Rebecca’s Private Idaho is a true gravel grinder of a ride, meant to sap the strength of riders not only through steep climbs, but in the navigation of miles and miles of unforgiving rock and grit. Those of you showing up on your skinniest-tired rig with a gear range that can be counted on two hands will likely be disappointed. The road surface on which RPI traverses will conspire with the climbs to drain you of your energy. Fist-sized rocks and endless washboards will have you dancing across the road, searching for a line that offers even the mildest of relief. You will amaze yourself at how skilled you’ll become at picking the path of least resistance; those that don’t will be fighting a war of attrition, dying by a thousand tiny cuts. The only smooth pavement you’ll see is on the first and last couple of miles inside the city limits of Ketchum. Thankfully, the scenery inspires, as does the promise of frosty beers at the finish line.
Now, I’ve laid out two route offerings for Rebecca’s Private Idaho: The Big Potato and The Small Fry. One goes the distance, deep into the Pioneer Mountains; the other takes in Wild Horse Creek Canyon a bit closer to town. Both leave Ketchum together and both take you over the hotly contested Trail Creek Summit segment. This dirt road gains two passes and is a regular punish wagon for local hammerheads. How hard you go is your own business, but remember, we’ll be coming back this way; any descent you enjoy off these passes on the way out will be served right back up to you on the way home. We’ll wind through the Trail Creek canyon for a good while before climbing out and into the Big Lost River drainage on the opposite side. We’ll turn south at this point, before The Small Fry diverts into Wild Horse Creek for a gentle out-and-back canyon exploration.
For those continuing on in The Big Potato route, we push onward toward our main objective, the famed Copper Basin. It’s a stunningly beautiful valley filled with sagebrush and willow-rimmed creeks, all hemmed in by the great White Knob and Pioneer mountain ranges. These are the wide open spaces that transform taciturn cowboys into poets and meandering tourists into artists. We’ll run the perimeter of the basin on wide roads, go ga-ga for the scenery, replace our dropped jaws, and point our wheels toward Ketchum, back the way we came.
Rebecca’s Private Idaho is a completely supported ride, from the start to beyond the finish line. Expect to see fully-stocked rest stations along the way with performance goods from our comrades at GU Energy Labs and Red Bull. I’ll fry up some Idaho potatoes as well, just to keep things salty out on the road. Mobile SAG will keep you focused on the ride and not stuck on the sidelines, pulling god-knows-what out of your spokes.
We’ll start out at 6,000 feet in Ketchum. By days end, we’ll have crested 8,000 feet twice with a lot of smaller climbs in between. Your triumphant return will mean you’ve tacked in about 6,500 feet of climbing in nearly 100 miles. You deserve a drink. I’ll see to that for you, no doubt.
As I’ve said, this is not a course for your featherweight road machine. I’m suggesting something that can handle a bump or two, something that’s got clearance for a 28c tire or bigger. You’ll see a lot of cyclocross bikes out there and that’s for good reason: stouter tubing, better tire clearance, more resilient wheels, more generous gear ranges (I’m sporting a SRAM 22sp Wi-Fli setup and would advise you do the same.), and a more relaxed geometry are going to be your friends at RPI. Those of you who’d be helped by an example can check out my Dirty Kanza-winning Specialized Crux. It got some press recently and I’ll be pretty much riding it at RPI just like I raced it at Dirty Kanza. Several people have had great success riding hardtail mountain bikes on skinnier tires and there were some more standard road bikes seen at the 2013 RPI. If in doubt, my friends at Specialized are no stranger to the bike that will work for you at RPI. Check out the various models from their marvy, race-ready Crux line. Or, if a more robust, expedition level bike appeals, check out the TriCross. Both will go with Rebecca’s Private Idaho like butter on biscuits.
Point is, put some thought into what you’ll be riding, come event day. RPI’s challenge is not primarily in its climbs, but in its relentless wearing of the body and mind. Equip yourself accordingly.
Download or review the Big Potato and the Small Fry routes, courtesy of our friends at Garmin Connect. Here also are the official ride times of the Big Potato and Small Fry ridden by The Queen of Pain herself, at (ahem) a medium pace.