Bicycle Riding in Montana

Going-to-the-Sun Road; the scenery, the legend. And Glacier Park. This trip offers so much to the avid cyclist. We took a day off at Lake McDonald in Glacier. Some kayaked, some hiked or lounged at the Lodge or why not? Cycle Going-to-the-Sun Road twice! The Glacier-Fernie Loop is one to remembered and perhaps repeated …..often

Our tour was led by Rick Gallo. David Batten drove sag and Bob Hargrave provided GPS maps. The support team was superb. Our group numbered twenty. Most every evening (except rest days) we gathered for a social hour followed by a brief on tomorrow’s route.

The tour began in Missoula, Montana. Like many of the hotels on Glacier-Fernie, the Grant Creek Best Western Plus in Missoula offered a pool and sauna.

Missoula is home to the Adventure Cycling Club and their Tour Director and wife (friends of Rick) agreed to a cater a home barbecue on day one – with guest speakers June and Greg Siple (co-founders of Bike Centennial now Adventure Cycling). The next day Greg led us on a tour of the Adventure Cycling office.  As founder and for many years, the chief photographer, Greg gave us the inside scoop on the many trophy bikes mounted on the walls as well as how the Adventure Cycling Association came into being.

Our first day, the road to Ronan was a short and easy shakedown ride. These first couple of days and the last couple of days featured easy grades with beautiful mountains in the near distance.  Along the way, stops at the 1,000 Buddhas, the Jesuit Mission Church at St Ignatius and the Windmill Bakery gave us a chance to pace ourselves and stretch. Huckleberries were a prominent item on the menu everywhere; at coffee, snacks and dinner. How can a wild harvested berry be so abundant?

Our first hotel, the Starlite Motel in Ronan was clean, comfortable and no-frills. Our rooms were ready early, and even in this small town there was a choice of dinner spots. Like a few of the hotels on the tour, the Starlite did not offer a breakfast but they did have in-room coffee, mini-fridges with supermarkets nearby for the frugal. The breakfast portions at the Ronan Bakery and Cafe were ample, tasty and filled with country charm.

 

We often started early, sometimes at 7:00 because the temperature could soar into the high 90s by early afternoon. Although this meant arriving at the nights lodging before rooms were available, finding things to do was easy. In Big Fork, the outdoor swimming pool was most refreshing. This trip is as much about visiting the town(s), sharing adventure stories with others and of course bike upkeep. Rick provides oil, shop rags and other such maintenance items as well as advice and even assistance with repairs as needed.

I mounted 28cm tires on my rims which served me well on the Big Fork bike trail and the occasional gravelly shoulder on the highways, though other cyclists in our group had no problem with 23cm tires.

Montana proudly claims Flathead Lake to be the largest body of freshwater in the States west of the Mississippi and riding along its shore was one of the many pleasures of this trip.

We spent the fourth of July in Kalispell where we enjoyed a concert by a “One More Time Around” Marching band with their repertoire of Sousa, Cohan and Lee Greenwood. The ice cream portions at the concert were dished out free in two flavors; Huckleberry and Cherry, Our lodging, the Historic Grand Hotel in Kalispell will make you yearn for yesteryear. The next three days were all about Glacier; climbing into those mountains that in the days before looked so picturesque on the horizon. The climb up Going-to-the-Sun Road was followed the next day by a climb past Chief Mountain and a gorgeous descent past the buffalo reserve and on into Waterton Provincial Park. The ride into Pincher Creek was short-spurring some of us to climb up to Lake Cameron.

We took another rest day in Fernie, where I enjoyed a Tandoori Kabab at the Himalayan Spice Bistro (recommended) as well as a climb up Mt Fernie. Others tried mountain biking and again, the pool was a welcome afternoon pause.

The trip back to Missoula along the western shore of Flathead Lake featured many quiet side roads along the lakeshore, an easy cruise allowing time to reminisce over the incredible time we all had in the Mountains of Montana and Alberta.

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