Cycling: Tour de Tradition

Every year for the last three, Sierra Trading Post's vidoegrapher intern, Chris Toly, his dad and his brother take part in the Tour de Wyoming, a six-day organized ride exploring a part of Wyoming. In this post, he talks about learning to ride a bike and this year's tour.

My earliest memory of riding a bike was with my grandma. I would spend the summers in New Jersey with my grandparents and one summer my brother Kevin and I were welcomed by two bikes. My grandpa fixed up the two bikes for us. We started with training wheels until a week later when my grandma urged me to try riding without them. I was hesitant to take this leap and try fully balancing.

Brothers Chris and Kevin Toly have ridden the Tour de Wyoming with their dad every year since 2010. Brothers Chris and Kevin Toly have ridden the Tour de Wyoming with their dad every year since 2010.

I remember the day like yesterday. After a lunch of homemade pizza we all went outside to give it a try. My brother went first with no problems whatsoever. My grandma looked at me and said, "I'll help you." She pointed me straight down the driveway and gave me a big push yelling "Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!" Looking back, I realized that Grandma never knew how to ride a bike, but she was a huge influence for my love of biking. Flash forward 15 years, and I'm riding a bike every day. In fact, I just finished my third bike tour in Wyoming.

For the last three years, my dad Joe, brother, cousin and I have participated in the Tour de Wyoming, a tradition highlighting my summers.  The tour is a six-day supported ride that covers a different part of Wyoming and, often, a neighboring state.  The tour draws an older crowd with the median age being in the 50s. (At 22, I felt like a young buck!) This year's tour covered 329 miles and included about 350 riders starting and finishing in Cody, Wyo. (It's too late for you to ride in this year's tour, but Cody is a pretty cool place. Learn about great hikes in the area in this guest post.)

Day one consisted of a mellow 65-mile ride through scenic farmland to Powell, Wyo., east of Cody.  The weather was beautiful with no breeze whatsoever. That would change soon enough!

Day two looped us through three tiny towns - Garland, Byron, Cowley and Deaver with a finish in Powell. Easy riding, and beautiful country, which was only partly true for us the next day. Day three  ended up being by far one of the worst days I've ever spent on a bike.

I awoke at 3 a.m. to 30 mph wind gusts. My tent shook violently. It was supposed to be a mellow, 62-mile flat day to Red Lodge, Mont., with a solid climb through the last 12 miles. We started the day with a strong crosswind. We turned north and into a strong headwind. I wasn't mentally prepared for the wind and ended up spending over five hours in the saddle hating every bit of it.

Day four was a 68-mile day ride over Bear Tooth Pass, Mont., and lots of switchbacks. The elevation was 10,947 feet and we ended the day in Silver Gate, Mont. I expected this to be worse than the previous day, but to my amazement it was really easy. We took our time and climbed slowly. A few miles from the top the temperature dropped to 50 degrees Fahrenheit with a light rain. The views were absolutely stunning, and we were at the boundary of Yellowstone National Park and its Northeast Gate. Day five was another easy day of 52 miles with a nice 10-mile climb to end the day to Dead Indian Pass. We were back in Wyoming, and on the highest point of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.

Kevin Toly pedals during the 2013 Tour de Wyoming. Kevin Toly pedals during the 2013 Tour de Wyoming.

Day six started with an awesome 12 mile downhill section and another 17 miles of mellow rollers into Cody, which by the way, is about 50 miles from the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.

I highly recommend every cycling enthusiast participate in some type tour in their life. It's peaceful seeing new terrain, and there are so many sights and sounds you miss while traveling in a car.  The Tour de Wyoming is special because everyone is so welcoming. The only downfall I have to riding? My butt gets so darn sore.

Does your state have an organized ride? What's it like?
posted by
Juliette Rule
Juliette Rule is a former social media and public relations manager for Sierra Trading Post. She loves riding her mountain bike or road bike - in every Colorado season. Juliette lives in Fort Collins, Colo., with her rescued Australian cattle dog, Maszlo.
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