[Note: When the holidays slow news down, we reach into Santa’s bag of tricks for a hearkening back to our favorite rides. This week we’re featuring a 2004 expedition to Moab, Utah, America’s mountain biking mecca and an international magnet for mountain bikers everywhere.]
Planning our trip to Moab, Jim and I had talked about doing White Rim in a day. It’s about 100 miles on the full loop, but mostly fire-road flat. Doable, yes. But we’d have to get as early a start as possible, and it would be a long, grind-it-out day. Chances were it wasn’t in the cards this time around.
We checked with Poison Spider, where a wrench told us to take it out to Musselman Arch and see where we were. The arch is a great gathering place and turnaround point if you’re so inclined. So that was the plan.
We debarked from the tourist-packed Island in the Sky Visitor Center parking lot. You descend fairly gradually down toward the valley floor, where signs direct you to Moab and the prosaically named Potash, a town built around whatever commercial value potash has.There are big ugly holding ponds which have to be toxic as all getout, especially threatening to the Colorado River.
A “fat tire century” ride would’ve been a nice physical challenge, but I’m glad we didn’t do it first time out. White Rim has amazing vistas, strange and ponderous rock formations, perilous outcroppings and all manner of geologic wonderment even for Moab, and to put your head down into the wind and just spin would be a tragic missed opportunity. There are viewpoints around every corner and sometimes you just want to stand or sit and soak it all in.
There were a number of tour groups out. These are sagged expeditions that do the Rim in 3 or 4 days, camping out along the way. At the Arch a woman pulled up with no rear brake and a pretty spotty front one. They’d tried to do an adjustment on the ride but nobody knew Hayes discs and they’d messed it up pretty bad. I’m not much of a mechanic but when it comes to Hayes I’ve suffered through enough “episodes” to at least keep myself from making any problem worse. So I agreed to have a look.
The first thing they’d done was to back out the little 2mm lever bolts. This had the effect of running the levers all the way to the bar, as though she’d lost pressure altogether. I tamped down the bolts and she now had stopping power. Too much stopping power. The calipers were out of alignment and the pads were giving her constant brake rub.
It can drive a sane man loco trying to adjust Hayes calipers. I generally back off both mounting bolts till the caliper is loose at each end. Then I eyeball the rotor-pad clearance and tamp down the lower bolt, not tightening it all the way but getting it firm. I realign the pad clearance and gently tighten the upper bolt, spinning the wheel to ensure rotor clearance. If everything’s going right and Irish luck is with me, I can continue to wrench down the bolt all the way and the rotor won’t scrape. Once the upper bolt is tightened I do the same to the lower (by upper I mean closer to the rim, lower closer to the hub, if that’s any help).
People often say you need business cards or whatever with Hayes to do any realigning. Not true, in my experience. If the brakes are set up right in the first place, the issue tends to be a goofed-up attempt at realignment. You can use business cards to assist but if you’ve watched Scott at the Downhill Zone realign a Hayes you know that with experience all you need is a clear eye and steady hand.
Anyway, after 15 minutes of tinkering she was good to go. She asked if she could give me anything for my trouble and I said she already had: My good deed for the day.
Musselman Arch is a narrow, three-to-four foot wide rock bridge crossing maybe 50 feet over a sheer precipice. It’d be nothing at all to walk without the yawning valley below, but something about a 500-foot drop gives one a second thought or two. I get vertigo and never did walk it, but Jason and Jim went over it without blinking. Jim even stopped my heart by tripping on the thing – check out the video!
Some day I’d like to do the whole Rim. Two days would be enough, I’d think. My motto – “It’s all about the ride” – doesn’t quite apply to White Rim. There it’s more about the vibe.
The next day was Sunday and time to pack up and head back to Salt Lake for the flight back. Jason, Jim and I pitched the bikes into the van and jammed across the flats. It was the first off-weather day we’d had since the day we arrived. We even ran into rain on the approach to Salt Lake City. But the clouds eventually parted and the flight back went fine.
Often I end a mountain biking trip thinking not about the rides I did but the ones that got away. If only I’d had another day or two I could’ve done this or that. It’s been equally true on past Moab excursions. But this time around I felt like I’d gotten my fill. Sure there are rides I haven’t done yet in Moab. Sure I’d like to go back. But eight straight days of ride, ride, ride…well, that’s plenty for mortal man on the road away from home. Thanks to Jim and Jason and Chance and JP for the great times and eternal memories, and let’s do it again as soon as we can!