Going the Distance


Have you ever wanted to challenge yourself on a bike? I’m not talking about skid-stopping on a “fixie,” although that is one of my lifelong goals. And I’m not talking about riding in traffic downtown. I mean riding your bike further than you ever thought possible. You can, and you’ll be with good company the whole way.

Now that Spring has arrived and your bike is ready to ride, let me clue you in on some of western Montana’s greatest century rides. A “century” refers to a bike ride at least 100 miles in distance, and there are plenty of organized ones happening each year. Most are charity rides, meaning monies raised by riders are donated to local non-profits.

Three of the top rides closest to Missoula are the annual Tour of the Swan River Valley (TOSRV), now in its 41st year, Race Around the Pioneers in One Day (RATPOD), and the Cycle for the Symphony: Flint Creek Ramble (C4S), now in its 2nd year. Any and all of these rides will challenge you as a rider, but each will also reward you with lifelong friends and memories of just how beautiful Montana is.

RATPOD is a 130-mile fundraising ride held in June each year. Money raised is for Camp-Mak-A-Dream, and registration is typically in early March. However, the 650-rider limit is always capped within hours of going live, so to get on this ride you need to plan and pray. I am yet to tackle this epic tour, but based on many friends’ accounts and the fact it fills so fast, it’s one to try for in future years.

TOSRV I have done, and it’s an incredible two-day adventure. An out-and-back tour up the Swan River Valley, hosted by Missoulians on Bicycles (MOBI) and held toward the end of May, you have an option to either ride from/to Missoula, 110 miles each day, or start/end in Potomac for 85 miles each day.

What I like about this ride is the fun I have training for it. From February to May, MOBI organizes weekend rides for anyone who wants to join in. Slowly building up to longer distances, each ride (Saturday and Sunday) focuses on a unique destination and nearly all of them start and end in Missoula. To properly train for TOSRV, organizers suggest that you have ridden 500 to 700 miles, with at least one 75-mile ride and one 100-mile ride, in the two months prior to TOSRV. Well, that two months starts now! See MOBI’s website for their list of Weekend Rides. Registration for TOSRV is now open.

I was fortunate enough to get in on the inaugural fundraising C4S ride for the Missoula Symphony Association. This fun day is limited to only 300 riders, and it comes with options to bike 25, 57, 85 or the full 119-mile route. Starting and ending in Philipsburg, the gorgeous century is as beautiful as it is challenging. But I got my money’s worth at the tail end of the ride, bombing down the mountain road between Georgetown Lake and Philipsburg. Other great pit stops in Drummond, and the old prison in Deer Lodge, round out a great tour that will surely cap its ridership soon, if not this year. Registration for the C4S starts on May 13.

What’s the longest one-day ride you’ve ever done and did you love it?  Let me know in the “comment” section below.

Click here to see Ryan’s blog archive.


Ryan Newhouse has pedaled through thousands of miles of Missoula’s streets and trails as a commuter, long-distance cyclist, recreationist and former city bicycling ambassador. Although he now works from home, he still uses two feet or two wheels to push or pull himself and his daughter around town.  Back to “Bike It” home page or check out Ryan’s own blog.