Team WinCo Paceline

Bike MS Fundraising Progress

Friday, June 13, 2014

Biking in Red Lodge, MT - Beartooth Summit!

I finally got in a full weekend of significant riding on June 7th and 8th. I met my good friends and Bike MS supporters Jan van Dijk and Evelien Rodrigus in Red Lodge, MT for two days of cycling. We covered over 80 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing in those two days. (And three breweries!) Details and photos after the jump...

Ride One - Beartooth Summit

The main goal of the weekend, and the ride that we traveled to Red Lodge for - was the Beartooth Summit, the high point on the Beartooth Highway between Billings, MT and Yellowstone National Park. I haven't done many rides prettier than this one. It was a hard, long climb, but I got it done - which give me some confidence about covering the 150 miles at Bike MS in a couple of weeks. My GPS log of the ride can be found here:

We started the ride in Red Lodge, about 32 miles from the summit. As you can see from the elevation profile below, it is all climbing on the way up - no rolling hills, no relief. Thankfully the grade is not too steep, it was just a long grinder.

Beartooth Summit Elevation Profile
The ride was very gentle in the first 10 miles or so, nice green hills, Rock Creek, and the edge of the Custer National Forest. Here's Jan at a particularly nice stretch of road before we entered the mountains.

Jan in the Foothills
Once we really got into the mountains, at about 15 miles, we started to see all the familiar elements of a Rocky Mountain (or Alps) road bike ride. Sharp switchbacks, snow-covered mountains, dropping temperatures and bursts of wind.

Rex at about 8,500 ft
At around the 26 mile mark, we entered the state of Wyoming. And the wind and lowering temps were really starting to kick in. I rarely wear a jacket when I'm climbing since my body generates so much heat and I hate to get wet and sweaty. But I did stop and put my jacket on this time. And, as you can see, there is still quite a bit of snow up here.

Leaving Montana
At this point, I am feeling the effects of the climbing on my legs, and the elevation on my lungs. I'm not in good climbing shape yet - I was probably more physically tired at this point than on any ride since mid-2012. But, the beautiful views kept my mind off of my sore legs. At about 10,000 feet, the views of the Beartooth and Absaroka mountain ranges were breathtaking.

View at 10,000 feet
We hit a number of great sites during the 4-5 miles and 800 feet of climbing - including a running ski lift and about 100 snowboarders. But I was too tired at that point to stop and take a proper picture. After a false summit near mile 30, we pushed on to the real summit at mile 32.5 at 10,800 ft. We stopped here for a rest and got some nice pictures.

The Obligatory "Bike in Snow" Picture

And here's Jan and I at the summit. We happened to be wearing matching bike jerseys from Boneyard Beer in Bend, OR - which looks pretty funny in this picture. On facebook, Jan's friend called us the "Pirates of the Beartooth". I like it!

Pirates of the Beartooth!
We didn't stop for pictures on the way down. It gets pretty darned cold at 10,000 feet when you're barreling down a mountain at 30 to 40 miles per hour. For the first 1/3 of the descent I had to constantly work my fingers around to keep them from going numb. It warmed up quickly, though, and soon enough we were back at the house for a shower, nap, and drive to Billings to return Jan's rental bike.

Ride Two - Upper Luther Road

Sunday was definitely a recovery ride for me. I think Jan would have had no problem pulling off another tough ride, but I didn't have the legs for it. We ended up riding a 21 mile out-and-back on Highway 78 north out of Red Lodge towards Columbus, MT, turning around after a short segue on Upper Luther Road. This was also a very pretty ride - rolling green farmland nestled against the mountains. The GPS log of the ride can be viewed here:

Rolling Green Hills on Hwy 78
Not much else to say about this ride, except my legs held up well and I got to ride Rick's '87 Schwinn SuperSport for the second time this year. That bike is still fun to ride.
The Pink Bike!
It looks like Upper Luther Road would have been a great ride - continued rolling hills in lush green farmland with little to no traffic. But, I thought it best if I turn around while my legs still felt okay as we had plenty of hills to climb on the way back.

All in all, it was a great weekend of cycling, contributing most of the 100+ miles I put in last week. I have more work to do, but I think I'll be okay for the MS Ride later this month...


  1. Hey Rex, it was great to ride to some mountain top with you again.

    Good luck on the MS Ride!


  2. Thanks man! Next up...Mont Ventoux!