Biking Going to the Sun Road | Glacier National Park

August 23, 2016

Bike the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park | Stuck in North Idaho

This summer has been spent on two wheels, a change of pace in comparison to past summers spent hiking and car camping. Earlier this summer, Kyle and a couple friends convinced me to bite the bullet and buy my first road bike. To make sure I actually used said bike, I signed up for the Coeur d’Alene Bike Co.’s Coeur d’Fondo training group.

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this summer, we’ve been meeting at the shop to go on group rides through Coeur d’Alene, the Post Falls prairie, Hayden Lake, and even the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes out along the Cd’A River. Be it unofficial, the group also took us to one unexpected location early in the season – Glacier National Park to ride the Going to the Sun Road.

a challenging ride for novices and experienced riders

Without a doubt, this ride should be at the top of every cyclist’s bucket list, yet from what I hear, very few actually know it’s even a possibility. Every year, sandwiched between winter melt-off, road work and the start of camping season, the Going to the Sun Road is open only to cyclists and walkers.

Bike the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park | Stuck in North Idaho

Bike the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park | Stuck in North Idaho

While the ride itself is challenging, 15 miles uphill the entire way, my biggest challenge actually manifested in the group I was riding with. I had been road biking for maybe a couple weeks at this point – with hardly enough muscle built to keep up with Kyle and his friends who have years of experience biking. As the trip grew near, my nerves started getting the best of me and I considered dropping out of the ride. As the only inexperienced biker in the group, I didn’t want to feel like everyone else was waiting for me, or that I was slowing them down.

Because the guys at the bike shop are so flippin’ awesome, they hooked me up with one of their e-bikes, a Cannondale Mavaro complete with Bosch motor system and battery pack, to help me keep up with the guys – and apparently also act as their pack mule for the day.

Bike the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park | Stuck in North Idaho

Bike the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park | Stuck in North Idaho

We started from the Apgar Visitor Center, adding an extra 10 (or 20 round-trip) miles to the ride. I’m going to lay out the math for you all here, just to help justify the assistance from the e-bike. Up until this point, my longest distance had been 15 miles total. This ride (from Apgar to Avalanche Creek, then the 15-mile ride to Logan Pass) put me at about 40 miles, and that’s just stopping at Avalanche as the finish point, not going all the way back to Apgar. Kyle, Drew, Karen, and Jason had completed multiple centuries and already had a couple races under their belt for the year. The intimidation factor was high.

Our Route

With the e-bike loaded with extra snacks, water, and clothing, we made our way through the crystal blue waters and glittering mountaintops that make up Glacier National Park. It was easy to shift the bike between settings, from economy (very little power) all the way up to sport (lots of power) and the computer translated the difference in power usage to usable miles.

I kept up with the guys with ease at first – probably a good indicator I had the power on too high – at one point zooming past them, barely breathing hard. Don’t get me wrong, my muscles were definitely working, but what the bike took away was the fatigue – my muscles were working but they weren’t exhausted.

I passed several bikers, in fact, all of them looking at me bewildered – this girl easily passing them on what appeared to be a cruiser bike. It was sweet.

Just a few miles from the top, however, I noticed the mileage drop dramatically, and before I knew it, we were 2-3 miles from the top and I was out of battery. Oops.

I tried to pedal up the mountain on my own, but with a heavy bike, made heavier with everyone’s gear, walking seemed like a more viable solution. Kyle insisted that I ride, even attempting to push me along. Before I knew it, Drew and Jason joined in, and the three of them helped me complete the final two miles to the top of Logan Pass. Why? Pity? Maybe. Teamwork? Possibly. Guilt for making me tote all their stuff? Most likely. Either way, I appreciated their help and was more than grateful to reach the cold, windy top.

The ride down was better, although the headwind still made it so we had to pedal down. During one particularly tight corner, I noticed a large, black object to my right. At first, I thought it was a large dog, perhaps because I was missing Juneau, but before too long it clicked that the figure I saw was much larger than any dog.

 
A black bear meandered from behind a guardrail-boulder and made his way onto the road. We came to a stop, me barely able to form my words due to excitement. I pulled out my camera, Kyle his phone, and we took a couple moments to watch the bumbling fuzzball make his way down the road. When he got a bit too close, we hopped back on our bikes and finished our ride at the Avalanche Creek parking area.

We reveled in our success and enjoyed a warm meal at a restaurant in the village, toasting with beer, smiles, and stories of the ride.

If you’re into cycling, this is a must-do. I’d recommend following the park on Facebook and keep an eye out toward the end of May, or the first couple weeks of June for when the road opens for riders. If you want to give an e-bike a try, hit up Alex and Chris at Cd’A Bike Co., located on 3rd Street and Indiana Ave. downtown Coeur d’Alene.

More about Andy

I'm a north-Idahoan, a WSU grad, local writer, content marketing specialist and photographer with a passion for where I live. I love the outdoors, animals, good food, wine, and time spent with my husband, family and friends.

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