Caitlin Row

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April 24, 2013
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ADVENTURE: Take a trip with Desert Rat Tours in the Grand Valley

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The Grand Valley's world-class singletrack trails are a major tourism draw, yet most visiting cyclists need some helpful tips. Enter Desert Rat Tours - a local, family-run business offering individualized mountain bike trips for groups throughout Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade.

David and Sarah Withers, a couple known for their mountain-bike expertise and bounty of local trail knowledge, began offering custom bike adventures through their business - Desert Rat Tours - three years ago. They currently run trips around western Colorado and Moab, Utah, for both national and international visitors from beginner to expert levels.

"Tours are customized to what people want," David said. "Most tour companies have set itineraries. We're more à la carte."

"We ask (our customers) what kind of riding they want to do - rocks, bumps, ledges or swoopy singletrack. A lot of riders really want scenery and beauty as part of their trip, or they've heard of a specific trail they'd like to ride," Sarah added.

Requests like those are always accommodated, both Withers said.

Trip itineraries aren't set in stone once the journey starts, either. Rather it's a fluid plan that can change at the whim of the customer. And Desert Rat Tours has permission to guide trips throughout BLM lands in the valley without limitations.

"We are the only guiding company with a permit for all the mountain-bike trails in the Grand Valley," Sarah said. "Other companies may have one or two of the areas, but not all."

That's good news for Desert Rat customers, because all commercial trips conducted on public lands must have a permit issued by the land management agency in charge.

"We have a special recreation permit through the Grand Junction BLM Field Office and the Moab BLM Field Office," Sarah said. "The requirements to get a permit include a minimum insurance coverage, first-aid medical training, and a commitment to uphold standards for tours (participant numbers, travel regulation standards, etc.)."

According to the Withers, they lay the ground work for Desert Rat tour groups - from renting bikes and organizing all necessary transportation to recommending hotels and supplying gourmet trail-side meals. What they provide is more than a simple guided tour of the area; it's personal, fun and each trip caters to a group's unique wants and needs. Add-ons, like skills clinics, are also available, and tour guides carry all necessary tools and equipment to fix a bike on the go.

"We send them home with quality photography shot by a professional," David added.

Other attractions, like winery tours, may be added to Desert Rat group itineraries.

Plus, both Withers are certified wilderness first responders, fully skilled to help anyone in trouble on the trails.

"We're there to take care of them, no matter what happens," David said.

Tour lengths can vary, too.

Sarah said some clients prefer half-days (3-4 hours), while others want to ride hard for six. And tours can last upwards of a week.

"People call about riding in Fruita, and then we also take them to Grand Junction and Palisade," David said, who also noted that high-level trails are located all over the valley (not just in Fruita, which is known around the world as a top-tier biking destination).

Desert Rat Tours operate April through October, weather permitting. Customers should call in advance to reserve a trip, especially if they have a month or weekend in mind.

"It's great for tourists to come out and ride with people who love the trails," David said. "It's more than just a business for us."

Want to know more? Visit for trip information and pricing. Call 970-261-8101 or 970-260-4842, or email

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 25, 2013 05:20PM Published Apr 24, 2013 04:07PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.