Hitchin’ to Helena


Our fortune is that we are young and able, riding bicycles through the mountains.  Peeling ourselves from Missoula’s caring grasp and an incidental free lunch at ACA, Sean and I finally pushed out of town.  Our first day was pleasant, our first night quietly spent by a river, and our first flat only a small misfortune.  Ironically, I’ve made it this far and have only used my pump twice, but Sean’s voluminous fresh rubber must have been a magnet for roadside shrapnel.




When Sean awoke with digestive disagreements the next morning, it concerned me how similar his symptoms were to my own up on the Cassiar.  It was not quite a cold or the flu, but a sort of anxious, dehydrated nausea that likes to ruin every meal.  We pushed on after a swim and some coffee, finally turning off pavement onto the Divide.  Approaching the top of our first pass, it became apparent we weren’t riding any further.  At best, we could roll back downhill and camp by a creek before deciding upon our next recuperative movements.





Early morning brought a fiery sky, but wildfire digestion was going to keep us from riding for a few days.  In time, we staggered back to the main highway and stuck out a thumb– at least in Helena they’d have orange juice and air conditioning, and chicken noodle soup.  Against Montana’s bluebird backdrop, a rich mustard mirage arrived to whisk us to Helena.  A deep waxy shine preserves the exterior, but the interior shares it’s history with rusted floorboards and old-time country chirping from dusty cones.  A 1978 Ford F-250 is living history in this land– there is no better ride in all of Montana than this yellow truck.

4035WP 2






4014WP 2


4010WP 2

From here we’re hopscotching to Bozeman to receive my fat tires and Marge Lite rim; by the end of the day I’ll be rolling on fat tires again.  WIth several days of rest, we’ll shoot back towards Helena or Butte to intersect the Divide.  A pile of maps await me in Butte, sent priority from Alaska.  Thanks Dawn!

Need use of truing stand…


My Surly Marge Lite rim and ultralight Larry tires have arrived in Bozeman, according to the recipient.  That part was easy.  Tracking down a rear 32h disc hub, of any kind, is a lot more complicated.  Bozeman has a half-dozen bike (and ski) shops, and none of them definitively have what I’m looking for.  I’d expected this hub to be easy to find, even common, as it’s the bread and butter of the mountain bike world.  One shop has two used Deore hubs with “loose axles”, which means I may or may not have a serviceable hub once the bearings are adjusted.  I’ve found a shop with a spoke cutter, so that part is solved.  Finally, I’m hoping to track down a truing stand for the finish work.  I can lace the wheel in the park while sipping a cold beverage, but I’d like to bring this thing into the world in front of a proper truing stand considering what I’ve got planned for it.  And as a small detail, the Surly 35mm axle spacer would be helpful for dialing in the dish of the wheel, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

These things are complicated while traveling, and ironically the weird snow bike with the offset frame and wheels has nothing to do with it.  The most common part, a 32h hub, is the hardest to find.  I’d hoped to spend my money locally and I’ve come across this problem before, but this is what happens sometimes when you rely on the LBS.  I don’t want to hear “we can order it”.  What’s the point of a physical shop that doesn’t stock bicycle parts?  There is a strong argument for the sale of bicycle parts on the internet to able home mechanics.

Note: All the bike shops claim to sell “wheels”, but none stock hubs.

I’ve called a lot of shops today, but from my experience this is what you do sometimes:

Need use of truing stand… – $1 (Bozeman)

Date: 2012-07-27, 6:41PM MDT
Reply to: xnkkt-3167619481@sale.craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]

I’m touring through town and am building a wheel this weekend. I’ve got everything figured out, except the use of a truing stand for the finish work on Sat or Sun. Any help is appreciated. I’m offering a donation of some kind.
The long story:
I’ve ridden from Anchorage, AK on a Surly Pugsley that was my transportation through the winter. Thus far I’ve mostly been riding paved and dirt roads and have used a medium-volume Schwalbe Big Apple tire. I’m passing through Bozeman this weekend and will be putting the big fat tires back on the bike as the rest of the summer will be on dirt roads and trails through WY, CO, UT and AZ. I’m also building a new rear wheel with a Surly Marge Lite rim, which is over a pound lighter than the current Large Marge and should add to the fun. As such, I need use of a truing stand for about an hour on Sat PM or anytime on Sunday. Anyone have a personal stand they’d be willing to share for a donation of beer or cash or fresh food? I’m aware of the Bike Kitchen, but their hours are limited. Thanks.

  • Location: Bozeman
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

I’m in Helena, MT and will check with local bike shops in the morning for a new 32h disc hub.  Between the resources of ten shops in two cities and a persistent cyclist, a wheel will be built.  Full fat, coming soon!

The live CL ad is here, and my listing for a new or lightly used 32h hub is here.

A day in the life: Up, and down


There are many joys to cycling the land; riding up and over three Continental Divide passes in a day is one of them. A bloody melange of blood, dust, and gravel; on the downslope of the third pass, is not. Aside, Helena National Forest was just another day.

On the backside of Priest Pass, less than 15 downhill miles from Helena, I was probably focused more on cold milk than on cobbled roadways. Actually, a single melon-sized cobble in the roadway was enough to unseat me from my proud, lofty perch. I had been riding shirtless most of the day– three passes and ninety degrees excuses me from decency– yet had retained my helmet (always) and clownish lime-green speckled not-Wayfarer sunglasses. I was proudly being weird amidst more traditional outdoorsmen– I figured the beard would excuse me.

Over the pass and gaining speed, I waved to a man suiting up with a bow and a handgun, on a mountain bike. Eight seconds later I was sliding along dusty, dirt track tangled with my bicycle. I quickly stood up to wave to the crowd, and to dismiss the suspicion that I was “hurt”. No one had seen it, and it did hurt. “Fffff…”, I grimaced, then went back to pretending.

I washed up with water– which makes muddy blood– and rode to town, broken.

I got some first aid fixins at the grocery store, and had a picnic pondside which included: A quick dip to start, followed by some rubbing alcohol (hurts, a lot), Neosporin, and a side of gauze and tape. I felt human again.

I met another touring cyclist on his way back to Seattle from Houston, and we both agreed that we had not seen or heard of any camping in town. I made a desperate attempt at securing a patch of grass by calling the police station; the dutiful operator informed me that there was “a city ordinance that prohibits camping within city limits”. Right, as do all cities, but I’m asking you a question…a favor. Maybe the message was prerecorded– she repeated the phrase four more times. Obviously, I had been persistant. Many other Montana towns have open arms to cyclists. Helena has ordinances, and a “No Vacancy” sign. Maybe that sign said No Vagrancy; I was seeing double.

John and I rode nine miles out of town to USFS land for a pleasant creekside camp. A local fellow on a vintage 26″ wheeled BMX cruiser showed us a secret campspot.

Upon returning to town the next morning, I headed directly to the State Park pond from the evening prior. This time, I was immediately identified as an out of state vagabond and asked for $3. I scoffed, sarcasto-politely thanked the kindly old man, and left.

The flickering “No Vagrancy” sign creaks, swinging in the dry winds of the high plains.

To clarify, the pond is man-made, and the park operates without gates. It looks like a city park, and Montanans come and go freely. But if you’re weird and homeless, it costs three dollars, or five; still seeing stars.

Helena has a nice looking downtown with a pedestrian mall, old brick buildings, and a rustic firetower on a hill. It’s probably a nice place to visit if you are a tourist, just not a cycle-tourist. The bar is now set low– Bozeman’s got it easy.

Note: I’m doing fine (hey mom); I’m a bit bloodied and bruised, but thankfully not my angelic (bearded, sun hardened) face. There’s a nice dent in my helmet. Now I can tell you to wear yours. Wear it: there are stupider looking hats.

I am to blame for falling, but I had been cursing my undersized 1.75″ (47mm) replacement tire all day. The CST Selecta is notably smaller than the Schwalbe Marathon tire by the same nominal description. Misrepresenting tire size should be criminal. A proper tire will be fitted in Bozeman.