Summer Juggling Act & Bike Touring


Frame inquiries are rolling in, friends and potential clients are stopping by the shop, long rides after work are high on the priority list, and there is a significant urge to pack up and leave for a weekend of adventuring. It must be summer, the best time of year!

There are only three of us at the shop full time. Kent is here maybe five hours a week if we’re lucky. We keep ourselves in check by creating a workflow that allows for about 100 bikes per year but also allows for time off, long weekends, family emergencies, etc. It’s a tough balance to strike, I’m not sure we’ve found the balance yet but we’re working on it. We don’t have a set number of vacation/pto days per year. We take as much as we feel is appropriate considering our workflow, and life flow. Usually, it works out, sometimes not, but we get through it.

Ever since Brad and I did the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder, in Spearfish, SD we’ve been wanting to go back to the Black Hills & ride the George Mickelson Trail. This past weekend, June 29th-30th, was the only weekend we could really manage to squeeze it in anytime in the near future. It would be a quick trip – head on up Friday afternoon (about a six hour drive) and then back to Steamboat on Sunday after a full 2 days of riding.

The George Mickelson Trail is a 110 mile Rail to Trail path that extends from Edgemont, SD to Deadwood, SD. It winds through the Black Hills of South Dakota, and through some cute little towns like Custer and Hill City. The path is extremely mellow – all crushed gravel and absolutely nothing technical. The climbs are all less than 5% in grade, more like 2-3% on average. From the south end to the north end it’s about 5,000ft of elevation gain total, going north to south about 4,000ft, all of it is very gradual. It’s the perfect route for beginner bike packers/tourists or for folks just seeking something easy to plan and easy-ish to ride.

There are a bunch of old train tunnels like this along the route.

Brad and I rode the entire 110 mile route up to Deadwood on Saturday, stayed the night, and then rode right back down to Edgemont on Sunday. 220 miles & 9000ft of elevation gain in 34 hours was actually easier than it seems. The mellow terrain is a lot less taxing than something like a 220 mile mountain bike trip or even a road tour with a lot of climbing. Honestly the hardest part was the drive back home after all that, but we made it home safely around 11pm on Sunday night.

There are definitely options for breaking this up for less mileage each day or even creating different routes in the area using the trail as a connector. We did the entire trial because we only had the weekend. If I had more time I would likely stretch it out over a couple more days and do more exploring, perhaps ride into Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore, and Crazy Horse Memorial. All are very close to this route.

This bicycle sculpture is located about 100 ft off the path, in Pringle. SD.

We both rode our Bingham BUILT gravel grinders. We ran 38mm Maxxis Ramblers for tires though you could definitely get away with a smaller tire, Oveja Negra seat bags, frame bags, and top tube bags. It was very hot so we wore light clothing, I went with the Velocio Radiator Jersey and Ultralight bib shorts. Brad wore Pactimo Ascent climbers Jersey & Summit Raptor bibs. We both carried about 80 oz of water, which was plenty. It was very hot on Saturday, probably around 90º or higher on some parts, so extra water was helpful. There were places to fill up water along the way and even cisterns at some resting points along the path.

Made it to Deadwood in about 7.5 hrs moving time, 9.5hrs total time (many stops for snacks, photos, & sightseeing).

The way back – Edgemont to Deadwood took 7hrs moving time, 8 hrs total time due to less climbing and a tailwind.

The Black Hills area is very special and I’d love to do more exploring there. Something like the Black Hills Expedition is very intriguing and would be a great way to see more of this area. If anyone has done that or ridden any of those roads and trails, I’d be interested in learning more about it, let me know!

Questions about this route or about the trip? Feel free to contact us!

In the meantime, we hope everyone is having a terrific summer and getting out on many bike adventures!
Until next time!

Peace ✌🏻

Hannah B

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