Heavy Pedal Tour – The trails, free shuttles and beer of Helena, Montana
"Singletrack at the end of every street"
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment of an eight-part series, documenting the travels of Galen O’Moore and Hurl Everstone, as they zig-zag through Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and Utah. They will be filming their adventure with Action Cam by Sony, and posting their adventures and the faces they meet on Instagram. Follow along: @bikemag, #heavypedaltour and #actioncam.
Written by Hurl Everstone
Quick, what’s the first thing you think of when you hear, “Helena, Montana?”
Well, sure, it’s the state capital. But did you also know that it’s the defacto singletrack capital of Montana? We were stoked to spend a few days exploring the area after our weekend in Butte, and a chance meeting with Steve Coen of the Gravity Guild Garage in Helena cemented the deal.
Galen had sasquatched the rear wheel on his Trek Remedy during the Evel Knievel Urban Downhill, and with no replacement 650b wheels available locally, Steve graciously offered first a spare wheel, then his personal Knolly Warden bike, for Galen to ride. This ultimately did not work out, but we did drive to Helena the day before the Butte 100 for a replacement, hooked up by Jim and the staff at Big Sky Cycling. With that kind of hospitality from local shops, and stories of bitchin’ trails, we had to test out the trails.
Helena is an IMBA Bronze-level ride center, with over 70 miles of trails. “Singletrack at the end of every street,” is how they like to say it, and it’s not far from the truth. There is even a free shuttle service five days a week, called the Trail Rider. It leaves from the Women’s Mural on Broadway, and serves the South Hills Trail System. The shuttle utilizes a trailer that can haul over 20 bikes. And did we mention that it is free? The Trail Rider runs two evening shuttles at 5:00 p.m. and 5:40 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and three–count ‘em–three shuttles on weekend mornings: 8:00 a.m., 8:40 a.m., and 9:20 a.m. The hot ticket is to take the first shuttle, shred down, and then catch the 9:20 for more breakfast singletrack. Are you convinced yet? We sure as hell were.
Upon our arrival, Bike Helena Community Outreach Director Pat Doyle rolled out the red carpet, stuffing us with a delicious lunch of tacos and beer across from his office on Reeder’s Alley at Karmadillos, before accompanying us to the Blackfoot River Brewing Company to make sure our growlers were properly filled.
But our mission to Helena was not merely for sustenance; we wanted to sample the singletrack. Pat loaded us up with maps and some local knowledge, and with the expert accommodation of local trail building hero Emmett Purcell and his infamous garage tenant, Timmy Wiseman, we would soon be riding. Posting up the TC Teardrop in front of Emmett’s home gave us access to internet, (work, you understand) but, more importantly, the neatly ensconced pumptrack between his house and the neighbor’s. Emmett gave a clinic on riding the smooth lines, before Timmy took over with his brakeless dirt-jumper and made us all thirsty. Good thing we had those growlers…
The next morning Emmett had more trail building to attend to with a group of local youngsters, but not before plans were hatched for an afternoon shuttle. Meanwhile, Timmy agreed to give us a personal tour of some of the sweet stash, and after fueling up at Hub Coffee, we bolted, climbing up and out to the Rodney Ridge Trail, and a fast, flowy, technical section known to locals as “Rent Money.” Seems part of the trail was built in exchange for living arrangements; talk about a cool landlord!
Back in town, Galen and I hoovered lunch at the quirky No Sweat Café, a Helena family-owned institution, who refreshingly will not tolerate cell-phone usage while in their establishment.
By late afternoon, we were ready to hop on the Trail Rider. Dropping us off on Davis Gulch Road, we climbed briefly, then sliced down Archery Range Trail and some great mini-berms and whoop-de-doos, before meeting up with Emmett and his neighbor Taylor, who then gave us the locals tour of (I think) the following: Entertainment Trail to 2006 Trail, then Eddye McClure West to Mt. Ascension Loop, and finally Easy Rider to… ? I can’t even tell you with a map because there are so many sick ribbons of loamy dirt, shale rock climbs and descents it boggles my mind. I can tell you that we finished back at Blackfoot Brewing for last call of delicious pints, followed by street tacos at Chavela’s across the street – by far the best food truck, or, more accurately, food Winnebago, we would experience on this trip.
And let me tell you just one last thing: I’m heading back to Helena just as soon as I can.
Previous Heavy Pedal Tour installments: