Author Topic: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR  (Read 515 times)

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Offline iab2hieY

Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« on: November 15, 2020, 08:07:30 am »
I'm planning to ride a gravel bike with 700x32c tires, with a 36x50 and 11x32 cassette within the US in July 2021 in 3 weeks' time.  I'd like to also consider the Canadian side of things; however, the current situation looks grim.  I may plan for it and make a determination around March of 2021.

That said, I was originally planning to do the GDMBR (from Kalispell -> Silverthorne -> Denver); however, I came to a stark realization that while most of the route might be okay with skinnier tires, it would be challenging to say the least.  And, it would fill my veins with adrenaline so much so that I'd probably be dead after a day.  I rode the C&O Towpath earlier this year with 700x28c and there were definitely some sections that were very rough and caused me to lose some gear (I didn't see that item was missing until I got into my tent at night) and contents of my food bag flew everywhere.  I apparently had sweat on my sunglasses and didn't see the tree roots until my burrito and mms were literally a foot in the air.  I would imagine that pales into comparison with the GDMBR which means I wouldn't stand a chance on my skinny tires.

With that gearing and loaded bike, the max gradient I would be able to easily do is 10% (with fresh legs) up a paved path.  I think Going to the Sun Road is 5%, so no problem there for me.

I do a fair amount of riding, about 5000 miles +-, all or 99% of that is road and I am fairly "desensitized" to riding on the road.  That said, I won't ride along an interstate and I generally try to avoid traffic as much as possible by riding early.  If I cannot avoid traffic by time of day, then I do seek alternates.

Having said that, I am trying to use the equipment I already have and match it with a route.  So, I am thinking about doing the Great Parks North starting in around Babb and possibly connect it with the TransAm and end up in Denver.  Actually, I think Kalispell is the closest airport.  I will ship my bike to the bike shop ahead of time, have it ready to go, then either bike up to Babb or get a ride.  I will be carrying camping gear and plan to camp most nights where I can for free, hanging my food.  I'll also have water filtration so I can manage water myself.  I am planning to carry 4L of water, possibly more if I need to cross the Great Basin.

The concerns I have would be:
1. From what I've read, MT-83 appears to be fairly busy, I understood that I should use MT-89 as it is less busy - that is quite a detour from the main route, is it much safer?
2. If I stick to the planned route for the Great Parks North / TransAM, those are entirely paved, or in other words, easily rideable with a gravel bike / 32c tires?
3. To minimize weight and unnecessary gear, I would not be bringing a bike lock.  I'm not planning to stop and hike the trails.  I don't imagine my bike being stolen in the small towns when stopping for groceries.
4. Are there any stretches of the TransAm (Missoula -> Steam Boatish area) that I might want to consider an alternate?
5. As this is remote, I am planning to carry cash as a backup to credit, but just as a backup.  That said, I'm hoping to scrap by with $100 / week (3 weeks).  Will most places take credit?
6. Were there any large sections of the GDMBR that would easily be rideable with my current setup?  From others' videos, it seems Montana would largely be the most rough, The Great Basin and Colorado look promising.
7. As I'd be mostly riding along the road, I feel that carrying bear-spray is less a necessity than if I were on a trail.


Thanks for your thoughts,

Walter

Offline jwrushman

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2020, 11:27:22 am »
"... As this is remote, I am planning to carry cash as a backup to credit, but just as a backup.  That said, I'm hoping to scrap by with $100 / week (3 weeks).  Will most places take credit?..."

I don't know about your route, but on the Northern Tier, I did fine with a small amount of cash, one credit card and an ATM card.   I carried about $100 in cash and looked for an ATM when I got down to about $30.  I think small businesses don't like credit card usage for my small purchases of Gatorade and a sandwich. 

Offline iab2hieY

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2020, 12:23:10 pm »
Thanks - yes, that is a good point.  I am hoping that I can limit my stops for small stuff to just fresh fruit and and post cards.  Thanks for the reminder, I will use cash for those small purchases because I want to keep merchants happy and friendly toward bikers.

Offline jamawani

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2020, 05:25:18 pm »
Remember, small businesses pay a percentage to the credit card companie for credit/debit purchases.
For hard-hit small businesses, the extra 2-3% means alot. Use cash when possible.

As for MT 83 vs US 89 - I strongly recommend US 89.
I have done both - most recently US 89 in 2019.

First, US 89 has stunning views of the Front Range. MT 83 is mostly in the forest.
Second, US 89 has been mostly rebuilt with shoulders. MT 83 has long shoulderless sections.
Third, US 89 has, on average, half the traffic of MT 83.

Because US 89 has the views - i.e. wide open - it can also have wind.
The best means to deal with potential headwinds is to leave super early.

Choteau has an in-town public campground and most services.
Fairfield and Dupuyer have limited services.

Offline iab2hieY

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2020, 06:22:28 pm »
I was planning on leaving before sunrise so I can be somewhat stealthy, hopefully that'll suffice.  If I need to go earlier, then I'll be missing the views :(.  Leaving early also helps to avoid traffic.  I hope to be off the road and setup for camping at least 2 hours before sunset - Perhaps that factors into which route I take.

Okay, so now, if I were to pick-up the TransAm route, where should I pick it up?  I was originally thinking I'd take the MT-83 to MT-200 to Missoula, then follow the TransAm route.  If I take MT-89, it seems like I'd be lining up to go through Helena, Butte, then Twin Bridges to pick up the TransAm there?  I don't see any official ACA routes in that area though.

The wind certainly won't be pleasant, but with wind exposure also brings the exposure to storms - I'd be completely exposed if storms were to roll in for a considerable distance.  It seems gas stations are about 40 miles apart too, so I'd be exposed for 3 hours and need to know precisely when storms were rolling in.  I guess if I ride East on the Going to the Sun Road (instead of West), I could meet up with MT-89, otherwise, I'd be right on top of MT-83 if I go west.

Is the "official" ACA Great Parks North route via MT-83?  I have some trepidation with MT-89.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2020, 06:33:00 pm by iab2hieY »

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2020, 09:22:28 am »
Okay, so now, if I were to pick-up the TransAm route, where should I pick it up?  I was originally thinking I'd take the MT-83 to MT-200 to Missoula, then follow the TransAm route.  If I take MT-89, it seems like I'd be lining up to go through Helena, Butte, then Twin Bridges to pick up the TransAm there?  I don't see any official ACA routes in that area though.

Is the "official" ACA Great Parks North route via MT-83?  I have some trepidation with MT-89.

I took the TransAm to Missoula, then the GPN on MT-83 up to Glacier.  Okay, it was about 10 years back, but there was hardly any traffic on 83.  It's possible traffic has picked up since then, but I doubt there's many more subdivisions now than there were then.  The occasional lumber truck drivers were uniformly polite and gave us a wide berth.

There's some nice views of Swan River going down 83, and the canyon on the south end of 83 was different from anything else on the TransAm.  Further south, the Bitterroot valley and mountains, the climb up to Lost Trail Pass, and the Bighole Valley and Beaverhead rock were  highlights of the TransAm for me.  Secondary to the Tetons, but still highlights you'd miss taking 89 (what you'd get instead, I'll defer to those who've ridden or drove that route).

Offline CMajernik

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2020, 10:07:12 am »
I would recommend taking a bike lock. Your bike can be stolen anywhere.
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline iab2hieY

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2020, 10:38:55 am »
Good point - I've heard mixed thoughts on that, but better safe than sorry.

Would it be accurate to say that if I'm riding along the road, that it'd be more required to carry a bike lock than if I'm remote along the GDMBR?  if there aren't people around for miles, I doubt my bike would be stolen.  The only people going through there would be fellow bikers, perhaps ATV and dirt bike traffic.  I cannot see them hauling a bike unless they have a helper.

Offline Iowagriz

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2020, 12:33:50 pm »
Probably not the advice you want, but buy a MTB Hardtail and do the GDMBR. Fly into Kalispell, get the Whitefish Bike Retreat to shuttle you to Eureka, ride south from there.  You won't regret that decision.  Traffic is a non-factor on that route, only a slight bother on the few paved sections.

I made my own bike lock for the GDMBR, 1/4" cable from hardware store, crimped with loops on each end, maybe 5' long total, small key lock.  I didn't use it when camping remotely, used it a few times in small towns.  If you can't see your bike while eating in the diner, lock it up.

Offline iab2hieY

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2020, 12:45:46 pm »
I'm open to any advice - Yes - I am trying to avoid buying another bike as I can only ride 1 at a time :).

Okay, I'll bring my lighter cable lock which would be easily cut, but should be enough of a deterrent.  So, you would prefer the GDMBR over mixing the Great Parks North with the Trans Am in terms of avoiding traffic or scenery, or both?

Offline Iowagriz

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2020, 12:55:17 pm »
While I road ride, I haven't road toured.  So, my opinion is admittedly biased...but, the GMDBR is a fantastic route. I've done the Montana sections several times, and ridden from Banff down as well.  If the border is open, start in Banff, it is amazing scenery.

There is a peaceful feeling of touring through the woods without worrying about much car traffic. You see a vehicle or person about every hour, so it still seems as if help is available, but you are just rolling along without a care in the world.  The Montana section is beautiful.  Here is a photo album of my Banff to Lincoln trip a few years back.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/22166623@N08/albums/72157682567189413

Offline iab2hieY

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2020, 01:28:41 pm »
Awesome pictures - time will tell if Canada opens and yes, I'd like to start there if possible.  If I do start that leg, I heard to start in Jasper and avoid Banff due to tourists - that is my general concern if I do the Going to the Sun Road.

True, that is one less thing to worry about.

I see you rode a bike with no front suspension and it looks like 29x2.3" tires.  Decisions, decisions ...

Offline hikerjer

Re: Route Planning Great Parks North / GDMBR
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2020, 09:58:53 pm »
Guess I'm going to disagree with jamawani, with all due respect, of course. I'm pretty familiar with the area and travel both 83 and 89 at least twice a year in my vehicle, not by bike. If it were me, I'd go with 83 for a couple of reasons.  First, 83 is very scenic with lots of campgrounds and opportunities for stealth camping. Plenty of small establishments along the way to resupply as well. More traffic maybe, but it's really not that bad.You'd probably end up taking  highway 200 for a short time  if you go with 83 and if so, you'll pass through the smal town of Ovando. There is, or at least was, a great bicycle friendly hostel/hotel/general store there that caters to cyclists. 89, while haveing sweeping views of the front range which is still pretty far away, is really up and down and can be extremely windy and I mean extremely.  But it, may be Montana at it's best or maybe, depending on conditons, it's worst (no that would in the winter). Plus, its pretty isolated in some spots. It definitely has less traffic though.  I guess it depends on what you want and what you're up for.

I'd bring at least a light cable lock. The towns may be small but it ony takes one individual to srew things up for you.  There are plenty of pickup trucks a round that a bike can be thrown into in a couple of seconds.  That will be the last you see of it.  If that happens, don't expect much help from local law enforcement.

I think your route will take you along The Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway (highway 278), south of Butte/Wise River, which is not to be missed.  Besides being a very lightly traveled and extremely scenic road, it has Elkhorn Hot Springs (Polaris) located along it with a great but rustic lodge (we're not not talking five stars here), restaurant and cabins as well as a campground. But of course, the real draw is the hot sprngs themsleves. Bo stop in for a soak.

Hope you have a great trip.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2020, 11:49:21 pm by hikerjer »