DIY Ride or Guided Mountain Bike Tour?

The Pros and Cons

Guided tour on Amasa Back's Captain Ahab Trail near Moab, Utah

Whether you are visiting Moab for your very first time, or are getting a refresh on your Moab fix, mountain biking should be top of your must-do adventure list. The real question is, should you venture out on the trails on your own, or should you book a guided mountain bike tour to smooth your roll? That is the question. Below are a list of the pros and cons.

First, a word upfront about my personal bias: I work for Rim Tours — Moab’s original guided mountain bike outfitter. Rim has been in business since 1985, which also probably makes it one of the very first guided mountain bike outfitters in the country. I love Rim and I love mountain biking, so, of course, I think choosing a guided mountain bike tour is the best option, in many situations.

But, let’s face it — there are also plenty of situations where doing it yourself is the best option, too.

Reasons To Go With A Guide

  • Keep It Simple
    There’s a lot to be said for keeping things simple, especially when you’re in vacation mode. Booking a guided mountain bike tour means you leave all the work to someone else — Rim Tours will automatically include a bike rental, bike insurance, helmet, water bottle, trail snacks, ground transport, plus one of the most experienced guides — all part of a simple, single package (you even get to keep the water bottle as a souvenir.) The guide picks you up in town at an easy-to-find public location with lots of parking. All you need to do is show up with positive energy, weather-appropriate attire, and lightweight hiking shoes or sneakers. (It’s also smart to bring a small camelback, backpack or fanny pack, if you have one, for carrying extra water and shedding layers.)
  • Navigation
    Though Moab’s mountain bike trail system is one of the most well-marked in the country, it is still possible to make a wrong turn (after all, there are over 150 miles of singletrack trails to choose from.) Suddenly, you are faced with an unexpectedly difficult section of trail, way beyond your comfort level. Maybe even something a bit dangerous. Following a guide ensures that you’ll avoid navigation errors, and if you do find yourself in over your head for a moment, your  guide will be there to coach you through that section. So — not only safer, but you’ll learn something, too!
  • Riding Solo
    If you’re on your own, it is definitely safer to ride with at least one other person. In case of an accident or injury, there’s someone who can help.

Reasons to Ride DIY

  • Save Some Money
    This is the most obvious one. A typical half-day guided tour (at Rim) is priced at $99. Even though that price includes the bike (2018 full-suspension Santa Cruz) and everything else listed above, it is a bit more than the typical one-day bike rental (bottom of the range is $60, and it can go up to $95, depending on the bike.) Guides also expect a gratuity at the end of the tour and 15 – 20% is typical. On the other side of the equation — most bike shops will want you to have a bike rack on your car to guarantee their bike is not harmed. If you’re in a rental car, that means you’ll probably need to rent a bike rack as well, which can be an additional $10 or more a day. Bike insurance starts at $10 a day, too. So, a typical bike rental with rack and insurance means the savings compared to a guided tour is somewhat less than you might think. Yet it’s still a savings, and sometimes every penny counts.
  • Flexibility
    This, too, is an obvious reason some people might lean toward riding on their own. You can leave when you want, go where you want, ride as long as you want. Last minute change of plans? No problem (especially if last night went a little longer or harder than you expected and suddenly that 7 AM departure time isn’t looking so great.) On the other hand, some of that same flexibility is available on a guided tour if you book it as a private tour.
  • Sense of Adventure
    If you’re like me, you appreciate the challenge that comes with a little leap into the unknown. Heading out into the desert sans guide can definitely increase your sense of adventure (and risk.)