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  Topic Name: Wild West Route on: December 03, 2018, 03:35:32 PM
mathieu


Location: Eindhoven, Netherlands
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« on: December 03, 2018, 03:35:32 PM »

I searched the topic list on the Wild West Route, but surprisingly I couldn't find it. Hence this new topic, hoping that I didn't overlook one less clearly named.
I first saw a reference to this route late last year, November 2017, when the promotors published a sketch of the route on their site https://www.bikepackingroots.org/wild-west-route.html . I tried to map this sketch on Ride-with-GPS, but there were several points where I had no clue. For example, the route turns west north of Darby-MT, but there simply isn't any allowed trail going into that protected Wilderness area.

This changed when I found the full track, some weeks ago, probably provisional, on www.trackleaders.com/wildwest . The provisional route was done partly or fully by a bunch of test riders. The route can be zoomed-in to great detail, so there are no more questions marks about where it goes.
I mapped it by State. Because the route flip-flops between Montana and Idaho no less than 7 times, I took the two states together. Because more than 90% is in Idaho, I will mostly refer to it as Idaho. The excursions from Utah into Wyoming are even less substantial, so I simply denote it as Utah. So we deal with three States: Idaho, Utah and Arizona.

I find the new route very interesting. After mapping it, I found that I had cycled about 500 miles of this route in the past, on a total distance of about 2700 miles. So there are a lot of interesting new roads and scenery to discover.  I sincerely consider riding it next year. Relevant questions that I like to share some thoughts are:
- how hard is this route ?
- in what direction to ride it ?
- in what season ?
I hope others reply to my opinion and add more information.
Because my gut feeling is that the route is better done South-to-North, I will often discuss points in that direction. But it is easy to reverse the lists.

How hard is the Wild West route ?
Of course, a lot depends on the quality of the road surface. The promotors promise a section-by-section grading for road quality. Awaiting this information, I have to use more global characteristics. The first is the amount of climbing. This is quantified in the ratio "elevation gain/distance" which I call Climbing Index. Quantification of elevation gain is somewhat arbritrary: what size of surface roughness do you consider as elevation gain? But I will use EG here not in absolute value but relative. This eliminates a lot of arbitrariness.
Here is a comparison by State from the Ride-with-GPS data:
- Arizona : 886 miles ; 60170 ft ; 68 ft/mi.
- Utah/WY : 587 mi ; 40940 ft ; 70 ft/mi.
- Idaho/MT : 1259 mi ; 91130 ft ; 73 ft/mi.
So the route has a very consistent amount of climbing north and south. The Climbing Index is substantially higher than for the Great Divide Route. Using the same metric and the same tools (RWGPS) the GDMTB route has a Climbing Index of 59 ft/mi. In my opinion it is not wrong say that the new route is about 15% harder than the GDMTB route.
However, I don't think 70 ft/mi is outrageous. In a topic on the Idaho Hot Springs MTB Route, I proposed to extend the IHSR route by a loop that includes the Magruder route to Elk City and the return over Burgdorf and Yellow Pine. That loop amounted to 97 ft/mi !

Another comparison is on amount of pavement. Some years ago, before recent reroutes, I counted all paved roads longer than 5 miles in the GDMTB route. It worked out to a bit less than 25% of the total distance, much in contrast to what  Adventure Cycling said in its publications. Whether a road is paved is often difficult to see on maps, even in satellite view, so the estimate is prone to error. Here are my best guesses for the Wild West route:
- Arizona : about 240 mi paved, i.e. 27%
- Utah/WY : 68 mi paved, i.e. 11%.
- Idaho/MT : 77 mi paved, i.e. 6%.
Clearly the promotors took care to chain dirt roads as much as possible. In Arizona this ambition is frustrated by the Grand Canyon. You cannot bypass some of the major highways in that area, although they tried and got permission to include unknown dirt roads on the Navajo Nation territory. In my opinion, the ratio for Idaho could be further reduced by going from Arco to Ketchum over the Antelope Pass: less paved, challenging climb and better scenery.

Another useful measure of how hard a route is, is the distance between resupply points. When this distance exceeds the average daily distance, planning about food and liquids is more critical. This average daily distance depends on personal choice and ability, but I take 60 miles as a reasonable guess (i.e. 60*70=4200 ft average daily elevation gain) and 70 miles as do-able in case of need. There are 11 segments where 70 miles is not enough to get to the next resupply point:
- AZ: Young to Sedona, 126 mi
- AZ: Flagstaff to Cameron, 134 mi
- AZ : Marble Canyon to North Rim, 94 mi
- UT : Bryce to Loa, 83 mi
- UT : Salina to Soldier Summit (gas station), 124 mi
- UT : Soldier Summit to Kamas, 84 mi
- ID : Soda Springs to Blackfoot, 86 mi
- ID : Challis to Connor, 151 mi
- ID : Connor to Elk City, 119 mi
- ID : Pierce to Riverbend, 100 mi
- ID : Troy to Tobacco River, 87 mi
The Skyline Drive over the Wasatch Plateau, between Salina and Kamas, is clearly a bottleneck. Much depends on a single gas station. Another resupply problem is between Challis and Elk City. Connor-MT only has a small deli.
I did not do this analysis for the GDMTB route, but from memory I guess that in the GDMBR only the Great Divide Basin, the Gila and possibly the stage from Silver City to Antelope Wells qualify.

On an even more detailed scale you could ask for the number of 'unrideable' sections, like Fleecer Ridge (S-to-N) or Lava Mountain Trail. I looked for sustained gradients over 10% and found, fortunately, only a few. This depends of course on the direction. Going S-to-N I found
- about 2.5 mi at 11% near Pinai Peak
- about 1.5 mi at 13% in a climb to the North Rim
- a steep needle near 15% between Challis and the Morgan Creek Rd. It is easy to bypass over the lovely Morgan Creek Rd from US-93. Why spend energy on this nuisance with such long and tough climbs ahead?
- Horse Creek Pass between Shoup and Alta Montana, 5000 ft climb sustained near or over 10%.


What season ?
A distance of 2700 mi with an average daily distance of 60 mi, takes 45 days. Multiply by a factor of 7/6, for 1 day of rest or troubles or whatever per week, and you get to 53 day. In my experience, there is still a lot of winter snow in Idaho in June. So a start in the North near mid-July will finish the ride by end-of-August. Very hot in the south! Probably better to start mid-August and finish by end-of-September at the Mexican border.
Or start at the Mexican border mid-June. By the time you get to the Wasatch Plateau and the Magruder road, the snow has probably cleared. Finish end-of-July.

What direction ?
I am inclined to favor South-to-North. In the favorable time-window you have much longer daylight. I find it also more pleasant to move to cooler region as the summer develops, sun on your back.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2018, 04:15:15 PM by mathieu » Logged
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