Weekend Wheeling in Northeastern Wyoming
My mountain biking companion is Darth the wonder dog, a red Australian shepherd whose age shows in his gray muzzle. He's just 13 years old, but in dog years, that makes him 91. Darth can't jump as high or move quite as fast as he did 10 years ago. But he still has the vim and vigor of dogs half his age. He accompanies me on many of my bike outings for which I have developed a personal rating scale: the Darth Scale.
The Darth Scale
On the Darth Scale, a simple cruise on easy terrain has a rating of "Yes," as in "Yes, I can bring Darth along and he'll do fine." Routes with this rating are also great family rides.
On the other end of the scale is a rating of "No." Darth can't join me on these routes. All road rides are a "No" because of traffic considerations, regardless of the distance or terrain. Mountain bike routes that rate a "No" are typically long or fast rides, which are therefore suitable for intermediate or advanced cyclists in at least moderately good physical condition.
The middle of the Darth Scale is the rating of "Yes, but take it easy." Darth can join me on these, but I have to make terrain and distance concessions for him. On long downhills, I slow down so Darth can keep up. On extended rides, I take frequent breaks for water and shade.
I used the Darth Scale recently while biking in and around Sheridan, Wyoming. Sheridan is nestled at the base of the Bighorn Mountains approximately 135 miles south of Billings, Montana. Its proximity to Bighorn National Forest provides unlimited mountain biking opportunities. Paved roads radiate out from town to provide numerous long- and short-distance road rides.
The Tongue River Shuttle ride is an 11-mile mountain bike route with a "Yes" rating on the Darth Scale. It is a long downhill. Rocks and debris litter the trail and provide natural speed bumps.
The Black Mountain ride has two options: One is a 10-mile (total) out-and-back route with a "Yes" rating; the other is a tougher 17-mile loop with a "Yes, but take it easy" rating.
The third Sheridan-area route is a road ride through the scenic Bighorn Valley. As with all my road rides, this rates a "No" on the Darth Scale. It is a good training ride for the experienced rider, but it will likely provide a challenge for the novice road cyclist.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication