Palisade, CO

10 tips to help you prepare for riding the Palisade Plunge

Morgan Tilton
Mountain biker Eric Phillips a bit more than halfway through the 32-mile Palisade Plunge routePhoto by Morgan Tilton

The Palisade Plunge is a 32-mile endurance mountain bike ride in Palisade, Colorado.

Completed last summer, the route features 900 feet of climbing and a 6,814-foot descent.

The trail is best for advanced and expert mountain bikers.

Here’s a basic checklist to help you prepare for the cross-country-style ride.
The top third of the Palisade Plunge meanders over Grand MesaPhoto by Morgan Tilton

1. The best way to prepare physically and mentally for the Palisade Plunge is to ride similar terrain and trail segments as what you’ll encounter on the Palisade Plunge. Research the route. During your training rides, pay attention to your pace and consider how long you will need to complete this ride.

2. Ride in comparable conditions including the same temperature range and at the same time of day as when you plan to do the Plunge.
The Palisade Plunge is a cross-country route that covers huge distance including technical, rocky sections and exposurePhoto by Morgan Tilton

3. Build up your mileage before the ride. Consider hiring a mountain bike coach to help you with a training and nutrition plan. Talk with a coach about how much food and water you should consume each hour.

4. Train with the full suspension mountain bike you plan to use that day. Ideally, you’ll travel with your bike to Palisade and won’t be riding a rental or a borrowed bike that you’re unfamiliar with.
The Palisade Plunge has a series of informative trail signs that include the mileage markerPhoto by Eric Phillips

5. Leading up the ride, keep up with your bike’s general maintenance. Consider taking your bike to your local bike shop for a tune-up before a big day on the Palisade Plunge.

6. Take a general bike repair clinic to understand how to manage mechanical issues that you might encounter on the ride—which is very remote. You’ll want to know how to change a flat tire and repair a chain. When we were riding the Palisade Plunge, the entire derailleur blew off of my partner’s bike. We removed it with a bike tool and a Leatherman multi-tool so that he could finish the final 4 miles of the ride.
We used a gravity water filter at Whitewater Creek and ate lunch at the same time we refilledPhoto by Morgan Tilton

7. If you don’t own a water filter, it’s time to get one! A rider can comfortably carry approximately 4-5 liters, but this is a desert ride, so don’t depend on that quantity to get you to the finish. There is one reliable spot to filter water at mile 16: a clear, flowing creek called Whitewater Creek. We also drank electrolytes all day.

8. Have a plan in case there is an emergency. Talk with your shuttle driver about the emergency bailout options and write down where those are located along the trail. Consider carrying a satellite communication device in addition to your phone, which could break, fall out of your pack, overheat, lose battery power, or simply not have cell reception.
Talk with your shuttle service operator about the current bailout options on the Palisade PlungePhoto by Morgan Tilton

9. The later into the day that you ride, the warmer or hotter the temperatures will be. Read the weather forecast the week leading up to your ride and talk with a local bike shop or your shuttle driver to learn more about the weather and how you can prepare. If there is a heat advisory, consider canceling your trip and rebook for a later time in the season when the temperatures go down.
Sections of the Palisade Plunge are exposed and technical but walkablePhoto by Morgan Tilton

10. If you have any health concerns, talk with your physician about the undertaking of this ride and any risk that might be involved.

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Adventure journalist Morgan Tilton covers the outdoors with a focus on travel, industry news and human endurance. Featured in more than 70 publications, she’s a recipient of more than a dozen North American Travel Journalists Association awards.

Crested Butte, CO

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