Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Bikes 2019

I have been riding bikes a lot more this year and having a blast.  I have been drawn to new gravel rides, since there are so many excellent rides within an hour drive of Missoula.  This post is intended to be an ongoing log of interesting rides, as much as for my memory as for others.  Since I am not well connected to the biking community, each new ride is like discovering a gem (or a lump of coal, depending on the quality of the ride).  It is astounding how well connected the road network is here, making for seeming endless opportunities for loop rides.  I am predictably overwhelmed with ideas for new gravel road rides, and really, really enjoying the process.  For fitness, I pretty much never do workouts on a bike, so everything was done at an easy to moderate pace.  It has been interesting, however, to be able to bike much longer in comfort, having built up endurance in a few key muscle groups through consistent miles on the bike.  For health, I have been consistent with glute strengthening for several years now, and my knee is a lot better.  It hasn't hampered my riding this summer.  It will sometimes hurt for up to a day after longer rides, but most days it is 100% solid. For partners, I get lazy in the summer and just do rides by myself.  For gear, I should probably buy an actual gravel bike and higher performance all-day-comfortable shoes.

Fall road rides:  This fall was challenging for gravel biking, with early, persistent low elevation snow.  So I did several road rides to maintain fitness for ski season.  I am sure these are all pretty standard fare for road bikers.  One observation:  It is pretty cool in my opinion to have a safe bike trail all the way to Hamilton.  A huge thanks to everyone who made that happen.  The biggest ride was a century ride, which I did in just under 7 hours.  I rode the classic(?) Frenchtown/Ninemile Ranger Station/Petty/Graves/Highway 12 loop, and extended it out to just past Florence on the Bitterroot bike path to make it 100 miles.  It was a great day, long enough to be mentally challenging, and I bonked and got super tired by the end.  Other good fall rides were: a Frenchtown, Big Flat, Blue Mountain, Miller creek to the end of the pavement, Linda Vista loop (62 miles, 4.25 hours), 1-way Bitterroot trail and Old Darby road to Darby (60 miles, 4 hours), Town classics: Sawmill trailhead, Butler creek to the end of the pavement, Grant creek to the end of the pavement (45 miles, 3 hours), and a 102-mile Bitterroot bike path ride to Hamilton that was discouragingly taxing (6 hour 40 minutes).  I had a goal to do the century ride at 15 miles per hour, but ended up having to push well above my aerobic threshold and generally fight to get it done.  Ah well, it was a nice morning effort, and I shouldn't complain.
Scenes from a fall century ride.
Petty Creek, Martin Point (South lookout) and Tank/Upper Albert Creek/Albert Lothrop loop:  I took the last fall day of perfect weather off work and went biking.  I didn't want to mess with snow and ice, so more ambitious plans were shelved for a few new rides below snow line.  In the morning, I did an out and back to Martin point, parking at the river off the Cyr exit and riding up Sawmill gulch and the road to the old lookout.  Martin Point is a nice, straightforward outing with an outstanding view, and would make a decent long run. 2.5ish hours.  The afternoon loop off of Southside road was another excellent 3ish our ride.  The larch were out in full force, blanketing the roads with golden needles, and I didn't want the day to end.
Martin Point
Larch needle cast blanketing the Albert Lothrop road.
San Rafael Swell:  We did a family trip to the San Rafael Swell.  It was a hiking trip, but we also brought bikes.  I was able to chase dark on the classic Over the top ride in Pocatello on the way down, a few pavement rides back from day hikes in the Swell, and a nice evening circumnavigation of Temple mountain from our camp.  The best parts of the trip were on foot, though.  Over the course of the week, we hiked 11 slot canyons including several very nice family hikes and an afternoon of playing in Goblins. Leah and I were able to do a big day of canyon scrambling (Up Ding, out Behind the Reef road, down Cistern, cross country to Ramp, up Ramp which was right at our technical limits, back on Behind the Reef road, down Dang), and I did a running and canyon scrambling loop in obscure canyons below Temple Mountain from camp.

Sapphires, Ambrose to Burnt Fork:  I spent the morning after a tremendous Octoberfest party exploring in the Sapphires.  I rode from Ben and Haley's front yard to the top of Ambrose creek, did a short out and back to Cinnamon Saddle, then bounced along the rocky and snowy connecting road to Sawmill saddle.  I got lost in the foothills trying to find the house, and left Leah waiting for an extra hour.  Sorry Leah.  The views from the Sapphire crest were outstanding, but otherwise the roads were rough enough, and the connecting roads in the valley were akward enough that I thought this loop was just OK.
Looking out to the Bitterroot from Cinnamon Saddle.
Tarkio to Superior and back:  Big-for-me gravel ride in my old stomping grounds.  I parked along the Frontage road near Tarkio and bounced my way toward Superior.  You kind of have to just look at map to follow, but I went up Nemote, down Deep creek to the first junction, up Eddy, down Second, up Second and down into First Creek, then up First, traversed through Lozo, then down East Johnson creek. I had a bit of extra time and took the road to Superior before whipping the bike around and returning to the car.  70 miles, 7,000 vert, 7 hours.  I think this area is an under utilized play ground for gravel bikers.  Pretty much all of the roads along the Frontage road out of Superior are smooth enough and fast for biking, stay relatively snow free in late fall and early summer, and can be made into loops.
Fall colors near Superior.
University:  I have ridden University four times this year, both with the Deer creek sneak and simply up and down the road from Pattee.  Super nice grind to the top, and can be done in about as much time as an Overlook loop in the Rattlesnake.

Blue Mountain:  I have ridden Blue mountain twice on the road, and once down the Deadman trail, and run to the summit once. I like how it is just long enough to feel like a proper outing.  I wish the upper road was in better shape, because it is too rocky for my taste on a cyclocross bike.

Clinton, Swartz, Holloman:  Rode this one on a very blustery day in early June when the lower elevation forests were bursting with green.  After battling a strong headwind to Clinton, the rest of the ride went quickly.  Also rode it with Jeffrey and Justin on an even more blustery day in late September.  Would love to know if there is a consensus name for this classic gravel loop. 4.25 hours

Ch-Paa-Qn door to door, including Edith peak road loop:  I rallied in the dark on a day with forecast heavy afternoon rain.  The ride out to Huson was serene, and with time to spare, I took my time grinding up the Edith peak road to the Ch-Paa-Qn trailhead.  Jeffrey met me there, and we ran the peak together.  He is in strong running form, tapering for his first 100 miler.  A whipping tailwind made the bike home easier than expected, and I returned home tired but not nearly as smashed as anticipated.  A simple Sixmile, Edith peak road, Ch-Paa-Qn, Edith peak road to Ninemile ranger station loop from the Huson exit in I-90 would be a very high quality 2.5 - 4 hour ride.
Nearing the Ch-Paa-Qn trailhead
Moody day on Ch-Paa-Qn
Lolo creek: East Fork Lolo, Lolo Pass, Granite ridge trail, Fish creek divide:  Good exploratory ride.  I took the wrong fork in Lost park creek (in future, take the West fork).  Also, the Granite ridge trail was just OK.  In the future, I think it would be more fun to stick to roads and come down Granite creek.
Chasing storm clouds down the Granite ridge trail.
Lolo creek: Wagon Mountain, Howard, West Fork Butte, Skookum Butte, Elk Meadows road: I had been meaning to do this Lolo creek classic for a long time.  It was every bit as good as I had hoped.  I had an extra few hours and clunked up Skookum Butte on foot.  100k, good and tired at the end of the day.
About 50 miles in, on the way out to Skookum Butte.

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