Well, another Cycle Greater Yellowstone ride is in the books, and I’m proud Bugman and I made it, though I’m a bit embarrassed to say that we sagged on portions of three ride days (more details in posts to come). We completed 376 miles of the original 523, though we had no intention of doing the optional century ride on day 5. That was an important rest day for us!
Many thanks to the volunteers who helped us along the way! I can’t say enough about those fine folks!
But that’s to be expected.
We’re in the mountains, so there is climbing. Day 3 alone was mapped at over 8,000 feet of climbing!
Also, we’re in the mountains, so there is weather. I heard the temperature extremes were 27 degrees overnight in Cooke City to 90 degrees mid-day in Powell.
I think there were some near if not full-blown cases of both hypo- and hyperthermia, and I heard of a rider who developed an infected/abscessed saddle sore (ow!). Truly, you need to be prepared for anything out there in those wild lands, a good portion of which has no cell service. (The payphone on the main drag in Cooke City is not there for nostalgic effect.) The ride is supported, but you need to be able to support yourself as much as possible.
It’s not a ride to be taken lightly, but still, I don’t consider myself to be a Hard Core Cyclist, and here I am, three days later, after having done CGY on a tandem (not the best bike for climbing), and the sore lungs and sore legs are long gone (though the saddle sores and wind-and-soap-ravaged skin are hanging around a bit longer). In fact, my legs feel really strong, like I want to go try to tackle some big hill again. RAOWR!
Most of all, I’m THRILLED that Bugman and I finally had the chance to ride the Chief Joseph Highway. We missed it during CGY 2013 due to a cracked rim, and it totally lived up to all the gushing descriptions we had plugged our ears not to hear that first year.
I much preferred Chief Joseph Highway, and the portion of Beartooth that we survived, to Teton Pass last year. Chief Joseph and Beartooth are engineered such that the grade is generally steady – I heard somewhere around 5 percent. If we stopped our tandem, we could get it started again. Not so on most of the climb on Teton Pass – it was too steep.
As I did in 2013 and in 2014, I will write a post on each day’s ride and add links to each post at the bottom of this page. Again I got lots of comments from people that my blog helped them decide to give CGY a try. Very cool! Hopefully they don’t regret it after this year’s crummy weather. Makes for good stories, though, eh?
I’m amazed that people recognized us, even off the bike. Several people said “Hey, it’s Bugman and . . . what’s your name again?” Ah, the curse of the writer using first person and having one’s name forgotten. So . . .
A few statistics from 2015 CGY:
- Youngest rider: 14
- Oldest rider: 80
- Average age: 55
- Percentage of female riders: 33
- Number of states represented: 47 (I think Delaware, Rhode Island and Hawaii were missing this year?)
- Number of foreign countries represented: 3 (or was it 5?)
The ride was a little bit different this year, in that the number of riders was capped at 350, about half the number of riders in prior years. Registration numbers were down, and it didn’t make sense to double the support infrastructure without a comparable number of riders, so registration was cut off.
I noticed that the food lines were shorter, and there seemed to be less waiting at the “greenhouses” (portable toilets) in the morning. There seemed to be fewer bikes passing us out on the road, too. (We are slower riders, so we get passed a lot. Except on the downhill. Tandems are fast downhill.) The smaller number of riders would make it easier to find campsites for the group, I would think.
I wonder if the decline in registrations was because of Beartooth Pass being on the route. Bugman and I were “ambassadors” this year, and spoke with area cyclists about the ride. Some interested folks looked at the intimidating ride profile and said “uh, maybe next year.”
To wrap up this post, a couple of pictures from Day 0 in Red Lodge, Montana:
A final thought on some complaints I heard during the ride: this is primarily a volunteer-supported operation, the point of which is to get out onto the back roads and into the wilderness. It is not a five-star hotel.
The sherpa tents are designed to fit two people, snugly, for purposes of shelter – luggage will likely need to go under the rain fly outside. The gear trucks are not set up to transport delicate items like laptop computers, and you’ll struggle to find places to charge them and connect to wifi anyway. Yes, there are shower trucks, but you will most likely need to wait in line to use them (a good way to make some new friends!). The portable toilets are well maintained, but will inevitably smell bad at times. (An aside: check out the vanity license plates on the South West Septic trucks if you go next year & they are the vendors. They have a sense of humor!) There are meal buffets and rest-stop snacks for you to choose from, and while the caterers and volunteers are as accommodating as possible, you will not be able to order exactly what you want. There are multiple options, including vegetarian and gluten-free, but if you are a picky eater, you may be out of luck. And note that food produced in quantity will sometimes suffer in quality. (I got a good laugh out of the fact that I broke a plastic fork on a pancake one morning, only to have a nearby diner suffer the same fate a few moments later. The crew got up before dawn to make a huge batch so everyone could get fed and get on the road in a timely manner, and the pancakes had suffered from waiting around awhile in the warming pan.)
There is an option for you to book all your own hotel rooms each night and get transported to/from camp, but I think you lose a bit of the camaraderie this way. (Confession: I was pretty jealous of the hotel dwellers that frozen morning in Cooke City.)
If you are not OK with being outdoors a lot and enduring some inconvenience and discomfort in exchange for amazing scenery and bonding experiences with fellow cyclists, this may not be the ride for you.
Also, the point of the ride is to draw attention to the ecosystem in the Yellowstone region and to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, which works to preserve and enhance that ecosystem. Expect some environmental proselytizing. Expect that you may begin to care deeply about the landscape you are riding through. It’s an amazing place.
Copyright 20125 by Katie Bradshaw