Written by Neil Shirley
“Go west,” he said. At the time, the response seemed a little less than helpful and not what I wanted to hear. Though, it did nudge me in the right direction. Once eventually heeding the advice, the result was a day on the bike that far exceeded expectations.
It was April when I posed the question, inquiring whether a certain dirt road high up in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains would be snow-free yet. By saying, “Go west”, I was essentially shut down in my presumption that the snowmelt would be further along than it was. With the massive Wasatch range directly to the east of Ogden, going west meant the lower elevation valley that includes the Great Salt Lake, and what I had always thought of as bleak, less-than-inspiring roads.
As Marketing Manager at ENVE, most weekends from March through September would be occupied with travel to attend the mountain bike World Cups, a European Classic or two, and any number of gravel events on our calendar. But in Covid-19 reality, I’ve found myself with more time on my hands than ever before, which also meant that getting my adventure riding fix would have to come from local roads and trails.
I’ve lived in the Ogden area for a year and a half and figured maybe there’s more to explore than I had given the westerly direction credit for. So I pulled up my RideWithGPS account and started scouring the map to see what I might find. With most ride routes I’ve come up with in the past, the actual piecing together of a unique route can sometimes be as much fun as the ride itself. I’ve hardly ever come away from a deep dive in the maps without a better appreciation of the surrounding area, and this time would be no exception. I knew the main roads, but after zooming in closer a new world opened up, one with a number of roads that were nothing more than railroad access or double track, yet when combined, they unlocked a route that was hiding in plain sight right in front of me.
My ultimate goal was to create a loop from my front door that was made up of at least 50% dirt and consisted mostly of roads that few cyclists had ever ventured on. What I came up with was something worthy of a European Classic road race run on causeways through the Great Salt Lake and buff dirt roads without any form of civilization for miles around. It didn’t take much convincing to pull together a small group of us to tackle the day, even though I tried to be as transparent as possible when saying, “I’m not entirely sure what we’re getting ourselves into”. I think that was all it took to get them to commit.
After the initial 10 miles of the ride getting out of Ogden, we didn’t see a car for the next two hours on the dirt roads that took us across the Great Salt Lake and over to Promontory Point — home to Golden Spike, the site where the final railroad spike was driven to connect the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads. The fact that my riding buddies, who had grown up in the area, had never ridden the majority of the roads we were on was a testament to the fact that sometimes you need to look a little deeper, and you might be surprised what you find.
145 miles, enough gas station fried chicken fingers to feed an entire peloton, a couple of Cokes, and a whole lot of GU Waffles later, the day finished where it had started eight hours before, right back at my door. There’s something even sweeter about finding so much satisfaction in a day on the bike when it’s right in your backyard.