Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT KIND OF BIKE SHOULD I BE RIDING?
We highly recommend that you use a gravel bike for this event as a way to challenge yourself. Although the term "gravel bike" is becoming more and more fluid as companies continue to innovate and designs get whackier and whackier, we are simply referring to a drop-bar style bike that can accommodate wide tires. Many companies now have gravel-specific models in their line-ups that are clearly demarcated as such, but we have known many people who have ridden through the rockiest of montana roads on 'cross bikes with beefier tires and have been totally fine. If you lean more towards the flat-bar persuasion, you can also attack our courses with a mountain bike if you think that would make you more comfortable and confident! We will discourage anyone from using a traditional road bike, as those are typically a little too stiff and aggressive, and don't offer a wide enough tire clearance to ensure comfort and safety on some of the rowdier sections.
SUGGESTIONS ON TIRES? What Width? What Tread? Tubeless?!?
So we mentioned "Wide tires" in the previous question a lot, but what exactly does that mean? The average Gravel set-up these days touts a variety of different tire widths, typically ranging between 38mm wide all the way up to 2.25 inches wide, and everything in between. We recommend 34mm tires as the absolute narrowest option you would use, but would suggest going wider than that if your bike can accommodate it. We have have had friends ride the courses on 34mm tires, but they found that they were at their uppermost limit in terms of comfort and traction with that selection. If your bike can fit 38mm tires, we recommend starting there and going up to find the maximum width of tire your bike can allow, and use those.
Tread design should be tailored to looser roads with chunkier gravel. We have typically found that tires with a smoother center patch and aggressively treaded shoulders work well, as they move quickly in a straight line, but provide ample grip in thicker and deeper sectors of gravel too. Make sure that you choose tires that have stronger sidewalls, which means straying away from thin cotton casings, or any kind of tire that bills itself as lightweight. Although these typically have less rolling resistance, and are therefore technically quicker, this really only applies to ideal and consistent pavement conditions. In this case, you're going to want to ensure that you have a safe and fun time by minimizing mechanicals, which means installing tires that can take a beating. After all, you can be going fast as ever, but what'll really end up slowing you down is having to change a flat!
Speaking of mechanicals, we believe one of the best ways to prevent the most common type (i.e. getting a flat) is by using tubeless tires. while there is plenty of debate surrounding the burgeoning market of tubeless tires for traditional road bikes, we have found a lot of success with them in their gravel Application. There will be some chunkier rocks on sections of our course that will provide an exciting and bumpy ride, so you'll want to make sure that when you and your steed are galloping downhill that you don't accidentally pinch-flat. You never know if there is a sharp stick or a bur needle that could puncture your tire, but with properly installed tubeless tires, This will become a much less present risk.
SUGGESTIONS ON GEARING?
*For clarity, when we refer to a "bigger" Gear, we mean a gear that is harder to pedal (I.e. it has more gear inches), and when we refer to a "smaller" gear, we mean a gear that is easier to pedal (I.e. it has fewer gear inches).
This is a trickier question. people have preferences as to how they like to pedal. Some like to grind while others subscribe to the "spin-to-win" school of thought. There are also variances in riders' abilities, which might dictate what kind of gearing they prefer. An easy gear for one person may be too big of a gear for another, and therefore the latter person would need to adjust accordingly by either getting a smaller front chainring or a cassette with a larger cog option.
We are of the belief that regardless of the gearing you run, when you are going up a hill, you can pretty much make it as hard to pedal as is physically possible if you shift down enough, but you can't really make it any easier to pedal once you reach the biggest cog in your cassette. With this in mind, you'll want to err on the side of choosing a cassette-Chainring combo with a range that offers you a very small gear for the steeper sections of our course. If you are looking for a number as a frame of reference, you will probably want to look at gear ratios of 1:1 or smaller if you want to have a little more ability to spin. that means having a front chainring that is as big as your largest cog, or a front chainring that is smaller than your largest cog.
check out this link to compare gear sizes to help you figure out what will work for you!
WHAT KIND OF WEATHER SHOULD I EXPECT IN MONTANA IN AUGUST?
Get ready for a very unhelpful answer, but you should prepare for everything! Typical summer weather in the flathead valley sees sunny days with afternoon temperatures in the 70s to 80s, but those temperatures can dip pretty dramatically when the sun goes down (as low as in the 50s). In august, it is usually dry with little rain showers, but strong thunderstorms are not uncommon here and there, so we recommend that you be prepared for the chance of rain! The roads will most likely be much dryer here, so be prepared for some dust.
WHAT KIND OF TERRAIN SHOULD I EXPECT?
Our prospective courses feature a variety of gravel types including the following:
hard-pack gravel road with those weird potholes everywhere. You know the kind.
Beaten double-track with Grassy sections that have the occasional root cluster. These sections are hard-Pack gravel that is underneath the grass
Small-sized looser gravel, with chunks that range from dice-sized to Golfball-sized.
Large-Chunk Gravel, where the rocks are the size of tennis balls.
Book-sized slabs that stick out from the ground and are covered in finer gravel
ARE E-BIKES ALLOWED?
Unfortunately, due to our insurance and land-use agreements prohibiting their usage, e-bikes are not allowed at our event.
ANY OTHER GEAR THAT YOU RECOMMEND THAT WE BRING WHILE OUT ON THE RIDE?
BASIC REPAIR KIT:
**Flat-fixing tools: Spare tube(s) that are the proper width and valve length to accommodate your tire and rim depth, respectively; a tire lever; co2 cartridges with an adaptor or a hand-pump; tire boots; plug kit for tubeless (it can work wonders)
Multi-tool allen key set
An extra Master link for your chain
A chainbreaker tool
A valve core removal tool
A Spare valve core
Tweezers (Trust us, we've been saved by these before)
At the bare minimum, your repair kit should include all the aforementioned flat-fixing tools listed, but it never hurts to have on hand the other tools as well. A good rule to follow is this: If you don't bring it, you'll need it, but you won't need it if you do bring it! This is gravel after all and you'll be tackling some rugged terrain and should be ready for anything. We aren't expecting you to feel like you need to carry a whole mechanic's tool chest in your pockets, but make sure that you have everything available to you so that, at the very least, you can make sure that your bike can be made rideable again.
Other things that you might like to have:
A bandana or neck gaiter: Like we mentioned when talking about weather, August can sometimes be pretty dry, so the roads make be pretty dusty, so having a face covering can help prevent some of nature's electrolytes giving you cotton mouth
Speaking of cotton mouth, We always like to bring chapstick!
Bear bells, or some other kind of noise-making device to hang on your bike. Letting animals know that you are coming by making noise is a safe practice that we encourage. You can also just hoot 'n Holler the entire ride, which would be even better!
For this ride, we highly recommend that your shoes and pedals be an off-road style combination. While Road shoes and road pedals would be usable, there will most likely be sections that you will have to walk, and you're going to want shoes in which you can easily do that, and pedals that make for easy dismounting, remounting, and mud/dirt clearance.
Finally, as we have stressed, being bear aware and understanding proper bear safety is non-negotiable at our event. We expect all riders to have bearspray on their person during the race, and understand how to use it properly and safely.