The White Rim Road. 100 miles of advanced 4×4, high-clearance road and trail cut into the outer rim of the Island In The Sky mesa top. It can take 2-3 days by jeep, and up to 4 days by mountain bike. Our plan was to zip through it in a single day, on large touring motos with (mainly) street tires. Bold strategy Cotton.
Today, we add another character to the trip. Brian (Bean’s brother) was in town giving EMS training, had his KLR 650 and was down for the White Rim ride. We geared up early(ish) and rode the pavement out of town to the start of the loop clockwise.
After a quick “safety stop” at the start of the trail, we nosed down the Shaefer switchbacks, carved right into the side of the sandstone. Nothing very intense (even on the big bikes). I still had my ABS enabled on the “big pig” 1150, and didn’t hear the solenoid “clunk clunk clunk” once on the way down.
Once down on the deck, we confirmed our direction and started winding on some smooth flowing doubletrack through the red-rock formations. All moto are go and spirits are high!
More buttery-smooth packed red dirt through the Southwestern scene. We started coming across a few side-by-side UTV’s, and passed a few lumbering jeeps. I’m sure its exciting to drive a jeep through this stuff at 10-15 mph, but compared with the speed and efficiency of (even a big) moto, it kinda seems silly to drive that whole junk-circus through the desert.
The deeper we pressed on, things loosened up a bit. Some silty-sandy surfaces caused a few dabs by the big guys through an especially sloppy section. For 1150GS riders, this is stand-up-on-the-pegs action. Recent showers from a few days ago kept the majority of the dust down as an added bonus.
In relatively short order, the smooth buttery two track transformed into tight turns and a series of steep ups and downs, known as the “Murphy Hogback”, consisting of a steady, switchback climb over varying surfaces. It was here that the big BMW’s started to bump against the lower gearing of the KLR’s.
See, the big BMW pigs produce literal gobs of torque from those big doofy cylinders sticking out the side. And for good reason too, its needed to push the astounding 500+ lbs of german engineering up hills. But they need momentum! I kept goosing it up a hill, only to run right up against the ass of a KLR sedately tractoring up the climb in first gear. Clutch-town, population BMW.
By this time, the desert crock-pot was turned up to “high” and we slowly simmered in our jackets. Shade being a luxury in the desert, we took this time for a snack break. Several times while we waited, trucks and jeeps came nose to nose, with one having to back down the road to the turnaround. So much drama!
After the break, the road surface started to indicate that we were riding on a large rock shelf with a little bit of topsoil on it. Things started to get bumpy.
This was mainly due to the fact that we ARE riding on a big shelf, and have finally reached the edge of the “White Rim”. There are three black dots in the background representing motorcycles for scale.
The enormity of this landscape is not contained in photos. The mental state when rolling through scenery like this is hard to describe. It felt like I was riding on a different planet.
Boys will be boys. I can say for certain this ranks as the #1 bathroom stall view I’ve ever had. Also, not a move to make after any beverages. Its a ‘whole nother atmosphere down there.
The mind blowing scenery just goes on and on. You start to feel like you are looking at a real-life (3D) M.C. Escher drawing. INTENSE!
Regular rest-stops were needed (despite the heat) to comprehend the enormity of the world in front of us. Also, more rocks meant slower times for those of us on the big BMW pigs.
One of the (many) things I love about this road, is the amount of danger present at every turn. In a world that demands warning for everything from “Danger! Hot Coffee is hot!” to “Don’t let your toddler play in this plastic bag”, I find it refreshing to be in an National Park where common sense and known limitations are still the rules.
No guard-rails to protect you from yourself or the natural surroundings. You make a bad decision through some parts on this road, and you will quickly become part of the scenery.
The tail end of this ride put a LOT of large rocks and sandstone on the road. Great for traction, but not so great for large BMW’s with lots of un-sprung weight (swingarms and telelevers). While it was all very doable, and the 1150GS didn’t complain, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was systematically destroying my motorcycles. All those precision-engineered German bearings just getting hammered.
We climbed through the Hardscrabble and Labyrinth sections of the road, and finally dumped out near the exit as the sun was getting low in the sky. The sandy topsoil and wide roads were a nice (high speed) reward after a good hour or two of rocky punishment on the big bikes.
This is the #2 urinal view I’ve ever experienced. And for those disgusted, these little shrub brushes need every bit of water they can get.
After a brief meeting of the minds, it was decided that hot burgers and cold beers were needed before we could start an official debrief. The wide roads meant a high speed exfil onto concrete and back into Moab. Total mileage ended up being about 140, 90% of it on forest roads and trails. No unscheduled dismounts!