Home-Trail Advantage

This spring, ride in town. 

Come spring, dry trails are more valuable to local mountain bikers than all the Treasure State’s oro y plata combined. We champ at bit for tacky dirt on which to ride, but the reality is, mountain trails aren’t really ready until June.

So, we’re stuck road-tripping to Moab or day-tripping to Helena. For those of us who prefer closer-to-home options, there is an answer: ride in town.

By mid-April, on most years, the snow in town has melted—save the annual foot-plus dump that brings the skis back out of the closet in the middle of May. But that melts fast and the trails dry quickly.

Now, there aren’t tons of in-town options, but what does that matter? You’re back on your bike and back on dirt. Start slow, using the Gallagator to get to work or spinning laps at the East Gallatin Rec Area before (or after) a few pints at Map. Work your way up to some climbs at Story Hills and a lunch-lap or three at Highland Glen.

As spring drags on, more trails will dry out. Soon, you’ll be linking the Gallagator to Tuckerman Park and Triple Tree. With more daylight comes longer rides, and before you know it, Leverich is dry. Now you can beeline south of town, bust your way up the relentless switchbacks after work, and be home in time for dinner.

It’s on these early-spring rides that you reconnect with the rhythms of the ride—the monotonous climbs, the awkward transitions, the jerky descents. The more you grind away as the season wears on, the more comfortable you become. Brakes become less important; shifting is more intuitive; and your cornering is dialed.

You didn’t need to drive to Helena, although I wouldn’t fault you for doing so. Moab can wait until next spring, unless there’s room in your truck for me…

Spring brings false hope to mountain bikers, because it seems that the mountains should be open again for business. But we must restrain ourselves. Resist the sloppy-slush ride up Sypes in late April—it’s bad for your bike, bad for the trail, and bad for community relations.

One day soon, it will be light until 9pm and every trail within an hour’s drive of town will be dry. You’ll load up the rig after work and make the trailhead by 5:30pm. You’ll lap the Truman downhill or connect drainages in Hyalite; you’ll watch the sun set from History Rock or spend all day shuttling big backcountry rides—the few we have left.

Until then, keep it close.