Hitting the trails on two wheelsSep 3, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor
Mountain biking, as we now know it, has its origins in California in the 1970s.
However, to find the true roots of the sport, one need not travel very far from Fremont County to find the place where bicycles were first taken off-road.
In August of 1896, the famed "Buffalo Soldiers" of the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Regiment went on an expedition from Missoula, Montana to Yellowstone National Park on bicycles specially-modified for off-road use.
Fast-forward over a century and mountain biking has developed into a high-tech sport with many different disciplines and participants all over the world.
However, from Aug. 25-27, dozens of mountain bikers descended on Lander for the Jurassic Classic, an annual celebration of everything trail-riding related, which features something for everyone who is enthused by the ever-growing sport.
After the event was originally built around a one-day race, this year, organizers decided to do something a bit different, making it more of a festive gathering than a competitive atmosphere, said event director Mike Dicken.
"We decided to change directions with the Jurassic Classic and transition it from a one-day competitive race to a weekend-long festival," said Dicken."Lander has an incredibly strong sense of community and that's no different in it's cycling community. Therefore, we wanted an event where everyone could come together and celebrate just that."
According to Dicken, the Classic also allowed an opportunity to show off what the local mountain biking scene has to offer.
"The Lander Cycling Club has been working very hard over the years to build these mountain bike trails and we're proud and excited to show them off to the rest of Wyoming and surrounding areas," said Dicken. "By having demo bikes from companies like Giant and Specialized here, we were able to let people ride some very nice bicycles that made some of our trails very enjoyable and accessible to everyone that may have otherwise not been realized. Festivals are a great way to build community and awareness, all the while having a fun time doing it and I think we achieved exactly that."
A good cause
Proceeds from the event went to the Lander Cycling Club's ongoing efforts to maintain the trails in order to maximize the optimum riding experience, but also serve other outdoor sports purposes, as well, said Dicken.
"In order to keep our trails in great shape, we work in cooperation with local land managers to clear downed trees, ensure water is shedding appropriately, replace missing or vandalized signage and remove vegetation that inhibits good sight lines," he said. "Trails that are built well from the beginning tend to need less, but there is always some maintenance to be done. We have a small, but dedicated group of folks who construct and maintain trails and we're always looking for new volunteers. All the trails the LCC has constructed so far have been multi-use trails, so although they are built by mountain bikers, the trails benefit other user groups including equestrians, hikers and trail runners."
However, the club isn't about just getting tires dirty while traversing rugged off-road terrain, said Dicken.
"The club was founded in 2008 to promote all sorts of cycling in the Lander area. Our members pursue road biking, mountain biking, fat biking, triathlons, BMX riding and dirt-jumping. Trail-building and events are our principal activities," he said. "In 2017, we will put on three events - the Fremont Area Road Tour, the Jurassic Classic Mountain Bike Festival, and the WYO 131. We were also one of the sponsors of the Joe McGowan Memorial Skatepark and the Kent D. Donahue Memorial Bike Park. Lastly, we also help out with Injury Prevention's safety rodeos and the Lander Live Bike Valet."
Something for everyone
During the three days of the Classic, riders of all kinds had an opportunity to try out trails of varying difficulties and skill levels, which made the entire event that much more gratifying, said Dicken.
"We had attendees from all skill levels and all ages, which was amazing," he said."We had people that had only ridden a mountain bike a few times to experts who've been riding for over 30 years."
Not only that, but riders came to Lander from far and wide to attend, said Dicken.
"We had attendees from as far as Kentucky and Nevada," he said. "Which was very rewarding -- to be able to show these travelers our amazing town and trails."
For Dicken, mountain biking provides an escape, as well as exercise, he said.
"I enjoy mountain biking for its ability to be a really fun form of fitness and also a way to experience the outdoors that takes you further into the woods while completely under your own power," said Dicken."The act of riding a bike has and always will be one of life's most fun and simple pleasures and what could be better than being able to do that in Lander's beautiful back yard?"