When Graham Goff’s son Ben was 12 years old, he came home from school one day and reported to his parents that he had just biked to Canada. Perplexed at first, they discovered that Ben had been riding a stationary bike at school and had kept track of his mileage, knowing that the Canadian border was 450 miles north. Seeing this as an opportunity for an adventure, Goff invited his father and father-in-law to join him and Ben on a real bike trip to Canada. Ben was hooked and this would be the first of many long-distance cycling trips for father and son.
Tuesday, September 7 will mark the start of the second annual Montana Bike Odyssey (MBO). Registered riders have until Sunday, September 26 to complete the majestic, 1,776-mile-long, mixed-surface bike route that begins and ends in Bozeman, Montana. Last year in the inaugural 2020 race, Goff and fellow Berkshire classmate John Marshall ʼ87 were two of the top three finishers.
An outdoor enthusiast, Goff created the event together with Ben. The MBO combines the pair's love of cycling with their deep affection for the state of Montana, a place that Goff and his wife, Erin, have called home for nearly three decades. Shortly after graduating from College of the Atlantic and a year of living in Washington, DC, Goff packed his things and headed West with Erin. Eager to escape the fast pace of the East Coast, they landed in Montana and never looked back.
When he’s not out on a biking adventure with Ben or hiking somewhere on the East Coast with his daughter, Lucille—he alternates each year—Goff is an architect in Bozeman. He’s seen a surge of newcomers to Bozeman during the pandemic with people moving away from more populated settings in search of space and serenity.
If you enjoy cycling and have an interest in exploring the beauty of Montana, the Montana Bike Odyssey may be just the thing for you.
Read the Q & A below to learn more about the MBO and Goff’s appreciation for Berkshire.
What inspired you to create the Montana Bike Odyssey and what are your hopes for this remarkable event?
The Montana Bike Odyssey was born out of my son’s and my love of long-distance cycling. Having completed many extended bike tours and the 2018 TransAm race (4,300 miles from Oregon to Virginia) and the 2019 TransAlba race (1,000 miles around Scotland), we decided we wanted to share the beauty of our home state of Montana with fellow riders.
The overall goal in creating the MBO was to spend time outside riding bikes with great people while inspiring others to expand what they think is possible.
How did you map out the route and how long did it take?
We started with the goal of creating a 2,000+/- mile loop starting and ending in our hometown of Bozeman. Comprised of half gravel roads and half paved roads, it would travel through various small towns and landscapes in Montana.
We used lots of different tools to plan the initial route. The Montana Atlas and Gazetteer, an incredibly detailed map book of Montana, and a highlighter pen were step one. Then came Google Earth, Department of Transportation cycling maps and traffic counts, mapping apps such as Ride with GPS, and essential feedback from other ultra-distance riders from the area.
After months of initial mapping, it was time to hit the road and verify the route for accuracy, safety, and ride quality. We drove over 5,000 miles scouting the route. What sometimes seemed like a good idea on paper did not pan out in the real world. Our original route wandered deep into eastern Montana, but we decided it was too remote and adjusted accordingly. The last route change was due to Covid, and the season-long closure of the eastern entrance to Glacier National Park, which our original route passed through. In the end, the revised route was an improvement, offering more traffic-free, remote, dirt road riding.
Lastly, I felt it was necessary to cycle the route to get a true feel for it—something that driving in a car could never do. I headed out in two phases during the summer to pre-ride the course before the September start.
In what ways has your Berkshire experience shaped your life beyond the Mountain?
Like so many others, being outdoors on the Mountain with friends defined my time at Berkshire. Realizing the incredible power that spending time outside in nature has on our well-being has been something that continues to serve me 30+ years after leaving Berkshire. Also, Mr. Kinne’s full moon hikes prepared me for night riding through the wilds of the Rocky Mountains.
If you could offer any piece of advice to today’s students, what would it be?
I have two pieces of advice. First, put words to your dreams and goals, no matter how far-fetched or outlandish they may seem. The more you talk about them, the more likely they are to become a reality. Tell your friends, your family, anyone who will listen. As you continue to speak about your goals, you are convincing yourself that they are possible, while creating connections with others who might share similar dreams. Next, spend lots of time outside with friends and family. And equally important, by yourself ... you will not regret it!