Pipestone: Just North of Moab

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Race Report submitted by Chad Dexter.

The majority of trails in Moab are typically found north of town directly off of Hwy 191. Travel far enough north from this mountain biking mecca (roughly 11 hours) and, eventually, you’ll end up in Pipestone…exit #241, Interstate 90. Traveling south from Helena, however, Pipestone is just a 75 minute drive away. Fortunately enough, the similarities between Moab & Pipestone are comparable in many other ways for riders seeking a winter riding destination as well. Sage, cactus, pine forest, sand, big rocks, & dry conditions await those willing to make the trek.

Bob Waggoner & his crew from Triple Ring Productions (http://www.tripleringprod.com)hosted the annual New Year’s Day mountain bike ride at Pipestone today. TRP is the same group that puts together Montana’s epic endurance event, the Butte 100. This is a race that famed racer Tinker Juarez once claimed is the toughest one-day race he’s ever done (http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/butte-100-overcomes-growing-pains). Part of the Butte 100 course goes through the Pipestone area, tunneling under I-90 & eventually depositing racers up at Homestake Lake (…a mere 50 more miles of racin’ after that). Of course, this race happens in the heat of summer. With temperatures hitting into the 90s when I raced through this section back in 2010, I was looking forward to Pipestone being a bit of a “cooler” riding experience today.

Pulling into the abandoned railroad track trailhead today at noon, temperatures were hovering in the low 40s, and there was no wind to speak of. There was fresh snow on the ground from the previous evening, but this had only dusted the trails a bit. From the group of about a dozen riders getting ready to roll, the most impressive of the crew was Tiego Reis and his beefy Surley tires. Runnin’ with about 10 psi, these bad boys were ready for any amount of snow that might be out there on the trail. Tiego blazed the trail for the rest of us. If you fell behind a bit out there today, just look for the freshly minted 4″ tire tracks…

I’ve ridden Pipestone probably 5-6 times in the past. While I’ve always enjoyed it, one of the frustrations I do have with the area is that it’s an unmarked “free-for-all” of trails that go everywhere & nowhere…all at the same time it seems. In the summertime, the ATVs and motorcycles claim the area for themselves in a gas burnin’ exhaust-fest that would make even Mad Max a little nervous. The result of this post-apocolyptic scene is a crazy maze of roads & trails, oftening leading you to the same spot you thought you had come from in the first place! Or, perhaps, it’s just that aliens were here at one time & left the area with shape shifting capabilities!?! Strangely, even without the benefit of trail course markings, it’s practically impossible to get seriously lost in Pipestone. No matter where you are, the Tobacco Root Mountains are always there in the distance as a frame of reference. Even with this, on previous trips I have always had this sense that I was missing out on a number of the good MTB singletrack trails in the area. The benefit I was hoping to take away from today’s ride was that I was gonna be with a number of locals who knew where these hidden gems were. Sure enough, they introduced me to some riding that I’d have never stumbled across before. The Boneyard & the Motherlode were just a couple of great trails I rode for the first time today

Today’s group of riders were a great blend of folks, all primarily interested in just having a good time and enjoying the day together. There was an unspoken “no drop” rule with lots of time to visit in between the riding. Sometimes, it’s nice to ignore the heart rate monitor & just focus on the fun meter instead. No mechanicals, serious injuries or other drama to report, which is always a blessing when a group of twelve or more hit the trail in unison. Arriving at the Four Corners trailhead area after a couple hours of riding up higher, the crew hit a fun trail descent that brought us back to our rigs and the end of a great day.http://app.strava.com/rides/3030162