Two Wheels, Endless Options

bridgers, biking

Two Wheels, Endless Options

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Often, there’s only a single thing on our minds, and that’s singletrack—tacky, flowy singletrack. Here in Bozeman, it abounds, so you’ll often see us grinning ear to ear. You can get your smile on too, by sticking to the advice below.

Essential Gear
First off, you’re going to need a bike, preferably something with suspension in the front and rear. Now, mountain bikes are expensive—high-end models go for more than you probably paid for your car. That doesn’t mean you can’t find deals—start at Second Wind and Nu2u. If you can’t find deals there, ask the bike shops (Owenhouse, Round House, and Chalet) if they have demos for sale. 

Here, let’s take a moment to backtrack. Before you buy anything, rent or demo. Most shops have decent rentals, but anything you’d want to own long-term will be included in a shop’s demo fleet. Often, brand reps will come to town and bring their whole lineup for free demos. This is a great time to block off a day and test any many models as you can. Once you know the category of bike you want—cross-country, trail, downhill, etc.—you can narrow your search.

Next, you’ll need a helmet, a pack with a hydration bladder, and other accessories, some more essential than others. One necessity is a good multi-tool. You’ll likely have mechanical failures on the trail, like a flat or busted chain, and knowing how to perform basic maintenance could be the difference between inconvenience and disaster. Extra tubes and a hand pump are a must-have, and tire levers are extremely useful.

Gloves protect your hands from abrasions when you inevitably fall, and they defend against wayward brush overhanging the trail. Biking-specific shorts are overkill, but definitely get padded liners to protect your nether regions. Sunglasses are great, too, not only for glare but also to protect your eyes from dust, dirt, and branches. If going fast downhill is your thing, knee and elbow pads could limit pain during crashes. They will not, however, limit crashes. Last but not least, pack a rain shell—and bear spray when you’re anywhere south of town.

Where to Ride
As we said earlier, Bozeman has a bounty of trails. Most are good for riding bikes, but some are excellent.

If you’re new to the sport, check out the old logging road up Bozeman Creek, also known as Sourdough. The all-dirt trail climbs almost ten miles to Mystic Lake, but you can turn around wherever you get tired, coasting effortlessly back to your car. Copper City north of Three Forks features several miles of beginner-friendly trails, and the low elevation and dry climate make this a good fall and spring destination. The Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association is hard at work adding mileage at Copper City, so the resource will continue to grow.

In town, connect GVLT’s Main Street to the Mountains trails for rides of varying lengths. Cruise the Gallagator to Peets Hill, riding south to the turn for Highland Glen. The trails at Highland Glen are condensed into a small area, but several figure eights make for fun beginner riding.

Once you’re comfortable riding singletrack, head over to the South Cottonwood trailhead. This creekside trail has gradual climbs, mellow descents, and loads of technical rocky sections to test your skills. It’s another out-and-back, so you can ride for two miles or ten, depending on your energy level and available time.

Triple Tree, on the south side of town, is another excellent ride for intermediates. It’s close to campus, so you can even ride straight from your dorm, using in-town trails along the way. Once at the trailhead, a steep climb out of the parking lot will get your blood pumping for the steady elevation gain. The highlight of Triple Tree is the fantastic valley views from the high-point bench overlooking Bozeman. In the fall, aspen and cottonwood brighten the hillsides in a blaze of yellow and orange.

Up in Hyalite, the Moser Creek area has several options, all of which feature shorter climbs than some of Hyalite’s burlier rides. While Moser’s trails are on the map, there are some confusing junctions and a lot of old logging roads crisscross the trail. Do some exploring and figure out loops that work for you.

Just south of town in the Gallatin foothills is Leverich, probably Bozeman’s most popular mountain-bike trail. On a typical summer day, the parking lot overflows with vehicles, so we suggest riding from campus. This adds about 10 miles of paved- and dirt-road riding, but the singletrack itself isn’t that long. 

While Leverich isn’t technically directional, almost everyone rides the trail clockwise, taking a left at the first junction. Almost immediately, you’ll be climbing a series of relentless switchbacks before topping out along a ridge with views into Bozeman. This is a good spot to take a break—there’s more climbing ahead. After about an hour of slogging uphill, get ready for a smile-inducing downhill full of flow, berms, and a few small drops.  

For a classic Montana experience, check out the Emerald Lake trail at the south end of Hyalite Canyon. This trail goes straight up, then comes straight down. The climb has several brutal sections, full of loose rock and steep grades. But your reward is an alpine setting rivaled by few anywhere. In summer, wildflower-dotted meadows give way to a beautiful lake basin. By early fall, snow covers the highest reaches of the surrounding rock walls. Even if you have to walk parts of this trail, the effort is well worth it.

Like many of Bozeman’s outdoor activities, the mountain-bike scene is strong and getting stronger. A few highlight events mark the mountain-bike calendar, and these you won’t want to miss.

Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays
Bike Kitchen Hours – Bozeman. One way to get a bike cheaply is to work for it. Donate hours to Bozeman’s nonprofit bike shop and your time could earn you a free

September 28
National Public Lands Day – Bozeman. Before midterms roll around, join the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association for a day of giving back to the trails. They’ll be hosting a maintenance day on public-lands trails in the area.

September 28
JP Backyard Series – Island Park. Are winter endurance races up your alley? Then check out this series down in West Yellowstone. There are several fat-bike events throughout the winter, so pick the distance that works for you.

Mystic MTB Race – Bear Canyon. If you stick around for the summer, check out this 40-mile cross-country race in Bozeman’s backyard wilderness. On an entirely singletrack course, contestants test their fitness among the evergreens of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest.

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