May 21 is Bike to Work day in the United States, but for more and more Americans, a two-wheeled commute is a year-round proposition. According to the League of American Bicyclists and the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people who bike to work rose 43% between 2000 and 2008. In Montana, the increase was 51%, placing it third in the country (Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico, and Colorado were the other four).
This extra mileage is one reason the beloved town bike has come a long way from the $20 beach cruiser that’s been passed down from roommate to roommate. Not to bash the affordability and the obvious karma of recycling old bikes, but this summer’s wave of savvy, human-powered two-wheelers are versatile enough for in-town pavement or GVLT’s Main Street to Mountains connector trails. And, as one 20-something bike shop employee explained, “These bikes are SEXY.”
Sport Utility Bikes: Kona Ute, Surly Big Dummy
These bikes are basically two-wheeled pickup trucks, big enough to haul tools for gardeners, carpenters, or electricians. But these aren't just working bikes. There’s a story of a guy who rode his Big Dummy on one of the area’s burliest trails, pulling out a foot-long sub sandwich, a bottle of pop, and a giant bag of Skittles while his buddies slurped GU and rationed water from their CamelBaks. Even if these bikes never make it into the backcountry, their cargo-hauling ability will make you rethink the ’88 Subaru that keeps draining your wallet.
Café & Town Bikes by Globe
An offshoot of the Specialized brand, Globe bikes feature European-coffeehouse looks and commuter-lifestyle sensibility. Couple this with iron-skillet functionality and laid-back frame geometry, and what you have is comfort and style in spades. Globe bikes range from multigeared mixtie frames to no-maintenance, single-speed coasters. Most offer racks for rear panniers or large Porteur racks big enough to hold a box of veggies from the farmers market or a case of beer. Check out the Live and Haul models.
Fixed-Gear Bikes: Masi Speciale, Jamis Sputnik, Globe Roll
Fixed? Fix what? Well, you fix the rear wheel, specifically. Favored by chronically hip bike messengers in big cities, “fixies” don’t have a freewheel on the rear hub. Basically, if the wheels are turning, so are the pedals. Arguably this is the purest form of cycling because on a fixed-gear bike you pedal fast to go fast and pedal slower to go slower. Sounds easy, right? It also requires a bit of getting used to and it's great training to hammer a fixed-gear bike up Bridger Canyon. One caveat: to haul groceries or beer, you'll need a giant shoulder bag. Tight black jeans and Chuck Taylors are optional.
All of these bikes are available at Summit Bike & Ski, Chalet Sports, and Bangtail Bike & Ski. To see the data about bike commuting (and to ponder Alabama), visit bikeleague.org/resources/reports/pdfs/acs_commuting_trends.pdf