Days 80 & 81: The return of the bike mechanic in me in Bozeman

I woke in Big Sky rested and ready for Bozeman – it was a relatively short ride that would continue to take me through the incredible Gallatin Canyon which was more than fine by me. Always out for a big breakfast to get me through the morning I headed for Bugaboo Cafe to see a sign I never have before: “we are sorry but due to lack of employees the Bugaboo Cafe is now closed for business”. Huh. I improvised at the gas station and said goodby to the mountain town:

More of the same unbelievable riding as the day before. The Gallatin Canyon wasn’t done with me and I certainly wasn’t done with it. 

Eventually my shoulder disappeared and I was left straddling the white line with very heavy traffic: 

Anyone driving between Bozeman and Yellowstone is on this road, and I very much felt their presence. I noticed something that would only become more apparent with the days ahead: Montana drivers are oblivious to the three-foot passing rule. It’s so pervasive that it’s not even worth getting upset over. I just had to focus on the road a bit more.

The Gallatin River was on either side of me throughout my ride through the canyon, and it’s a beautifully clear, rushing one. So many fly fishers out there, and quite a few rafters and kayakers:

They couldn’t have picked a better river to ride down. I was envious. 

Up the road there was quite the scenic mountain top:

With the coolest name ever:

The mountains opened up shortly there after, and I pretty much just cruised right on into Bozeman. It was a little surreal to begin with… I hadn’t seen suburbs or chain stores and restaurants since Denver, and they were all over the place.

I checked in at the hostel, then made my way over to REI. With a fair bit of camping in the days ahead I needed to figure out my sleeping pad situation.

I tried desperately to find the leak in it by using a boot washing station filled with water, but no luck. I just threw it away and bought a new one, which definitely stung, but what are you going to do. While I was there I talked to the mechanics about my drivetrain problems. 

If I’m being honest with myself I had been ignoring the severity of my worn drivetrain for quite some time, and for a number of reasons. I told them the issues. It slips on the second chainring when I really grind it out, and I very much feel it slipping in the front, with no apparent problem in the back cassette. They insisted that my cassette needed to be replaced. I was emphatic that replacing the cassette not only seemed unnecessary, but unnecessarily expensive. They did check my chain with a chain stretch measuring tool which pointed out the obvious – the thing was completely blown. With maybe 4500 miles on it including the riding I did before I started this…yeah, definitely needed a new one. So on it went. But I still knew my second chainring needed replaced. They insisted that that is not how drivetrains wear. I waved it off, knowing they were completely wrong.

I rode off back to the hostel, and surprise surprise, I couldn’t even ride my bike when I was on the second chainring. When you have a brand new chain and an overworn chainring, the teeth don’t line up with the slots in the chain. This is pretty basic bicycle mechanic knowledge, but the mechanics at the sixth busiest REI in the company didn’t know that. But someone the company fired did…

At the hostel I talked quite a bit with other people staying there, and it proved to be my second good hostel experience in a row after Denver. People from all over the world were there, and they were fun to talk to. But eventually it was time to rest – I had to be a bicycle mechanic again in the morning. 

*** *** ***

I went to get a quick breakfast down the street and work on my postcards over coffee:

I’ve been lugging these around since New York. Really. There’s just so much that happens in a day and it always slips my mind. I made a dent in my stack but there’s plenty more that need to be written. 

And then I went to the bike shop closest to the hostel to get a new chainring. I told them just what I needed – 36 teeth, 104mm BCD. They gave me one for a 2×9 drivetrain. Sorry guys, but the bike right in front of you is a 3×10. Not the same thing. I corrected them, they got me what I needed, and I went back to the hostel’s common room to do some bike surgery after these guys also said the chainring fix wouldn’t be enough:

Guess what. It was. I put the bike back together, rode around Bozeman’s wonderful downtown, and the bike is just fine.

The rest of the day was spent lounging, blogging (the entries about the Tetons and Yellowstone were written then), and again talking with other hostelers. Everyone has a story, and I may be biased, but travelers have more interesting stories. I enjoyed sharing mine and hearing others, as well as plotting my route to Missoula. I opted to stay south and not ride through Helena and instead push through Butte. Just like my gut feeling riding out of West Yellowstone, it turned out to be a great choice…


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