May 21, 2024 5 min read

White Rim Junior FKT Attempt

by: Wyatt Smith

The White Rim Loop, in the Island in the Sky of Canyonlands National Park, Utah, is approximately 100 miles (160 kilometers) long and typically takes several days to complete. Complete with deep sand, punchy climbs, and technical desert terrain, it's a beautiful yet challenging route for mountain bikers. The coveted White Rim FKT is a desert classic.

Check out the route here.


My love for biking and its challenges like the White Rim did not blossom until my freshman year of high school. But after my first high school race I knew I was hooked. Going into the 2023 bike season, I set a goal of setting the junior FKT on the White Rim trail. I have always been in awe of Keegan Swenson’s FKT back in March of 2021. I knew that it was going to be a physical challenge, and even more so a mental challenge.


Hitting the dusty White Rim Trail.


My coach, Michael Hayes, and I put together a training plan. This consisted of intervals and shorter rides on weekdays and longer endurance training on the weekends. Slowly over the year, I began to make the rides longer and longer. I went from 40 miles to 60, then 80, and 100 preparing myself for the White Rim.

Along with long training days, I entered a few endurance mountain bike races. The hardest one was the Laramie Range Epic in Wyoming, with two laps on a 33-mile course with 3,300 feet of elevation gain. This pushed the limits of my mental and physical strength. I was the only Junior/U18 to complete the course. The 65-mile course took me 6:50:49 finishing 18th out of 33 in open men. Doing this race made me think about the White Rim. Knowing it was going to be even harder – and realizing that once I hit the canyon floor – it would be hard to get out if something bad happened.


After a lot of preparation, the time has come...


On October 27, 2023, I attempted to ride the White Rim. We had to bump it forward a day because of the weather. I left from Highway 313 at 7:30 am down Mineral Canyon Road towards Mineral Bottom. I was feeling good; my hands were slightly cold, but I knew they would warm up when the sun rose.

I was ahead of pace for the first 20ish miles, then I hit my first of many obstacles of the day. Hardscrabble. I had ridden all of it before but never like this. I started the half-mile climb and my bike came to a complete stop in more than five inches of sand that had accumulated on the road. So I ran my bike up the sand to the road on the cliff where I could begin to ride again.

As I began to put one pedal over the other the song Godzilla by Blue Öyster Cult came on. I was feeling good even though I was a few minutes behind my ideal time – I was in my groove. Everything was going smoothly except for some more sand here and there... Until around mile fifty, I sat down on my seat and noticed the bolts had come loose on my dropper post. Needing to fix it as fast as possible, I pulled over on a slickrock slab and opened my pack to find I was missing both my pump and my multitool. At that moment I realized I would not be fixing my seat.

I tore apart my pack to find two zip-ties. I put them on my seat clamp as tight as possible and took off hoping to find someone with a tool. Thankfully, 10 miles later I came upon a guy on a single-speed bike. I stopped him to ask for a multi-tool. He was so happy that the extra weight he had been carrying got used. I thanked him and continued on.

Now, far behind my schedule, I knew it was not a matter of seeing how fast I could do the White Rim - but completing it. My saddle was tight, my legs felt pretty good, and I was lost in my music. Then two words I wish I never heard came across my headphones: “Powering Off.” I thought this was a mistake, maybe they just had to reboot or something? But they truly died. I knew it was going to be me and my thoughts for the next 30 miles. So I began to talk to myself. I can't remember what I said exactly, but something along the lines of: “Shut up legs” ... over and over.

Twisting along the side of the canyon I came around the corner to see the Shafer Canyon climb. I knew it was coming, I had ridden it in the past, but I could swear it was not that big. The climb out of the Canyon was massive, I knew I had to put in my music. “Oh wait,” I thought - “I can't do that!” So I instead began to imagine the pavement road at top of the cliff and kept going. At one point I had to stop, ate as much as I could and kept going.

It took a long time, but I did it! I made it to the road. The one thing about the last stretch is it's not downhill, and you usually have a headwind. I knew I could just go straight - so that’s what I did - cars whizzing past me knowing nothing of what my day had just been, but I did it. I ended up in the place I had begun. I sat down and marveled at the task I had just completed. I finished in a time of 7:51:43, sub eight hours for 100 miles. Pretty good for the challenges I had overcome!


View Wyatt's Strava activity here




Author Notes

My name is Wyatt Smith and I am a High school student from Carbondale, Colorado who likes to push the limits and see how far and fast I can go. I thrive in the mountains whether it’s on a bike, alpine, skimo, or nordic skis. I live with my mom and dad and my retired avalanche dog River. I am looking forward to more epic adventures!

Follow along his adventures at @pookieoutside.

Gear Notes

Wyatt is using the: 

Squadron Jersey

Flight Deck Cargo Bib Short 

Flight Deck Wind Vest

Ski Fast Trucker


Shop the full Strafe (Off) Road Collection.