Riding With Timmy … Helena Mountain Biking … Day 2
I was to meet Timmy Wiseman at 9:00 in the Hub, a popular coffee shop in the center of old town Helena. Just like the day before, when I met Evan, I was not sure what my guide looked like and what kind of mountain biking he preferred. However, after riding with Evan I suspected he would be young, and would prefer the fast downhill runs in the hills south of Helena. That is why I dismissed other visitors as they entered the Hub. Some entered with riding clothes but looked too old, some young adults came in but had no riding clothes. But by 9:00, no one walked in looking like a young rider.
Length: 11.53 miles
It was a few minutes after 9:00 when a figure came flying by the front windows of the shop pulled a wheelie, jumped the curb, disappeared from sight for a couple of seconds, shot across the patio, parked and jumped off his bike in a single motion. He whipped off his full face helmet, and rushed into the Hub.
I stood up as he approached my table. At that moment I was sure I was going to meet Timmy Wiseman. I also had a pretty good idea what kind of rider he would be. “Sorry I am a little late, I just slept in a little too long,” he spouted as I reached out my hand for a shake. “I’ve got to get my latte … I’ll be back in a minute!”
After he returned with his drink we talked about mountain biking in general, then discussed which trails I had done with Evan the day before. I told him about my “ride” up the Prospect Shafts trail after my ride with Evan, and how I would have much rather biked down it. Timmy kind of grunted and said quietly as if to himself, “Oh, okay.” I think at that point Timmy decided I could handle any trail he suggested and he seemed a little relieved.
Timmy said he had a couple of trails in mind so we left the Hub, got onto our bikes, and started up Davis Street … he on his Santa Cruz Blur and me riding my Specialized Camber. Again, just like with Evan the day before, I used the time riding side-by-side up the road to learn a few things about Timmy. He told me he lived with a guy named Emmett, the man responsible for most of the trail work in the South Hills.
Timmy said he used to work in a bike shop, then worked as a manager in the Hub, but now worked in the brewery. He paid his rent to Emmett mostly by doing trail work.
Timmy informed me we needed to climb Mount Ascension (5,390 feet) to get to the trail he wanted me to try. To do this we first had to go up a trail called Eagle Scout, ride a couple hundred feet on Easy Rider, and then finished by riding up Trail 2006. These trails were pretty much all switchbacks … crisscrossing the mountain under a thick canopy of conifers.
We started out sticking together as we discussed learning styles and education. He said he was a kinesthetic learner … one who learns best by moving and touching. I gathered that Timmy did not especially like his formal high school educational experience but was now a prolific reader. (Later that week I had two other people comment on how they always see Timmy in the Hub early each morning reading a classic novel while drinking lattes).
So we discussed education for a while, but I think Timmy either got tired of the subject or tired of riding at my pace so he pulled out in front of me, and then waited at the top.
While approaching Timmy, who was patiently waiting at the top, I thought he must have gotten pretty hot while riding with a full face helmet and some pads on. When I parked my bike next to his I told him most guys I see with a full face helmet strap it to their backpack on the way up and then just put it on at the top of a run. He said he had taken riding to the minimal (without a backpack) but would always wear his full face as it had saved him before when he had crashed.
Later, while eating lunch he showed me a series of photos of a crash where the full face had come in handy. His worst crash, however, might have been when he hit a pedal on the side of a rut on the Show Me the Horse Trail. As he described the fall he lifted his jersey to expose a healed, but misshapen clavicle. “When my pedal hit the grass it launched me high into the air and I landed on my shoulder.
At first I thought I wasn’t hurt because I had turned the fall into a smooth roll. But when I got up I knew something was wrong when my shoulder was sagging.” I told him about separating my shoulder 3 weeks before coming to Helena, but assured him I had been in a lot less pain than he had suffered. I told Timmy I had seen Matt Damon on a talk show with a broken clavicle (from mountain biking) and his doctors told him it was one of the most painful injuries to be had.
The view from the top of Mount Ascension was fantastic. I asked Timmy to point out the trails we had used to come up (which he did) and then he said, “That was 2006.” I immediately looked at my GPS and saw that we had climbed close to 1,300 feet. My body did not feel like it had climbed 2,006 feet and my GPS said we had done about half that amount, so I thought Timmy had miscalculated. It wasn’t until later that I figured out he had not been talking about climbing elevation at all … but one of the trails we had climbed was called Trail 2006!
Finally running out of things to say and getting anxious to ride, we started down the Entertainment Trail. Timmy took off pedaling hard, gathering speed quickly, much the way Evan had attacked the trails a day earlier, and at every opportunity he would launch himself into the air … off of rocks, roots, ground swells, just about anything … and then land and get enough control to weave his way through the next tight group of trees or to lean into a berm.
According to my GPS the Entertainment Trail drops 821 feet in 2.71 miles and plopped us right back onto the Davis Gulch Road, making it one of the longest (and more gradual) downhill runs with a single name. (Show Me the Horse drops 910 feet in 2.35 miles … Highway to Hell drops 843 feet in 1.58 miles … Rent Money drops 745 feet in 1.71 miles and the downhill portion of the Helena Ridge Trail drops 692 feet in 4.14 miles.)
Once we completed Entertainment, we rode up the Davis Gulch Road and talked about the ride down. I told Timmy the downhills I had done in Helena were awesome, the only drawback being the shortness. I told him about the Plunge Trail (approximately 20 miles of downhill in the southern Sierra Nevada) and even the Noble Trail (approximately 8 miles of downhill in San Diego). Timmy then told me about one of his favorite places in northern Idaho called Silver Mountain Resort. There is a Gondola that lifts the riders 3,400 vertical feet and many of the downhill trails there were 8-10 miles long, and a lot of fun.
After our short stint up the road we turned right onto a route called the Skills Trail … which paralleled the part of the Davis Gulch we had just biked. Timmy said the intention of this trail was to provide a place where riders could work on the different aspects of their riding. He had been working on this trail recently and showed me a large jump he had been sculpting. After getting a photo of him in front of the jump, we rode down the trail. With a sore shoulder and not being a big jumper I watched Timmy fly while I mostly did ride-arounds.
As with all the trails in the South Hills you must climb out of a gulch at the beginning. Our next ascent was a short stint up the Shooting Range Connector Trail. Views to the south became breathtaking.
Just as we were turning onto a trail called Rent Money we came across a Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) crew who were replacing a sign post. They knew Timmy and asked if the sign was made properly. Timmy studied it and said he was not sure. I got out my map and the MCC head guy studied it but said he was still not sure. The problem seemed to be whether the post had the correct trails listed, and if the arrows were pointing the correct direction. Since that intersection had 5 different pieces of trail meeting at one point I could see where making the arrows point in the proper direction was difficult. As we were leaving, the head guy said he was going to wait to hear from his boss.
As we rode up Rent Money, Timmy explained how he had designed and made the trail himself. He said he wanted to call it Rent Money because he had traded the trail work for the rent at Emmett’s place. He was very proud of the design, especially the parts mountain bikers would enjoy (high berms, wide sweeping turns, drops, etc.).
When we reached the top of the mountain we came upon two very tall ladies with hiking sticks. They seemed to know Timmy from seeing him working on trails. He and the ladies talked about several trails in the immediate area. I got the impression these ladies hiked all the time and had covered every inch of trail in the South Hills. I asked for their picture and they consented, but only if they could take a photo of Timmy and me.
They were going to head down Rent Money just as we were so they suggested we go first. We had just come up that stretch of trail so for one of the few times on this trip I knew what to expect. That did not matter much as far as keeping up with Timmy. He shot down the steep rocky portion and was doing a wheelie at the bottom traveling full speed. I rode fast but lost sight of him within seconds. He had built Rent Money for speed, with only one spot where the trail jack-knifed into a very sharp raised turn with no banking.
Within seconds we were back at the junction where the MCC workers were (they were gone and there was a post but we didn’t stop to look at it. Timmy flew right by the sign and hung a hard left onto another trail that crossed the meadow (Rodney Meadow Trail) and vanished over the rim. I found him waiting for me as the Rodney Meadow Trail comes to an abrupt end at the Waterline Trail.
At that point all the fast riding was over. The Waterline Trail is perfectly level and parallels Davis Gulch Road. Timmy just cruised along, pointing out the big, black pipe we occasionally saw spanning the side-creek beds. He said he didn’t exactly know where the water was coming from but he was pretty sure it dumped into a large storage tank right above the city.
Entertainment and Rent Money … An Interactive Map.
- The blue “P” marks The Hub (the cafe where we started).
Have you done this ride? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
At one point we stopped to study an old kiln along the trail. Neither of us knew what it was used for but we figured it had something to do with all the mining in the area. (Later, Cindy looked it up and told me it had nothing to do with mining, but was actually used to turn limestone into “Quicklime,” the main bonding agent in cement.)
We didn’t take the Waterline Trail all the way to the tank but instead dropped down to the Davis Gulch Road and cruised back into town.
Timmy said he needed his 2nd latte of the day so we headed to the Hub. When we arrived there I offered to buy him lunch. He said, if we were going to lunch he had a place he wanted to show me … so we rode a couple blocks north to a little place called “The Sweat.”
He also warned me about talking on my cell phone, saying they will ask you to leave if you are on the phone. He pointed to a gentleman outside talking on the phone and said, “That guy there just got kicked out!”
After finishing lunch we rode south to the next intersection and said our goodbyes … Timmy going east to his house and me going north to the Holiday Inn.
As I pedaled alone toward the hotel I had some time to reflect on my trip to Helena. This was my second day of riding some awesome trails with an incredible young man. I am not sure I could ask for more in a mountain biking experience.
I learned a lot about the excellent trails in Helena’s South Hills and just as much about the quality human beings who ride them ( I would see Timmy working in the Blackfoot Brewery the next evening, when he comped me and my co-rider 2 beers each)!
Note** Since I was not fast enough to catch Timmy in action I stole the photo above from Timmy’s Facebook page. On the trails we rode I saw no opportunities for Timmy to jump like in this photo , but if there were … I certainly missed the action!
The following information was collected by my Garmin 800 Edge … taking readings every second. Feel free to upload the track to your GPS unit by clicking the View Details at the bottom and then Export in the top menu bar.
Where To Go From Here
Select Day 1 … Grizzly Gulch to learn about another ride in Helena’s South Hills.
Day 2 … Timmy as My Guide.
Select Day 3 … Mount Helena Ridge to see the signature trail in this area.
Select Day 4 … South Hills Adventure to read of an incredible journey in the South Hills.
Select Helena Mountain Biking for an overview of rides in this area.