Whether streaking down a gravel road or maneuvering along a mountain trail, cycling adventures are a great way to take in the landscape and recapture the freedom you experienced when you kicked off your training wheels and had two wheels of your own to explore the world — or your neighborhood — for the first time.
Many trails exist within pedaling distance of Sheridan, on the vast expanse of gravel roads throughout the county, as well as hundreds of miles of trails in the Bighorn Mountains.
The Sheridan Community Land Trust is working to create an infrastructure of trail systems that can be accessed quickly from town, such as Soldier Ridge Trail and the Red Grade Trail System.
“You don’t have to load up and go, you can ride from pretty much anywhere in town to access the Soldier Ridge Trail,” Back Country Bike and Mountain Works owner Jeff Stine said.
Bomber Mountain Cycling Club president Jordan LeDuc said the fastest growing genre of cycling is gravel road riding. It is appealing because there is less traffic, it’s accessible and there are miles of it, not just here in the Bighorns but across the country.
The Bomber Mountain Cycling Club has night road rides on Tuesdays and night mountain bike rides on Fridays throughout the summer.
The club also participates in several bicycling events including the Christmas Roll poker run; Biketoberfest; the Story Community Fun Ride; the Beaver Creek Slog; the MS150, which is a 150-mile road tour, not a race, to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis; and the Lion’s Club road ride, put on by the Lions Club to benefit a camp for the blind in Casper.
In addition, the club sponsored a 100-mile gravel road race this summer called the Dead Swede Hundo, organized by the Black Tooth Brewing Company and Sheridan Bicycle Company. LeDuc hoped the race would rival the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run in popularity.
Bighorn National Forest trails coordinator Sara Evans Kirol said there is a variety of trail opportunities in the mountains that are single track and motorized trails that people can use for mountain biking. People can ride on four-wheel drive roads, so there are quite a lot of miles people can cover on two wheels.
Some of the popular mountain spots include Tongue River Canyon out of Dayton, Clear Creek Trail out of Buffalo, Bench Trail in Shell Canyon and Red Grade Trail, Stine said.
Evans Kirol said Bench Trail was rebuilt and designed with mountain biking standards in mind. It covers 10 miles of trail starting high in elevation and goes through different habitat zones, ending at a lower elevation in a juniper forest at Pole Creek Picnic Area.
She added that Trail 205 out of Buffalo in the Grouse Mountain area, was funded by the city of Buffalo and is designed for mountain biking with nice climbing turns and hills.
“Clear Creek out of Buffalo is an up and back ride, which is good for all levels of riders,” Stine said. “Tongue River Canyon is a little bit more toward the advanced side. It’s steep, rocky and technical. It is not a ride that a novice mountain biker is going to enjoy.”
Evans Kirol said mountain trails are classed 1 to 5 with 1 being very primitive and 5 fully developed.
“Over a third of the trails are trail class 3,” Evans Kirol said. “Those trails have defined tread, not as many obstacles or junctions that are not signed. Trail class 1 and 2 are harder with more protrusion, more rocks, tighter switchbacks, more turns and more on the primitive side, such as the tread being gone, like in a meadow.”
Before hitting the trails, it is important to be prepared for the adventure.
“Make sure your bike is in worthy operating condition — the air pressure in the tires are good and the drive train components are shifting properly,” Stine said. “Also, be prepared for the weather, such as sudden storms in the summer and choose a trail that is suited for your riding level.”
Evans Kirol suggests carrying a travel repair kit that fits in a pouch in your backpack or bike seat with tools and an extra tube in case you must change a flat tire or your chain comes off.
LeDuc said most people should be prepared with a hydration pack with a water bladder so you don’t have to carry a water bottle, as well as a pump, first aid kit, food and energy gels.
Evans Kirol also recommends taking a map with you in case you come to an intersection that isn’t marked with a sign. She said there is an interactive visitor map available on the U.S. Forest Service home page, www.fs.fed.us, that allows the user to click on a trail to learn the name of the trail, trail class, physical grade and for what it is managed.
Other advice includes letting people know where you are going and when you expect to be back, wearing a helmet, staying on the trail with your bicycle and practicing “Leave No Trace” principles.
“Bicycling is ‘the freedom machine,’” LeDuc said. “It takes you back to your childhood days. It clears your mind. It’s a fantastic way to see our landscape, not only in the Bighorns, but anywhere. It’s healthy; it’s fun; it’s fitness.”