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Old 05-30-12, 08:24 AM   #1
jlstrat
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Riding in Montana

I'll be in Montana, near Billings, in early August. I'd like to ride out there, so I wondered if anyone could point my way to some good sources for info. I live in Central PA so I do some climbing, but any training advice would also be much appreciated.
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Old 05-30-12, 09:01 AM   #2
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I grew up in Montana about 50 mi north of Billings. I used to ride on the highways as a youth. I have never ridden a bicycle over Beartooth Pass, but I think it would be awesome and not too far from Billings. BillyDonn rode further west in MT last Summer and could give you great information if you wanted to go a little further away from Billings.
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Old 05-30-12, 09:03 AM   #3
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I forgot to mention the airport hill in Billings looks like fun on a bicycle. You could scream down that road, and get a lot of satisfaction for climbing it.
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Old 05-30-12, 10:34 AM   #4
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i live in western PA now, but from 1974-77 i lived in Billings. a great scenic ride is Billings to Red Lodge (70 miles on hiway 212). u can try and ride to the top of Beartooth Pass at the end of that ride, but only if you have an ambulance following you. stay overnight in historic Red Lodge, then bike to Absarokee on hiway 78, then 421 east, then 212 back to Billings (80 miles approximately). The guy in Billings who knows more than anyone else is Jim, the owner (since 1974) of the Spoke Shop. He sold me the Peugeot i rode on Bikecentennial). he can put you in touch with the local bike club and tell you good places to ride: www.spokeshop.com and 406-656-8342. wish i was joining you. have fun !!
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Old 05-30-12, 10:49 AM   #5
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Having ridden in both MT and PA...

One thing to keep in mind: there is *nothing* for long, long stretches in Montana. That is, it's not like riding in the east where you can expect to find a town with a convenience store every couple miles . You can easily go sixty, seventy miles between "towns" in Montana that are nothing more than crossroads. (The MT tours I did were supported, with rest stops, etc).

Riding over Beartooth Pass is a "must do". I did it from the Red Lodge side. The climb is endless, but it is possibly the most beautiful road in the country. As said above -- once you leave Red Lodge, there is *nothing* for sixty-some miles, and it will be cold at the top. i.e., go prepared.
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Old 05-30-12, 09:53 PM   #6
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Having ridden in both MT and PA...

One thing to keep in mind: there is *nothing* for long, long stretches in Montana. That is, it's not like riding in the east where you can expect to find a town with a convenience store every couple miles . You can easily go sixty, seventy miles between "towns" in Montana that are nothing more than crossroads. (The MT tours I did were supported, with rest stops, etc).

Riding over Beartooth Pass is a "must do". I did it from the Red Lodge side. The climb is endless, but it is possibly the most beautiful road in the country. As said above -- once you leave Red Lodge, there is *nothing* for sixty-some miles, and it will be cold at the top. i.e., go prepared.
For eastern MT it is true that there are some very long distances between towns with a lot of exposure to the elements. But that isn't so true out west where I've done most of my rides. I've driven the Beartooth and the above descriptions are correct... it is not a ride for the unsupported or the faint of heart to go up the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge.

It really depends on what the OP wants. I'm sure there are some nice local rides in the Billings area in the 25-50 mile range. Bozeman or Mizzoula, I could be more specific. Perhaps you could contact Adventure Cycling, headquartered in Mizzoula, for suggestions in the Billings area. I know that the Yellowstone River goes through Billings, and west of there the River parallels I-90. There is a low traffic local road that goes alongside I-90 more or less by the River, that is relatively flat with some interesting historical markers. It runs roughly east-west and if you turn north or south you will soon hit hills if that is your taste.

I would also Google to see if there are local Billings clubs that have rides posted online. I'll bet there are.

IMO, it is a real shame to be in Billings, Montana and not take a day or two to go down to Yellowstone. Drive your car and take your bike, and come back to Billings through Bozeman. (Nothing really wrong with Billings, but it's on the verge of being spectacular... but not fully there. So near and yet so far....)

Here's a link to my Montana story from last summer:
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-Cycle-Montana

Last edited by billydonn; 05-30-12 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 05-31-12, 06:40 PM   #7
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Beware the wind if you ride in the vicinity of Livingston.
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Old 06-01-12, 04:27 AM   #8
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Thanks for the helpful responses. We will also be in Big Sky. Any suggestions there?
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Old 06-01-12, 06:23 AM   #9
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I have driven the highways in the area and you will find it to be quite scenic. I haven't experienced the roads on a bicycle, however.
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Old 06-01-12, 01:55 PM   #10
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I live in Billings, and commute to work. I'm not a road cyclist or much interested in "working out" or climbing more hills than I need to, so I'm not the expert on those kinds of things.

That said, Billings has pretty dramatically increased its bike-friendlieness over the last few years. There is a good network of bike lanes and seperated bike (multi-use) paths. The paths are a lot of fun. Some nice rolling hills, but nothing extremely taxing. BikeNet.org has maps of the bike paths of bike lanes. One path runs north and south on the west end of town (starting near my house actually). There are a few breaks in the path that put you back on the street or crossing streets, but it's a decent several miles of fun biking. In the area south of downtown and running to what we call The Heights, there is another path that runs along the Yellowstone River. It has more hills than the west end path, and is much more scenic. You can take an off-path detour into Two Moon Park if you want to ride on dirt. The only down side to that path is it also runs behind the water treatment facility, so hope your upwind as you pass.

Non-path-wise: as mentioned above, the ride up to the airport is a good workout. The airport is about 500 feet above the city. Locals refer to it as being "on The Rims" which is the sandstone cliff that borders the north side of Billings. There are 3 roads up to The Rims: From Main street, you can take Airport Road, which is a long straight stretch. From downtown, you can take North 27th Street, which is a shorter stretch, but probably steeper. The steepest, windingest, most scenic, and most dangerous route is up Zimmerman Trail on the west end. It's a beautiful road, but it's 2-lane, with generally a good amount of cars and trucks, so be very careful. The speed limit is slow, (15mph recommended on the curves) but some crazy people drive up and down it like their arses are on fire.

Zimmerman Trail ends up at Highway 3, a few miles from the airport, which will be to your east (right). You can bike along the highway to the airport. Once you get past the Sky Ranch housing development, there is a long stretch parallel to Highway 3. You can work your way off of the highway level and find some walking/bike paths (unpaved, just compacted dirt) that run along The Rims. There are also paves walking/biking paths that start near the airport (where 27th street meets Highway 3) and continue east. You can ride through areas knows as Swords Park and Black Otter Trail, and end up near Main Street in The Heights. (There's a boothill cemetery there, which is kind of interesting. Watch out for snakes. And if you survive, you'll see an Applebee's right in front of you. You're probably hungey and thirsty by now, so stop in!

If you turn left at the top of Zimmerman Trail, you'll come to Zimmerman Park on your left in about a quarter mile. There's a gravel parking lot, and if you go through there you'll see an unimproved park that has unpaved hiking trails that are popular with mountain bikes. It's a beautiful park, with lots of great views, especially near sundown, but also lots of places to fall off, so watch where you're going!

If you want a long-haul ride, you can certainly take Highway 3 as far as you want to the west, but as others have said, you have to be self-sufficient. The next town is 30 miles (Broadview), and the local tavern is your only bet for something to drink, IF they are open when you get there. Lavina is another 15 miles past that, again with precious few options for refreshments, if any. Your best bet is probably to hope there is neighborhood bake sale going on.

Also, to state the obvious: Montana in August is HOT HOT HOT and DRY DRY DRY!

Enjoy your visit to Montana. Let me know if you have any questions!
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Old 06-01-12, 05:22 PM   #11
Phil85207
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Near Yellowstone area is a great place to ride.
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Old 06-04-12, 06:20 AM   #12
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Thanks for all the great info. I'll have to get back to everyone when I get there.

On a completely different topic, I went riding in Lancaster Country PA on Saturday and had 4 flats!
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Old 06-04-12, 06:58 AM   #13
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Thanks for all the great info. I'll have to get back to everyone when I get there.

On a completely different topic, I went riding in Lancaster Country PA on Saturday and had 4 flats!
Colorado has goatheads, Lancaster County has horse shoe nails.
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