Big Miles in the Big Country

I love riding the Maah Daah Hey. In fact, this is my third time in 3 years. Last week I shared my set up. I'm from the camp that if there is an opportunity to ride the Maah Daah Hey, I will take it every single time. This is a special place. It is remote. It is beautiful. It is challenging. It evolves every year. It is big country without sound or light polution. It is an incredible country that is almost untouched and harkens back to a time gone by.

Many folks planning to ride the Maah Daah Hey often ask me what to expect or what gear to bring? There are some easy answers and some not so easy answers. Here are my thoughts on my last 3 trips.

- The riding isn't that technical. It is slow, almost always under 10 mph. The climbs are not that hard, but they are endless and unrelenting. The trail sort of lulls you into thinking it isn't that hard and then at the end of the day, you are physically pretty hammered and crushed. At a comfortable pace, we did 50 miles in 8 hours with stops for pictures & lunch.

- Water - You need to have a great plan for water. There are pumps at some of the campgrounds. You can also pay Dakota Cyclery in Medora, North Dakota for support of various levels. I even hired them one year to drop me off. They rock and you should stop in and suppurt them.

- Map - Buy a map. The trail evolves and at times erodes. I've helped folks that were lost (on horseback) and this year, I couldn't find the trail at one point and had to spend some time orientating myself to find the trail.

- Bike - First, 29ers are ideal for this trail. Suspension is nice too. I've ridden it with a softail, a hardtail with front suspension, and a full rigid bike. Again, I personally don't think that the trail is that technically difficult, but there are a lot of hoof prints and erosion along with countless short climbs. Comfort is king. Bring what you are most comfortable riding for hours on end.

- If it rains, the trail is unridable. On this trip, both my brother and I brought cross bikes to ride pavement and/or gravel in the area if it rained. My recommendation is to have a back up plan because you simply can't ride if it is wet.

With that, here are a few pictures from the trail. Special thanks to my brother that went with me and served as my model. He was riding his Salsa Big Mama.

There were a few road blocks and we had to occassionally share the trail.

Trail markers make it pretty easy to navigate but I still recommend buying and using a map!

My brother winds around, over and through the big country.

Western North Dakota has received quite a bit of rain and the trail was filled with flowers and green prairie grass. I've ridden it each of the last 3 years and every year I've gotten something just a bit different.

In the end, both my brother and I left refreshed and felt fortunate that we got to experience this beauty and remoteness on two wheels and under our own power. There is simply no better way to experience this part of the country. I've said it already, but if you ever get a chance to go ride the Maah Daah Hey, go do it. You won't regret it.

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Jason Boucher

Jason Boucher

Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.


MG | July 12th, 2010

Wow… Awesome photos and a great write up, Gnat. Thanks for sharing, and welcome back. Missed you buddy.

Talk to you soon.


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Derek | July 12th, 2010

Great photos, as always.  You have inspired us to schedule a trip to the MDH at the end of September.  Thanks for the tips, and, more importantly,  for the great bikes to ride in these beautiful places.

Take care,



Gnat | July 12th, 2010

Thanks guys!  It was a great trip.  My best yet. 

MG - Someday you need to ride this trail. 

Derek, as your plans firm up, I’d be happy to discuss gear and logistics.  Let me know.

Guitar Ted | July 12th, 2010

Thanks for those pics and story. I really need to get out there and ride this someday. In a way, it reminds me somewhat of Potter’s Pasture.

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Mat Long | July 12th, 2010

What’s the beast source for putting together a trip here; I bought the book, but found it to be lacking on several key issues: any good websites or blogs, I’m coming from Northern Vermont so it’s kind of pertinent to have as many details as I can ironed out.  Is just calling the shop/shuttle a good way to get info?  I’m mainly concerned with driving or flying out there and then figuring out how to get where I need to?


Gnat | July 12th, 2010

GT - Yes you need to ride this.  Based on pictures, I think it is similar to Potter’s. 

Mat Long - I’d be happy to help/discuss.  I love this area and would love to help anyone that wants to ride it get there.  Not sure how pressing this is, but I’m very free tomorrow and Thursday.  Give me a shout at 800 346 0004 ext 1268 if you want to discuss.

Eric Benjamin | July 12th, 2010

I gotta put that one on the list.

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Mat Long | July 13th, 2010

Thanks Gnat, I am a big fan of your blogs, and I built up a Fargo over the winter and absolutely love it.  I need to buy some baikepacking gear for it, so I’m looking at doing this sometime next year.  Thanks for the invite to call, I’ll do so sometime in the near future, I need to take a look at the guide book and write down some specific questions I have. Thanks alot and also when is the front rack for the Fargo going to be available?  That looks pretty much perfect!  Have a great day and thanks !

Gravityjunkie | July 13th, 2010

Oh, the Maah Daah Hey!  What fun!  I have ridden it twice although never the full length.  I need to plan a trip to get back there.

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Carma Gjerning | August 10th, 2010

Wonderful to see your pictures and hear the story!  You inspire me and I think I am seriously thinking it is time to get a salsa bike.  And great picture of you and write up in the August/September Issue of Adventure Cycle!!!!

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