Monday, June 4, 2018

Butler Creek, Grant Creek, and Snowbowl

For some good gravel/dirt riding with a lot of climbing, butler creek is a good place to check out. While most people think of snowbowl as being up Grant creek, it is actually in the Butler creek drainage, which is the next one over. From Grant Creek, when you turn onto snowbowl road, you climb over a saddle into butler. Snowbowl road climbs the east side of butler creek and ends at the ski area. There is also a road on the other side from Butler creek, and you can make a loop out of the two on a bike. On top of that, you can ride to the top of tv mountain, snowbowl, and point 6 on actual road, and there's some singletrack down the front of the ski hill.

Getting to snowbowl via snowbowl road is pretty straightforward, so I don't think I need to go into much detail. But if you've never been in butler creek it's nice to have a map or gpx track to follow, as there are a couple of junctions up there. The main thing to keep in mind is that you actually want to take Point 6 road when you get there, as that is the actual name of the road that continues to the top of Butler creek (and all the way to Point 6).

The most basic route is to climb to the base of snowbowl via one of the roads, and descend the other

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bearmouth Road Race

I was going to start this post by talking a little about the state of road racing in Montana, but it was getting a little long and I figured I'd just skip right to the race report and make that another post.

This year, Alex Gallego and Missoula Bicycle Works decided to put on the Bearmouth Road race. It's a course that has been used before, and is generally a pretty nice ride. If you're going to do it on your own, start at Bearmouth, ride to Drummond, and then up the pass. You can just go to the top, or all the way into Helmville (the Copper queen is a decent lunch stop). The race works a little differently as Drummond makes a better start/finish location, so first is an out and back to Bearmouth along the frontage road, which is quiet and rolling and about 15mi each way, then goes up and over to Helmville and back. It's around 20mi from Drummond to Helmville and in total the race was 74mi for the long race, and in the 50s for the shorter, just to the top and back race.

One of the problems with road racing in Montana under USAC is that so many fast guys are stuck in the lower categories due to the lack of races. They might be on the group ride every week and cat 1 CX and MTB racers, but when it comes road they are still 4/5s. So for this event, you could sign up in the "open" category and race in the 1/2/3 field. There was separate scoring for 1/2 and 3, and then an overall "open." So if you were a cat 4 that finished behind all the 1/2/3s, tough... but if you were on the overall podium, you got recognized (and prize money)

Anyhow, turnout was decent with about 25 in the field, although with so many categories mixed together I wasn't sure who I was racing. At the start, some guy I didn't know rode away from the group, and then Kevin Turchin went up to join him. We were crusing along at a good pace with little effort out to bearmouth and I figured that with the headwind on the way back they wouldn't get too far ahead. Unfortunately the pace on the way back was really variable and a lot of guys woudn't go to the front. In a big field, I get that, but when no one has teammates and there are only a dozen guys it's just slow and annoying. Like just ride tempo for a minute if you're going to be there. I took some turns and wasn't too worried though as the climb out of Drummond is a big one, at about 1000 vertical feet total. I figured that was where things would split up for good and was mostly worried about not getting left behind there.

photo by Jesse Carnes

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Montana Gravel Challenge

For years, the spring race to do in the area was the Rocky Mountain Roubaix. But a few years ago the Cycling House started up the Montana Hell Ride, and then moved it from fall to the spring after a cancellation caused by wildfires. Last year they were on consecutive weekends and shared some of the same roads, so it kind of made sense to combine them into one event.

The Robaix used to start in Frenchtown, and the Hell Ride started out on Mullan near Kona Ranch rd the last two years, but Bjorn, a founder of Big Sky Brewing, is a big sponsor of cylcing in the area and offered to host it at his house in the Huson/ninemile area, where the old courses passed anyway. That meant a place to camp if you wanted and free beer all weekend (although I waited until after the event was over to have any).

Monday, May 7, 2018

Unravel the Scratchgravels XC

I seem to be getting a little behind on posts here. I have some more gravel routes to post since that seems to be all the rage these days despite the fact that it is really nothing new for us in MT. I also haven't said anything about the Montana Gravel Challenge yet. Maybe I'm tired of gravel, and would rather ride road, or mountain bikes on actual trails? Or maybe I just need a "gravel" bike.

Anyway, Scratchgravel XC is a mountain bike race out in Helena. It takes place down in the valley so it can happen earlier than most other races in the state. The downside is that you aren't really climbing up anything long or steep (or is that an upside?), and a big portion of the course is pretty smooth double track. That does make it a good start to mtb season though.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New tire day

I really should have bought some new MTB tires last year, but I never got around to it. By fall, when trails get all dry and loose, I had essentially no tread left, which did not inspire confidence and I didn't ride the bike all that much from about August until now. I also got a number of flats that needed patching on that rear tire, despite it being the EXO casing. This could be due to the new 120tpi design, which means a faster, more supple tire, but each thread is smaller and weaker. It was the 3rd or 4th ikon I had, with the previous tires being 60tpi, with a non-exo, non-tr thrown in there that had no issues.

I didn't mind the ikons, but last time around I tried an ardent race up front hoping for a little more grip. That was not really the improvement I was hoping for, I think because of the minimal transition knobs. With a high seat post XC bike and racey tires, you spend a good amount of time in that part of the tread and it's hard to get the bike fully leaned over onto the cornering knobs. For me at least. I might just suck at riding. So my plan was to try something with a little more even spacing like a continental x-king, schwalbe rocket ron, etc. My understanding is that a well defined set of edge knobs does give more outright grip when you are on them, but you have to get there first.

Eventually I decided to try the schwalbes, and wanted to go with a rocket ron up front, which has even knob spacing, and a racing ralph rear, which seems a a little lower profile down the center.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Crystal Creek

Crystal creek road goes from Turah, east of Missoula, to Deer creek. Done as a loop, less than half is on dirt, and there is minimal elevation gain, making this a great easy/beginner route or something you can do quickly after work. Usually I like to go out to Turah on pavement and then back on the dirt, but this can be done any way you want. From Turah on the south side of the interstate, cross the river, and turn right on Crystal Creek road.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Holloman Saddle

The ride over holloman saddle from Clinton to Miller creek is one of the more popular mixed-surface loops in the area. Total distance is about 55 miles with 3000 vertical feet of climbing with about 20 miles on dirt.

Holloman saddle is on what's called the miller divide, or the north end of the sapphire mountains. The sapphires extend south all the way to Chief Joseph pass and idaho and have lots of other roads and trails to explore.