We’re interested in the search for empty roads that take you everywhere and nowhere; the spirit of adventure still alive in the frontier. Inspired by rugged terrain and fueled by an appetite for adventure, we set out for big sky country on a mission to showcase ENVE’s new apparel line at home on the range. We’re proud to present the Last West: Montana – the first in a series of untold stories from the American West, as experienced by our friends at Coyote.
— Neil Shirley, ENVE
A LONG, LOW SONG
BY CONNOR KOCH
I. NOT FROM AROUND HERE
I moved to Montana in the winter of 2022, having never been and knowing little more than lore. I’d heard the sky was bigger here, and that most Montanans hated my ilk: Californian, ambitious, ushering in a wave of change. I didn’t want to change anything, merely wanted to understand the state and my place in the endless clouds so close you could reach out and touch them. Montana hides itself; I don’t understand it yet, and maybe never will, but the famous Missoulian Norman Maclean was clear, “We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” When I awoke after my first night in the state, I walked out with fresh coffee and watched storm clouds pull free from the Bridger range, the high peaks resplendent with fresh snow. I knew this was love.
We’ve been riding ENVE components for years, so when they asked us to test their new soft goods line in a rugged setting, Montana was an easy choice. I was eager to show my favorite spots to my friends, and we didn’t have much trouble convincing ENVE athlete and supermom Lindsey Stevenson to come up from Utah for a few days of riding and scenery. Add in ENVE’s Art Director Jonny Hintze, local cyclist Sofie Carlson, the rest of the Coyotes, and as many cool characters as we could find along the way, and our Trans-Montana week was shaping up to be a perfect proving ground for the new lifestyle line from the best wheel manufacturer in the business.
Montana’s history is inseparable from ranching (just don’t bring up the over-the-top portrayals in Yellowstone), and the state is still packed full of real working land. The spirit of the West is also alive and well in the cowboy-cool coffee shop Roly Poly, a local roaster and cafe overflowing with western curios, one-of-a-kind art, old, tattered magazines, and vintage motorcycles. Owned and operated by Taylor Wallace, a Texas transplant who also hauled up his brother and business partner Gavin, Roly Poly is a gathering ground for folks into bikes, overlanding, coffee, and classic style. Rocking his signature beard and vintage getup, Taylor pulled us some shots while Gavin pressed his daily batch of jalapeño cheddar kolaches in the back kitchen.
When the rush calmed down, Taylor moved to roasting duty, cranking out handpicked beans for the people of Bozeman and beyond. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to be a regular.
With caffeine onboard, we pedaled back to my house and loaded up the trucks. It was time to head to Dillon, a small town in the southwest corner of the state, located well away from “Boze Angeles.” According to locals, Dillon was “real Montana,” and while I knew we’d stand out with our tattoos, Birkenstocks, and most of all bikes, I also knew it would bring me one step closer to understanding my chosen home.
Upon arrival at our modern cabin, we hopped aboard the bikes for a quick town exploration, ending at the Beaverhead River flowing just yards from our back porch. A quick dip in the cool, mountain-fed river washed away the day, and we prepped our bikes for an early morning before sneaking off to bed while the sun still lit up the peaks to the west.
For day three, Hintze put together a ride that appeared somewhat benign — 60 miles and 4,500 feet of climbing. What we didn’t quite grasp is that Dillon is not exactly a cycling destination, and we would be faced with barely-there doubletrack, chunky mining roads, and no chance of resupply. We transitioned from smooth pavement to broken, from broken to smooth dirt, and from dirt to grass-covered tracks climbing high into the Beaverhead range, through old mining settlements and into fields bursting with butterflies and purple flowers. I started to fall off the back, my breathing labored as I watched Hintze push the pace and pull away on the long climb to the pass below Goat Mountain. I didn’t mind a bit; I was melting into Montana, a place I spent 28 years missing before I replaced the roughly square missing piece of my heart.
At the pass, and to our great relief, Colin and Christian were waiting for us with a vast selection of snacks, cold drinks, and a hovering drone. We quickly refueled and began the long descent into the dry valley below. Our bikes crackling and squealing over the rough roads hanging in the sky. Hintze flatted twice, and our group split, my best friend Jonny pulling ahead with Lindsey latched on his wheel, while Hintze and I repaired flats and finally let our guards down enough to get to know each other. I was still struggling, and to top it off had gotten a bee sting on my lip, but Hintze was gracious enough to let me sit in while he pulled us home through the hot headwind.
That night, I sat with Lindsey for an interview. We pulled up two chairs outside the barn and spent an hour sharing it all, mostly focusing on the important stuff: how we wound up here, hopes and dreams for the future, and how becoming a mother has changed her life in the best and most profound of ways. She talked about viewing her