to truly make the most of every minute of every day, but sometimes we can set up experiences that force a certain level of focus and mindfulness from start to finish. And when we’re done, we can go to a coffee shop the next morning, drink a cup of hot coffee, and watch another T-Swift video.

This post filed under topics: Eszter Horanyi Explore Horsethief Mountain Biking Sponsored Riders

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Eszter Horanyi

Eszter Horanyi

When Eszter Horanyi was in second grade, living in Tucson, Ariz., her dad bought the entire family Schwinn mountain bikes; she’s been riding ever since, dabbling in racing disciplines from road, to cross, to track and mountain biking. Most recently she’s loving adventurous long rides, bikepacking and exploring the world from two wheels.


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ArkyKenny | January 1st, 2016

Great read.  I didn’t know this place existed. Thanks for taking us along.

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Matt | March 3rd, 2016


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Diari Cantikku | November 18th, 2016

This place is cool, in Indonesia I can not find a place like this, but you can bike in the desert of Mount Bromo

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