10191 Arrakeen Sandworm: The Jalopnik First Ride

The Maker of Arrakis... Dune... may be effective long-distance transportation, but is the ride worth the hassle?

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Screenshot: Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube, Photo: Steve DaSilva / Jalopnik

If you’ve ever ventured to Arrakis, you’ve heard the whispers: Sandworms, the Maker, maybe you’e even heard of Shai-Hulud. You likely know them as an existential threat, the kind of enemy you can’t hope to kill, but also as an ecological necessity — their existence brings forth the Spice Melange, on which our survival depends.

But the Maker is more than a set of teeth that produces spice. It’s a god figure, a being to be respected, and — most importantly — a way to traverse the Arrakeen desert. That’s right, Shai-Hulud can be ridden — but what’s it actually like to ride?


Full Disclosure: The Fremen flew me out to Arrakis to try my hand at riding a sandworm. The Spacing Guild supplied my transportation, and the Fremen provided my food, accommodations, and precious life-giving water.


What’s New About The 10191 Arrakeen Sandworm?

Not much. Most sandworms old enough to ride are hundreds if not thousands of years old — very little has changed for them over the course of their years in the sand.


But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Maker is reliable transport, easy to predict and manageable to control — so long as you know what you’re doing. For amateurs, wormriding can be a struggle, but with a bit of practice it becomes second nature.

What Are the Specs?

Sandworms can grow to hundreds of yards in length, and some think that worms up to 1,000 yards long exist in the planet’s most remote deserts. My tester wasn’t quite so large, somewhere in the 250-yard range, which made it somewhat more nimble than its larger brethren.


How Does It Look?

I’ll be real: Sandworms are not pretty. They’re a function-over-form design, gray and drab with thick, plated skin. But every part of the Maker’s look serves a function—its mouth for intaking nutrients, its plates for steering the worm towards your destination. Shai-Hulud may not be a beauty, but it gets the job done.


How Does It Ride?

I said my Maker was smaller than many, which made for a nimbler ride. That, however, is faint praise — no sandworm is truly nimble, all are sluggish to respond and require full-body exertion to maneuver. Even with skilled riders on back, Shai-Hulud still understeers at the limit, and each ride is more about reaching your destination than having any fun along the way.


Power is adequate; worms are focused more on torque than top-end, which can often confuse the “butt dyno” into reading higher than is really accurate. The real trick with sandworms, though, is control — at first the idea of controlling a Maker with your two little hooks seems absurd. With some practice under your belt, however, it all becomes second nature: The Maker hooks fall readily to hand, and the steering scramble from left to right becomes more of an intentional dance.

How’s The Interior?

I did not test this. If you wanna get eaten by a sandworm to discover what it’s like, be my guest. I hear it’s hot.


How Does It Compare to the Competition?

For long-distance travel on Arrakis, the closest competitor to the Maker is likely your standard ornithopter. But those require fuel and maintenance, and you aren’t likely to find another one fueled and waiting when yours falters. Worms, by contrast, take care of themselves — and when one gets tired, you’re just a thumper away from finding another ride.


For short trips, an ornithopter may be more convenient. But for long hauls across the Arrakeen desert, the Maker is unmatched. There’s a reason the Fremen, those most attuned to desert life, don’t keep fleets of ‘thopters at every sietch.

Final Thoughts

Riding Shai-Hulud is a rare opportunity, one I’m grateful to have been given. Large, high-capacity sandworms truly feel like the future of long-haul transportation in a way that makes ornithopters feel obsolete — so limited in size, carry weight, and fuel range. The Fremen know Dune best, so it’s no wonder they’ve selected the ideal means of transport through the wide, open desert. Bless the Maker and His water, bless the coming and going of Him.