Monday, April 13, 2009

Riding in Yellowstone Park...without the cars

It's become a spring tradition-after the roads in Yellowstone have been cleared of snow, and before the park is open to automobile traffic, bicyclists are free to roam unencumbered by the hoards of tourists in cars, SUV's, and the dreaded big mirrored motorhomes. Other than a few service vehicles and park rangers, the only traffic to deal with are folks of all ages, shapes, and sizes on every manner of bicycle you can think of-from one speed cruiser bikes to custom made road machines.

In recent years, the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club touring group has hosted a ride in Yellowstone in mid-April. I've had the pleasure to participate in the this ride the last two years, including this past Saturday (April 11, 2009). We meet in West Yellowstone mid-morning and set out to Madison Junction and then towards Norris Junction. Unfortunately, the road to Old Faithful is closed to bikes due to grizzly bear issues, but the ride towards Norris is plenty fun, scenic, and challenging. Both years we had to contend with a few bison on the road, but with a little patience and calm we get through them-no problem.

I've been fortunate, in both years I've done the ride the weather has been very good. Last year it was clear blue skies and sunny. The temps were below freezing when we started, but they warmed up soon enough and we were pealing layers by Madison. This year the temperatures were warmer leaving West (the ice was melting in the parking lot), but some clouds moved in and we had a few sprinkles here and there. But considering what the weather can do in Yellowstone I would consider the conditions ideal!

I would recommend riding in the park to anyone-from an experience roadie to the person who only dusts the bike off a couple of times a year. It's also a great place to ride with kids.

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