Lewis and Clark Caverns Mountain Biking

Julie and I headed up to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park to enjoy early season mountain biking. We took a loop from the campground up (lookers right standing in the campground), finishing at a trailhead, then followed the road to the caverns, and finished with a fast downhill back to the campground. The ride itself was only about 7 miles long, but the first 3.5 miles are a gruelling climb (don't have the numbers on elevation gain). Lewis and Clark Cavern trails have some fun technical sections, including devilishly hard switchbacks on very steep slopes with significant consequences for falling.

We had a fun ride today and look forward to many more mountain bike rides this spring/summer. It looks like cycling will take a short break, however, as our forecast for the next couple of days has high temperatures in the mid-30s (F) and rain/snow.




Monday, snow, and work

Monday. April 17. The day began with wet snow that started as hard rain last night. More snow forecast the rest of today and tonight. Off to work we go. Julie took off in the truck (errands + work), and I did what I always do -- road the Schwinn Panther.

The weekend weather was delightful. We took the mountain bikes up in the Story Hills on Saturday and took the dogs for a long hike early and road our south of town loop on the road bikes Sunday.

Off to work

Bozeman LUNA Chix have some pictures taken

On a windy, cool evening on Peet's Hill, the Team LUNA Chix Bozeman gals met up with photographer Cameron Lawson for team pictures for the season.  Cameron had an awsome digital camera and portable lighting system setup.  The team fought off the cold, passersby, and armies of dogs while Cameron did his work.  It was fun, and they all looked great as usual.  I guess this means that the cycling season in Bozeman is ready to roll, for real.

What did I do?  Well, I had the important jobs of helping to carry equipment, holding one of the lights, tossing out questionable comments, and sneaking a couple of my own pictures.  And, of course, I always feel lucky to spend time with these hot Luna Chix ambassadors.  They work full time jobs and maintain busy lives, all while finding the time and energy to lead mtb and road rides, run cycling clinics and events, encourage other women to take up cycling, raise funds for women's causes like The Breast Cancer Fund, and more.  They are a inspiration and effective local advocates for cycling.

You can learn more about Team Luna Chix by visiting their Web site here.  There is both a pro mountain biking team and the Team LUNA Chix ambassador teams.  The Bozeman team was the 3rd ambassador team created.  Now there are at least 17 teams across the country.

Team Luna Chix Montana

Bike geeks

Cycling is one of my favorite activities.  I ride for transportation, fitness, and fun.  I have a cruiser/commuter single speed bike, a mountain bike, and a road bike.  I get a big smile when riding any bike, anywhere, but favor riding the mountain bike.  My mountain bike is an access tool into the backcountry, and if you've never experienced the thrill of zipping down a single track under the power of gravity or flashing a tough technical section that would be challenging to walk through, you are missing out on something truly amazing.  Another thing I like about mountain biking is its community, ranging from hard core dudes and dudettes who ride to ride to bike geeks who enjoy the gear as much as riding, sometimes more.

Now here's an admision.  I used to loathe bike geeks.  They knew all sorts of nuanced industry knowledge and could talk for hours about the latest frames, components, and upgrades.  Good wasn't good enough; they were on a crusade for the best, or so it seemed.  I justed like to ride my bike and didn't see the point in all this information gathering and analysis, nor did my wallet support the latest greatest.  Well, as I moved my curmudgeonly self from the dark ages of hardtail mountain bikes to the promised land of full suspension bikes, I started to realize that I needed to know a lot more about my bike if I wanted to best use that bike for my needs.  Fifteen miles into the backcountry, you don't want to end up wrapped around a tree because you just assumed your bike would do it all for you out of the box.  Suspension setup is a big deal.  The same bike can behave very differently with modest changes.  That's important at high speed down a single track with rocks, roots, and trees.  Some components work better than others, much better.  Braking is a rather important mountaining biking tool, for example.  Some companies will treat you a heck of a lot better than others if something goes wrong, like your frame breaks.  And full suspension means metal parts moving against metal parts.  Regular inspection and maintenance is not optional.

As a person who embraces the Internet, I did what I usually do when I need more information.  I found Web sites of interest.  I started reading www.velonews.com.  I found www.mtbr.com (re-found, actually) and their diverse mountain biking forums.  I learned of highly recommended online retailers who specialized in helping riders get the best bikes for their needs, within their budgets (e.g., www.redstonecyclery.com or www.mtnhighcyclery.com or www.go-ride.com or www.boutiquebikes.com and so on) and companines that specialize in after market shock and fork modifcations (www.pushindustries.com) -- don't knock it.  I started to experiment with tires and learned that one tire is not a good match for all my riding.  Now I have a closet full of tires from Kenda, Maxxis, and Schwalbe that come out for different conditions and needs.  These changes impacted my home as well.  My shop now includes more bike maintenance tools, like a bike stand, a wheel truing stand, and all sorts of specialized tools, lubes, and parts.

I found one of the most interesting mountain bike frame builders (www.turnerbikes.com), a company that builds high quality bikes, emphasizing durability and refinement in design and gives great customer service.  I bought a Turner bike (my flux) and learned that owners of Turner bikes on the Turner forum of www.mtmbr.com call themselves Homers (the story can be found by searching mtbr forums).  Whatever they are called, they are a very passionate, brand loyal (some to an extreme), and knowledgable group.  Other good highly specialized mountain bike companies, in my opinion, are Santa Cruz, Intense, and Titus.  For more bang for limited budgets, I wouldn't overlook Yeti, Giant, and Ironhorse.  And guess what, my perspective on full suspension bikes has changed too, even for my predominantly XC needs.  Longer travel isn't just for the freerides types -- reminds me of fatter skis.  

So now, I guess I am a bike geek too, although more of a bike geek intern than a bike geek veteran.  I guess that's not so bad.  The only real downside to bike geeks is that they are intensively brand loyal, sometimes to a fault.  That's a trivial downside, however.  If you are a cyclist, esp. a mountain bike rider, I encourage you find your inner bike geek.  You might learn some inportant things that improve your overall experience as a cyclist.  You might even find that your perspective on what bike fits your needs doesn't match reality.  More importantly, you have a better chance that you won't be stuck in the backcountry hoping for a passing bike geek to help you out when your neglected, out-of-box setup bike takes you for a ride.

Home Sweet Home - Is it spring?

Here we are in early April, and winter is starting to loosen its grip.  Spring seems to be here.  Here in town (see our house in the picture to the left), the snow is gone.  We still get snow -- it snowed this morning -- but it quickly melts as the days warm.  Grass is just starting to green up, and our Aspens have catkins.  Some shrubs are just starting to show buds.



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