Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Riding in Tucson

For the limited stay I have had here in Tucson, I thought I would share some things I learned about Tucson for those who are considering to go to Tucson to ride bikes.

The first week in Tucson was cold. It was about 35-45 degrees and we had to dress warm. However, the following weeks, it warmed up to mid 70s every day. The nights are cool but the days are nice and warm. Sometimes pretty windy.

Where to stay
I would suggest to stay downtown Tucson because you can ride in any direction and have a great ride. (see Routes). The downside of staying downtown is that you have to ride out of the city but bike trails and bike lanes on all roads make it not as bad as it might sound.
For group ride purposes, perfect stay would be close to university (Euclid and University). All rides start from the Starbucks at that corner.
Depending what kind of accommodation you are looking for, there are a lot of Tucsonans renting rooms, such as this site: http://www.aliciarides.com/RoomRental.html

La Salsa is across from the Starbucks where all the rides start and end. After a super long ride, I would suggest the El Champion burrito.

Beyond bread is beyond good. I suggest three pieces of cinnamon cake followed by the raspberry tart with carrot cake and a tuna melt.

Alibaba- Mediterranean restaurant on Speedway and Tucson Boulevard – great food and big portions.

Le buzz – CafĂ©, Catalina Highway and Tanque Verde, great sandwiches.


Bike stores
I was told the most popular bike store is Fairwheel downtown.

Group rides
Depending on the time of year, the start time of the following group rides changes. Call Fairwheel for more information.
Generally in the winter:
Tue: 7:30am at Starbucks (Euclid/University): Gates Pass/ Mc Cain Loop ~35mi
Wed: 7:30am at Starbucks: Mt. Lemmon Ride (length depending on how far you ride up Mt Lemmon)
Sat: 7:30am at Starbucks: Shootout ~ 65mi

You can ride in any direction from Tucson and get a great long ride! All of the rides I posted have sandwich places along the way. Here are a few rides:

104 mi Cody Loop/ Web Rd

87mi Sierrita Mountain Rd/ Three Points

109 mi -Greaterville/Box Canyon

112mi Sanoita Ride

What to bring
Some serious tires. The routes are not always super clean and the thorns of the cactus challenge even the most robust tires. Flats are common in Tucson.
Sun lotion.
Layered clothing. It could warm up 20-30 degrees between the start and the end of the ride.
Swimsuit: Either you meet the right local with a whirl pool or you can treat yourself to a spa in one of the many spas Tucson has to offer.

A few notes


Although there are a lot of cyclists around, car drivers are not always supportive of the bike community. However, the big advantage in Tucson is the plethora of bike lanes. Once out of the city, you can enjoy the open roads with little traffic.

For foreigners

There are some US border controls south of Tucson. I got stopped twice on the way back from the rides and asked if I am a US citizen. Options: Either practice your “yes” in the best American accent or bring ID with you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Mount Lemmon ride

Mount Lemmon, part of the Santa Catalina Mountains, is located north of Tucson. It’s about a 16 mile ride from downtown to the base of the climb. The Catalina Highway, the road that leads up the mountain to Mount Lemmon is a 26 mile steady climb, 5-6% grade and 5200 feet of elevation gain.

The winding road that takes one up the mountain provides spectacular views towards Tucson and beyond.

I especially recommend the view of mile 15, shortly after Windy Point.

View Mile 15, Tucson in the distance

Once you arrive at mile 26, you have the option to either go for another 2 mi to the ski resort or head to the ski town Summerhaven. The way up to the ski resort is much steeper, but it is well worth the trip. It's pretty cool to see people skiing and snowboarding on a bike ride.

People are skiing in the background

Although it was great to watch people skiing, the cookie cabin is what gets cyclists up the mountain. We rode down to Summerhaven and went into the cookie cabin, a ski cabin with all kind of good food. We ordered a sampler cookie which was as big as the plate itself. Also, it's a good place to refill water bottles as they are no refill opportunities up the climb.

Cookies as big as the plate

After an extended break warming up in the cabin, we had to face the 26 mile descent. Initially, we thought it would be really cold but the sun was warm enough that we actually had to take layers off.
I absolutely loved the descent. I was out of gears unfortunately, but we still were faster than the cars.

This ride needs to be repeated very soon!