Helena Bicycle Club, Helena, Montana

Registration: https://www.bikereg.com/ratswest


Registration for HBC’s RATSWEST ‘17 ride begins June 15, at 12:01 p.m.. Read on to learn more about the ride, and to learn how to register.


This may be the best two-day road cycling tour within 200 miles of Helena. Twenty-one of us from the Helena Bicycle Club rode this loop last year, and we had a blast. The scenery is gorgeous. The roads are paved. We carry your stuff. You’ll sleep warm and dry. You’ll ride with nice people. And you’ll dine high on the hog. What’s not to love?




RATSWEST stands for Ride Around TheSe WESTern pioneer mountains


Saturday, August 12 and Sunday, August 13, 2017

Start & End point

Sportsman Campground, on the Big Hole River, 2.5 miles west of the intersection of MT-43 and Deep Creek Road (or 13 miles west of Wise River on MT-43).


We circle the Western Pioneer Mountains, passing clockwise through the settlements of: Wise River, Polaris, Jackson, and Wisdom.


Saturday’s route https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21217029

Sunday’s route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21217070

Overview showing campgrounds, C-stores: http://goo.gl/bJqbzA

Saturday Night’s Lodging

Montana High Country Lodge, Polaris, Montana. http://www.mhct.com

Cycling Distances

About 50 miles Saturday, 70 miles Sunday. SAG van support available.


$150/cyclist, including most costs (Non-HBC members are welcome, but must join HBC at an additional cost of $20/person, $30/couple). A $9.00 registration fee/cyclist is added to the cost of registration.


SAG Van support, luggage transport, Saturday antipasto, Saturday dinner, Sunday breakfast, insurance, parking, camping at the start point, and lodging Saturday night. Riders are responsible for Saturday and Sunday’s lunch and snacks, getting to Sportsman’s Campground, carrying basic touring equipment with them on their bicycles.


Who knows? We’re at 6,000+ feet elevation. It could be hot. It could be cold. During last year’s ride, Sunday morning was near freezing. Bring warm clothing, and prepare for rain. Prepare, as well, for mosquitos.

Ride Organizers

Bruce & Sue Newell, bruce.newell@gmail.com, (406) 461-3206



FRIDAY NIGHT (optional)

Many of us will be camping at our start point, the Sportsman’s Campground on the Big Hole. This is also where we will park our cars for the weekend. There is no additional fee for Friday night’s camping or for parking over the weekend. You are on your own for camping and meals Friday night and Saturday morning, so bring your own tent, sleeping bag, breakfast, coffee, and so forth.


It’s about two hours or 120 miles from Helena to the Sportsman’s Campground following I-15 via Boulder and Butte to Divide, and then via MT-43 to Wise River and the Sportsman’s Campground. https://goo.gl/maps/WpLQNKxDXpt



Saturday’s route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21217029


Registration is between 8:00 — 9:00 a.m. After signing in, cyclists may start their day’s ride when they are ready, but all riders must register, and gear must be on the trailer when the van departs (with the registrar) at 9:00 a.m. Cyclists’ gear will be transported in a covered trailer, and the support van will offer water, limited roadside assistance, and a lift for riders electing to shorten their day. Cyclists will need to bring their own lunches and snacks for both days, although the town of Wisdom offers lunch options on Sunday.


Participants will ride without a ride leader and at their own pace. Riders are encouraged to buddy-up. Navigation is straightforward, but maps and cue-sheets will be available. We ride about 50 miles on Saturday, and climb a grand total of about 3,000’. There’s one pass at Saturday’s Mile 42, which at Sat. Mile 42 is about 2,200’ (approximately) above the town of Wise River. The route is entirely paved. There will be some traffic on MT-43, but the traffic will likely be light to moderate (no guarantees of course). The Scenic Byway is very lightly traveled.


We'll start and end at the Sportsman Campground (5,800’ elevation) on the Big Hole River. The route follows MT-43 13 miles downstream to the east, to the town of Wise River (5,655’). On the west end of Wise River we'll turn right onto the aptly named Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, and ride between the West and East Pioneer Mountains, alongside the Wise River. The first 20-odd miles are relatively level. At Saturday Mile 34 (6,840’) the road rears up and climbs into a series of 7,600’ high meadows near Crystal Park Picnic Area (7,700’, Saturday's Mile 40). The grade climbs at 5% and (according to my map) never exceeds 8%. An additional one-hundred feet of climbing brings us to the top (7,800’) of Saturday’s ride at Mile 42. From this summit we descend over 2,200' (with one little hill at Sat. Mile 45.1) onto Grasshopper Creek, and spins neatly to our evening’s lodging near Polaris, at Saturday’s Mile 50 and at 6,450’ elevation.


Montana High Country Lodge

Saturday evening we will be staying near Polaris at the Montana High Country Lodge. There is not a Saturday night tenting option this year. The Lodge is visible from the road, located as the crow flies about 2,000’ west on a gravel driveway. We’ll mark the turn and set out a sign. Besides a shower and a comfortable bed, High Country Lodge will provide antipasto Saturday mid-afternoon for a group borrel (4), dinner, and breakfast. For an additional charge, High Country Lodge can provide a Sunday brown-bag lunch.


There are beds at the Lodge for 26. There are 5 private standard rooms, with King-sized, Queen-sized, or Double beds for 1 couple. In addition, there are 4 family rooms with a Queen-sized bed for a couple and 2 additional single beds for single riders. Rooms will be filled, so if couples want a private room, it behoves them to register when registration opens at 12:01 a.m., June 15. The private rooms have bathrooms en suite, 2 of the family rooms are en suite, the other 2 have private bathrooms across the hall.


The Lodge does not serve beer or wine, but our host Russ said we are welcome to bring our own. A cooler will be available at the Sportsman’s Campground for you to transport beer, wine, pop, or juice (or for that matter, Sunday’s lunch) from the ride’s beginning to High Country Lodge. I am going to bring a bottle of post-ride IPA for myself, and one to share.



Sunday’s route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21217070


At 70 miles, Sunday’s ride is 20 miles longer than was Saturday’s. However, Sunday’s route features less climbing (2,100’ total), and after cresting Big Hole Pass (at Sunday Mile 15.5, and 7,400’, a 1,300’ climb over about 8 miles), there’s a reasonable chance that winds from the southwest will push you downhill, down the Big Hole River Valley, through Jackson and Wisdom, and back to your parked car. Along the way, you’ll have the West Pioneer Mountains on your right, the Beaverheads on your left, and you’ll be following the Big Hole River through an always interesting, changing riverine landscape.


Wisdom is a likely place for lunch, with the Wisdom Market and a great cafe called Letty’s. Lunches are not included in the cost of registration, so bring your wallet or bring a lunch. Before the ride we’ll double check to make sure the Market and Letty’s will be open Sunday afternoon.


Finally, Sunday’s route tips the right way. The elevation at Polaris is 6,550. You’ll crest Big Hole Pass at 7,400’. Jackson sits at 6,450’, and you’ll drop about 400’ into Wisdom (6,050’), over about 19 miles of scenic two-lane. From Wisdom it’s mostly downhill, if imperceptibly so, following the Big Hole river, back to Sportsman’s Campground (5,800’). There are a few rollers, and one short but sharp hill near Sunday’s Mile 63. Nevertheless, the RideWithGPS map shows a gratifying downhill slope all the way from Big Hole Pass to Sportsman Camp: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21217070


A van will be available to transport a lucky group of riders (if they wish) to began their ride at Big Hole Pass (at Sunday’s Mile 15.5), or to give weary cyclists a lift to the ride’s end if, at mid-day, an unwelcome headwind has turned thighs to jelly.



Registration will begin at 12:01 p.m., June 15. All riders will register at:


Because lodging is limited, this wonderful ride is limited to the first twenty-six registrants. A waiting list will be created if more than twenty-six want to participate. There are a mixture of private and shared rooms (see details below). Rooms will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. We strongly advise that you register as soon as you can.



Registration — $150 a cyclist + $9.00 BikeReg.com registration fee

Non-HBC Members — Cost of membership. For insurance purposes, all cyclists must be current members of the Helena Bicycle Club. 2017 HBC membership costs only $20 a person, or $30 a family.


Lodging Details

There are two kinds of rooms available at the Montana High Country Lodge: ‘Standard’ rooms, and ‘Family’ rooms. Our intent, to include more in the fun and to cut costs, is to fill every bed.


Each standard room has a single king- or queen-sized bed, or alternatively, two double-beds. Each standard room has a private bathroom en suite.


Family rooms have a queen-sized bed for a couple, and two single beds. Family Rooms will be shared between one couple and two single riders, who may or who may not know each other before the ride. Each Family Room has a private bathroom. Two of the family rooms have baths en suite, and the other two family rooms’ baths are located across the hall.


Standard Rooms

Private Couples-only Rooms, ‘Standard Rooms'

Five private ‘Standard’ rooms are available. Standard rooms are reserved for couples. $300 a couple, plus a $9.00 registration fee/rider.


Family Rooms

Shared Couples Rooms, ‘Family Rooms'

Four ‘Family’ rooms are available. Family rooms will be shared by four cyclists, that is, a couple (in the queen-sized bed), and two single riders (in the two single beds). $300/couple, plus a $9 registration fee/rider.


Shared Single Rider Rooms, ‘Family Rooms'

Eight single rider beds are available — Located in the four family rooms. $150/single rider, plus a $9 registration fee/rider.


Registration costs include lodging, a covered U-Haul trailer, the provided meals, insurance, parking, Saturday antipasto, Saturday dinner, Sunday breakfast, and a mileage stipend for the support van. Lodging costs are also part of your registration fee.



Registration fees (minus service fees) will be entirely refunded in the event HBC cancels the event. Riders may cancel without penalty anytime before July 30. After July 30, HBC will refund $100.00 of the cyclist’s initial registration fee (retaining $50.00). No refunds are possible after August 5.



Riders must wear an approved(1) bicycle helmet at all times. A rear view mirror(2) is highly recommended, as is wearing a high visibility(3) jersey, t-shirt, windbreaker, or vest.


A van will shuttle back and forth, providing fresh water, willing help with flat tires, and a limited number of seats for tired riders in the SAG van. This year’s ride will not have cut-off times, but if the van driver asks you (the rider) to accept a lift in the van, you are obliged to accept his offer. Safety is our central concern. We want everyone off the roads by dinner time. Everyone cycled along at a safe pace last year and we don’t anticipate any problems this year.



(1) Helmets are typically certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM F1447). Older helmets may have a Snell certification.

(2) Recommended mirrors include those mounted on bicycle handlebars, helmets, or on glasses’ bows. Here are a few examples of cycling mirrors: goo.gl/JVFGXF

(3) High visibility clothing feature colors that are often astonishingly bright (if un-trendy) fluorescent canary-yellow or goat-vomit-green. Studies suggest that wearing hi-vis clothing reduces the chances of being struck by cars. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-visibility_clothing#Cyclists

(4) Borrel, the delightful Dutch custom of snacks, refreshments, and good conversation with friends. https://stuffdutchpeoplelike.com/2012/12/08/borrels/