Updated: Jun 16
The recent news on June 12, 2022 regarding a mountain biker passing away on the Palisade Plunge has the Colorado Mountain Bike community on edge regarding this trail, but also how to hydrate for big rides during the summer. Clearly, the tragedy of what happened there shouldn't be ignored and the fact that we're all talking about it is good. Lets take some lessons from this unfortunate incident and use it to better our experiences on a mountain bike everywhere we go.
What is the Palisade Plunge
There was a lot of anticipation for this trail. As with Moab's Whole Enchilada, it was billed as the next great trail for all the world to see. Stunning views, epic terrain, mostly downhill and over the course of 32 miles. Essentially, this was a huge commitment to mountain biking being a premier tourist attraction for the tri-cities of Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade- which are, by themselves, amazing mountain bike destinations.
3.4 million dollars later, BuhBAM. New trail officially opened in the summer of 2021.
What We Know and Don't
All we know is what's been reported. 1 solo rider was dehydrated when 3 seperate rides came up on him with about ~10 miles left. The time of day he started is unknown other than the the solo rider was in distress and the three seperate riders called 911 at 6:45PM. ALL 4 people were dehydrated and the 1 rider passed away from heat related issues.
What we don't know is when they all decided it was a good idea to start this ride or where they started from/were shuttled to as its a shuttle drop-off kind of ride.
Palisade recorded a record high of 102° that day. Because the last 15 miles are desert conditions, there's ZERO shade. Its safe to say that while the official air temp was 102°, its very likely that it was much hotter on the trail. I've read in unofficial sources that ground temps can be 10°- 40° higher than the air temp (which is officially measured at 6 feet from the ground).
What We can We Deduce?
Given the time of day emergency services were called (6:45pm), all 4 riders started way later than advisable even, for a trip down Porcupine Rim in Moab especially given the forecast. Second, they clearly underestimated everything. Water consumption, technical nature of the trail and weather. Hard to say what their levels of experience are/were. But, having ridden in that part of the state many times, if you're not done by 10A or 11A in the summer, and you're not used to it, its best to call it a day as its just miserable and, clearly dangerous.
If they started at the top, the temps were considerably lower at that elevation (as of this post, it was 41° at the top of the Grand Mesa and 81° in Palisade) and by the time they got to the lower sections, it was likely the hottest part of the day which is generally around 3p-4pm. Oh, and don't forget that Palisade recorded 102° as a new daily record for this day.
Disclaimer here, I'm not a medical pro. I'm merely a frequent mountain biker who's ridden many 5-8 hour rides in the desert over multiple days on the Bikerpelli excursion. But there are some things we should always consider.
Read up on the trail: Ask others what their experiences were. DUH.
Pre-Hydrate: Getting the proper amount of hydration for desert riding starts DAY's before you're on the trail. If you're pissing clear consistently, you're hydrated. Then you fill the tank again. You don't stop drinking water. Take a piss, drink more water. Its literally that game.
During the Ride hydration: This is not my expertise, but you should be stopping to take a leak every 30-45 minutes and then replenishing yourself immediately after doing that. You will know. If you're not pissing at least every hour, you're dehydrating.
Supplemental electrolytes: Again, critical to have that onboard. I've used them all, but the best I've found is powderform ScratchLabs . The tabs are hit or miss for me but I felt the most hydrated with the ScratchLabs. (BTW, I'm not sponsored or anything so no incentive for me to promote anyone).
Emergency Salt Tabs and Pickle Juice: The tabs are just highly concentrated electrolytes that you eat. The pickle juice is the same, just in liquid form. I usually keep one or 2, 8oz bottles of the pickle juice in my pack for cramps, but can definitely help. Nothing beats water, but these can help bridge the gap in some cases.
Always bring more water than you think you need: "Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it." That's all I can say on that.
At the end of the day. YOU are responsible for YOUR well-being. Its your JOB as a mountain biker to know your physical limits, mountain bike abilitites and be prepared for any sort of worse-case-scenario happening to YOU. This is inherently a risky sport, but those risks are amplified 100 times if you're not doing some or all of the above. Only YOU can determine these things. Be responsible and be ccountable to yourself and those that love and depend on you.
Make GOOD Decisions because as with this example in Palisade, your life may depend on it.