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Highway Cycling in MT?

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Highway Cycling in MT?

Old 09-13-20, 11:59 AM
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cwoodruff
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Highway Cycling in MT?

I am planning a cross-country trip, and found this great cycling map for Montana (the site won't let me post a URL, so I'll have to chop it up, apologies):
https
://
www.
visitmt
.com
/binaries/content/assets/mtot/pdfs/
bicycle-touring/bike_map.pdf

This map seems to imply that you can bike along all the interstates. Is that true? I would hope to not do this often, but there are a few sections where being able to jump on I-90 for a short distance would open up some options for me.

Also, any other recommendations about MT generally? I'll be coming in from Lolo Pass, and heading out toward Rapid City (in order to see Mt Rushmore).
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Old 09-14-20, 11:06 AM
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Out west, you can ride the interstate if it's the only feasible way to get across that specific stretch.
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Old 09-14-20, 11:12 AM
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I believe that the short answer is yes, it is legal to ride a bicycle on the Interstate Highways in Montana. I have never ridden there, but I have driven across Montana many times. I have a Jaguar diesel touring car. It can easily cruise at the 80 MPH speed limit, or maybe at a safe speed which I believe will not result in me getting pulled over. I get passed by a lot of people going much faster than I care to drive, like well over 100 MPH. That said, the shoulders are wide and the road is mostly straight in the area you are planning on riding through.

Some of the smaller roads are posted at high speeds, like 70 MPH +. Traffic will be light. Services are few and far between. Your cell phone may not have service. This is also true on the Interstate. If you are carrying food and camping you should take animal precautions and find a tree to suspend your pack. Unless you are prepared to ride on gravel roads, do not trust the Google Maps bicycle routes.

Depending on your route you may be going across one or more Indian Nations. Respect their sovereignty. If I were going to be camping rough on tribal lands I would contact the Tribal Government and ask before I started my trip. You might get some great places to stop.

The weather can change in a heartbeat this time of year, so I hope you are planning this trip for next year. Nights can be quite a bit colder than days. I have driven through there in March and had to drive through heavy snow and near zero F temperatures. So much for the negative.

The scenery is beautiful. In the west you will ride through some beautiful mountains, and in the middle to eastern part of the state you will cross the plains. Some of the views are breath taking. If I were making that trip I would avoid the interstates and go through Helena, mostly because I have seen the scenery along the Interstate many times.
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Old 09-14-20, 04:01 PM
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When I did the Adventure Cycling Trans-am route many moons ago (1993) I remember riding on the Interstate in Montana or Wyoming for a short spell. It wasn't too bad--just be careful by on and off ramps!
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Old 09-14-20, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by DangerousDanR View Post
The weather can change in a heartbeat this time of year, so I hope you are planning this trip for next year. Nights can be quite a bit colder than days. I have driven through there in March and had to drive through heavy snow and near zero F temperatures. So much for the negative.

The scenery is beautiful. In the west you will ride through some beautiful mountains, and in the middle to eastern part of the state you will cross the plains. Some of the views are breath taking. If I were making that trip I would avoid the interstates and go through Helena, mostly because I have seen the scenery along the Interstate many times.
All of this. My sister lives in Montana, so I've gone camping there in spring, summer and fall .... and I just can't stress enough the fact that the weather can change from utterly lovely to kill-you-fast in a matter of hours. Last week her town went from 101 degrees to blowing snow in half a day. In early September.

Please be careful on the roads, and have a wonderful trip. It's The Last Best Place, and there's a reason they call it that.

=K
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Old 09-14-20, 06:35 PM
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You can also try to see if it comes up with other alternative routes.
Cycle travel

Sometimes on RidewithGPS you can find a long route someone else made, and use Google earth to see what the road conditions and shoulders look like. My take is if Google didn’t go down the road, you might not want to either.
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Old 09-14-20, 06:37 PM
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Iíve done several tours in MT over the last 11 years and was planning to go again this year until events made that impossible. Yes. Every inch of interstate is open to bikes, even if there are alternative roads.

Iím on tour right now across PA. If I have time when I return Iíll see if I have any ideas. If youíll be coming over Lolo I would definitely pay Missoula a visit. Itís a fun town, especially on Saturdays in the late spring/summer. Makes a good place for a rest day. The KOA is not far from where U.S. 12 meets U.S. 93. The KOA is right around the corner from REI if you need supplies.
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Old 09-14-20, 08:16 PM
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When are you going? 'cause in Montana, winter could be right around the corner.
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Old 09-15-20, 06:44 PM
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Iíve found that cell service is quite good near interstate highways. Iím going to assume that because cell towers have been installed so people can call for help in emergencies. Iíve been able to text photos from place I would have never thought I could because I was close enough to the interstate. I was on the Olympian Trail paralleling I-90 heading to towards Lookout Pass and could even check Google Maps.
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Old 09-15-20, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by DangerousDanR View Post
I believe that the short answer is yes, it is legal to ride a bicycle on the Interstate Highways in Montana. I have never ridden there, but I have driven across Montana many times. I have a Jaguar diesel touring car. It can easily cruise at the 80 MPH speed limit, or maybe at a safe speed which I believe will not result in me getting pulled over. I get passed by a lot of people going much faster than I care to drive, like well over 100 MPH. That said, the shoulders are wide and the road is mostly straight in the area you are planning on riding through.

Some of the smaller roads are posted at high speeds, like 70 MPH +. Traffic will be light. Services are few and far between. Your cell phone may not have service. This is also true on the Interstate. If you are carrying food and camping you should take animal precautions and find a tree to suspend your pack. Unless you are prepared to ride on gravel roads, do not trust the Google Maps bicycle routes.

Depending on your route you may be going across one or more Indian Nations. Respect their sovereignty. If I were going to be camping rough on tribal lands I would contact the Tribal Government and ask before I started my trip. You might get some great places to stop.

The weather can change in a heartbeat this time of year, so I hope you are planning this trip for next year. Nights can be quite a bit colder than days. I have driven through there in March and had to drive through heavy snow and near zero F temperatures. So much for the negative.

The scenery is beautiful. In the west you will ride through some beautiful mountains, and in the middle to eastern part of the state you will cross the plains. Some of the views are breath taking. If I were making that trip I would avoid the interstates and go through Helena, mostly because I have seen the scenery along the Interstate many times.
​​​​​​Good advice all around.

I'd go with the PCT method for bear bagging, because of the minimal gear requirements. Or just use an ursack.



This works more smoothly with a biner.
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Old 09-17-20, 07:43 AM
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Defer to others on the legality, but would put in a strong caution from a practical standpoint. I'd do a lot to avoid interstates generally and in Montana - fast traffic . . . really fast; trucks . . . lots of them; debris on the shoulder . . . rubber bits, tire shards, gravel, etc.. I think it would be really stressful riding.

That said, and you've probably researched this, a lot of stretches have a "frontage road" which is basically for local traffic. To the extent those can get you there I'd use those - I'd like to think that from Lolo Pass to Rushmore only I-90 comes into play and there may be ways around it.
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Old 09-26-20, 10:45 AM
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Thanks for all the replies and advice. First off, yes, this trip is for next year! I'm slightly crazy, but not crazy enough to attempt this kind of a trip at the current time of year.

My wife is running the Jackson Hole marathon today, and we drove here from western Washington, taking I-90 into Montana then down I-15. I see what everyone's talking about with regard to traffic, speed, and debris. Also, it felt like the wind (~30 mph allllllll the way through the plains on down to the Tetons) was going to pick up my soft-top Wrangler and throw it. I was pedal to the metal at 75 mph and couldn't keep up speed in 5th gear.

Anyway, I am only looking at joining I-90 for a relatively short stint between Missoula and Drummond. The problem is that I have a free place to stay in Phillipsburg, but it would add a full day to get there going south out of Lolo, therefore defeating the purpose of the stay (and probably meaning I'd miss Missoula entirely). I do see that there is a frontage road north of the interstate after about 2/3rds of the relevant distance. I'll keep doing some research on that front.

indyfabz yes, any specific routes you took and would recommend would be greatly appreciated.

For anyone interested, I am plotting all this on Ride with GPS, and all the brainstorming is public. Here is day 1 (apologies again for the URL; haven't been here long enough for them to trust me yet!):
https
://
ridewithgps
.com/
routes/32836090
(Yes, I'm purposefully going out of my way to see Lake Crescent. Done that ride before, and it's too good to pass up. I don't know what's along the north coast at that point, but I do know that the road out of Neah Bay is rough, winding, and totally lacking shoulder, so I'd rather get off it if I can.)
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