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Festival of the 4th

Music and fireworks in the open air.

by Orville Bach

From rodeos to river floats, Fourth of July weekend is jam-packed with activity, but there’s one event you should mark as can’t-miss on your calendar. It happens only once a year, it’s fun and exciting, and best of all, it’s free. I’m speaking, of course, of the renowned Bozeman Symphony’s outdoor concert under the stars, Festival of the Fourth.

A full house enjoys the show.

A full house enjoys the show.

Now, we’re not talking slow classical minuets, but rather inspiring and lively pops tunes, as explosive as the post-performance fireworks display. So plan to hop on your bike and ride over to the Gallatin County Fairgrounds for an exciting treat on the evening of July 4.

Just imagine relaxing in a lawn chair, gazing at the alpenglow bathing the Bridgers, while the Bozeman Symphony plays moving, patriotic music. The entire evening is a sensory delight, beginning with an assortment of tasty food choices from various vendors and culminating with an explosion of light amid the dark summer sky.

Around 9pm, as twilight envelops the Gallatin Valley and jackets slide over shivering shoulders, conductor Matthew Savery takes the stage. His enthusiasm and personality reflecting the towering mountains behind him, Savery bellows a hearty welcome to the crowd and introduces the orchestra. Draped over the stage is a massive, contoured bandshell for lighting and acoustics.

The music starts, and for the next 90 minutes – while darkness obscures sight and enhances sound – the audience enjoys a wide range of symphonic selections. Maestro Savery always saves the most rousing rendition for last, and it culminates in perfect time with the fireworks exploding overhead. The symphony gives way to recorded music, and for the next half-hour, the sky blazes with light as classic, freedom-themed songs pour from the speakers. If you don’t get goose bumps listening to this inspiring music while fireworks detonate overhead in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains, you need to check your pulse.

Ole Glory catches the last evening light.

Ole Glory catches the last evening light.

Festival of the Fourth is free and open to the public, with donations accepted for the event’s sponsor, the Gallatin Empire Lions Club. Bleachers are available, but plan on bringing a light, a portable chair, and a blanket for closer, more comfortable seating — and get there early. The hassle of parking and traffic congestion can be easily avoided by riding your bike to the event.  Just remember to have adequate lighting on your bike and helmet for a safe return trip.

Enjoy the show.

Butte Mountain Biking, Montana Bikepacking

Pack It On

Intro to bikepacking.

by David Tucker

Why would you listen to a first-timer when it comes to bikepacking advice? That’s a valid question, but odds are, if you’re seeking bikepacking advice, or at least interested in bikepacking advice, you haven’t been bikepacking. You’re probably about to make all the same mistakes I just did, so if you want to have a slightly better experience, take it from someone who just fouled up big time. These are lessons learned from a Memorial Day Weekend epic that covered over 90 miles in two-and-a-half days, required no less than five hours of thigh-high postholing, and included a camp arrival no earlier than 1am. Here goes.

Butte Mountain Biking, Montana Bikepacking, Advocate Cycles

Here goes nothing…

1. Bring more water. While we had a damp May and there is still snow at higher elevations, Montana is a dry state, and the mountains south of Butte, where most of our ride took place, are drier than average. You’ll be working very hard all day, so replenishing and staying hydrated is a must. While it’s heavy and takes up a lot of space, bring whatever water you can. I would recommend five liters between your bike frame and your pack. I had two and was empty just a few hours in. Without any reliable source for the rest of our ride and even at camp, I didn’t get to fill up until day two. This left me weak and disoriented—not a good combo only half-way through a ride.

2. Ride flat pedals. Any longer ride around these parts will more than likely require some hiking. Your bike will be loaded with gear, making balance more difficult, and remote trails have lots of dead-fall, meaning you’ll be out of the saddle more than you anticipate. Light hikers or trail runners are a good option, as they’ll provide the necessary traction and support, without sacrificing pedal-grip. You might not have as much power on your climbs, but you better get used to that anyway, as the extra weight you’re carrying will make climbing much harder regardless of the shoes you’re wearing.

Butte Mountain Biking, Montana Bikepacking, Advocate Cycles

Ice-cold feet were not part of the plan.

3. Let your bike do the work. I was riding a full-suspension bike which didn’t allow for a frame bag, or at least didn’t allow for the frame bag I had available to me. That meant I packed a lot of gear on my back. It sucked. My shoulders were rubbed raw and sore, my back ached from top to bottom, and my neck throbbed from leaning forward to avoid knocking my helmet against my pack. Having a ton of weight on my back also made pushing through snowdrifts and rutted-out trail much harder, sucking necessary energy from my muscles like a Dyson.

4. Ditch the booze. It’s no secret that we like our libations ’round these parts. But when weight and space are at a premium, it’s better to leave the hooch at home. You’ll be so tired after long days of riding, you won’t have the energy, anyway. Plus it will further dehydrate you, and you don’t need any more reason to wake up feeling less than chipper. Save the partying for car-camping.

5. Embrace the suffering. Bikepacking is hard. And it’s supposed to be. Even if youride the Bangtail three times a week and are in phenomenal shape, you’re going to be tested, and unforeseen developments will come up on the trail that are impossible to plan for. You’ll be challenged as much mentality as you are physically, so embrace the suck. Remember that each day will end and a new one will begin; that new day will bring new challenges but also fresh rewards. And cold beer tastes better when you’ve earned it.

Butte Mountain Biking, Montana Bikepacking, Advocate Cycles

Your reward: mountain views from empty singletrack.