New outfitter takes e-biking to the next level

The Allred brothers have a solution to the overcrowding in Glacier National Park and other

The Allred brothers have a solution to the overcrowding in Glacier National Park and other outdoor hotspots.

This summer, Kyle and Garren Allred are introducing Flathead Outdoors. They offer tours on electric bikes, electric dirt bikes, and traditional dirt bikes, as well as e-bike rentals.

With an arsenal of 18 bikes, they hope to get riders deep into the backcountry, fast.

“I wanted something unique and different, besides just going to Glacier National Park,” said Kyle. “Where we go, there are no tourists. It’s more of an adventure.”

The bikes are adventurous, but accessible, the Allreds stressed. The approachability has made e-biking an increasingly popular activity in recent years.

In 2019, Glacier National Park officially gave e-biking the green light on paved park roads, including the renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road.

E-bikes run on a mix of batteries and old-fashioned manpower. Riders can pedal manually, then rely on the electric assist to boost them up inclines or help them complete the last leg of a ride.

Garren said e-biking feels like traditional biking, with “a little extra umph.”

E-bikes for regular road use can reach speeds of about 25 mph, while the e-dirt bikes top out at 48 mph.

“I like the ‘e stuff’ because it opens up more for people,” Kyle said. “If you can ride a bike, if you can drive a car, you can ride one of these.”

E-dirt bikes have yet to truly take off in popularity, but the Allreds see them as an alternative for adrenaline enthusiasts of all stripes. E-dirt bikes don’t have pedals or a clutch, so the inexperienced can get up to speed right away. The bikes are also smooth to ride, thanks to a dual-suspension system and fat tires.

“You can hop on this and roll out,” Kyle said.

The special “extended play” (EP) setting provides a gradual way to warm up and even includes Bluetooth pairing. In EP mode, Kyle and Garren can help riders get the hang of things using a separate device.

Their electric road bikes are geared toward accessibility, too. The frames are foldable, so they can be easily stored in small spaces and carted around to various trailheads. The adjustable seats also make it easy for shorter riders to get comfortable on them.

“This is much more accessible to the average person,” said Kyle. “It’s not intimidating.”

Flathead Outdoors is set up to maximize accessibility even further. The Allreds provide gear to outfit riders for optimum safety and comfort.

E-bikers who rent from Flathead Outdoors get an extra battery, a helmet, a toolkit, storage compartments and a flag for the back of the bike.

DIRT BIKERS, electric or traditional, are equipped head-to-toe by Flathead Outdoors. The Allreds provide boots, pads, a helmet, goggles and gloves as part of a tour.

Kyle likes to joke, “you don’t have to bring anything—you can show up in your underwear.” However, it’s usually more comfortable to wear jeans or long pants, he added.

As guides, Kyle and Garren tailor their rides to all ability levels. “We can go from a complete beginner to a veteran who wants to ride the ‘gnarliest of the gnar,’” Kyle said.

Flathead Outdoors has permits that allow them to ride just about anywhere in Flathead National Forest.

“There are about 2.5 million acres of Flathead National Forest, and I can do tours on basically all of it,” Kyle said.

Conveniently, however, it’s not necessary to head deep into the forest to get a ride with the Allreds. Their bikes are available to try, rent, or sign up for a tour in the parking lot of the Columbia Falls Super 1 Foods store, and at the Army-Navy stores in Evergreen and Whitefish. Flathead Outdoors will deliver bikes to renters, too.

The minimum age requirement is 18, but Kyle said some e-bikers opt to tow younger children in a trailer behind the bike.

But the ease of use doesn’t come at the expense of having fun, the Allreds insisted.

“When you ride these, you’re shredding,” Kyle said. That’s high praise coming from Kyle, who grew up mountain biking in Idaho and introduced snow-bike tours to the Flathead this year with his wintertime business, SnowBike Nation.

Kyle is so enthusiastic about the potential for e-biking, he plans on selling e-dirt bikes and doing custom builds in the future. He’s also developing a 40-acre trail system on his property west of Kalispell to introduce newcomers to the sport.

Kyle expects e-biking to continue to grow in popularity.

“It’s similar to Tesla,” he predicted. “In the next four to five years, it’s going to explode.”

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 406-758-4459 or [email protected]