Over many years of cross-country competing, I spent most of my spring breaks down in Tucson, Arizona, for some solid winter training. Wanting to get those base miles in, I always brought my road bike with me…travelling with one bike is enough work, and it was more bang for my buck with the road bike. So in conclusion, after all of those years spent in Tucson, I had never actually mountain biked there before. I made sure to add it to my hit-list this time around.
There is a variety of places to ride, but let me first warn you: TOUCH NOTHING. Everything is razor sharp and will leave you scurrying to your mom to get the barbs and thorns out of you. ‘Jumping Cholla’ have ‘joints’ that remove very easily from the plant, and appear to jump onto things passing by with their razor sharp barbed spines (see the numerous joints scattered on the trail in the pic below). They also love to eat tires for lunch, so try your best to avoid these bad guys, and all the vegetation at that.
Mount Lemmon offers some spectacular riding, if you are willing to put in the climbing and hike-a-bike effort, or ask someone nicely for a shuttle to the trail head. I would have to say the descending options after that are quite worth the effort though. I like to think of myself an ‘all-mountain rider’, so I opted for pedalling to build some much needed fitness.
Bug Springs through to Melino Canyon was by far my favourite loop of the whole area, that I rode it multiple times. The trail weaves between, over and around the Flinstone-like boulders, making for a fun and challenging ride. Don’t forget to stop and admire the view along the way!
For something a little more (and I actually mean a LOT more) challenging, check out La Milagrosa. This trail will leave you more out of breath than any other, even though it is primarily downhill. I highly recommend scoping out the technical features before sending it into them blind.
If you’re feeling something more flowy and fast, then I recommend checking out Fantasy Island or Fifty Year. They both offer different varieties of technical, speed, flow, fun, and of course, sharp cacti. I was fortunate enough to be shown the trails by some family and friends that were in the area.
Trying my best to avoid sharp cacti…While I was successful in not making friends with any of these guys on the trails, I managed to stumble and trip into a potted prickly-pear at a friend’s house. One barb is actually like ten. Safe to say, I’m better off to stay on my bike.
Unfortunately, when it rains in the desert, it pours. Tucson has a sweet bouldering gym (The Bloc) that I checked out for some cross-training and indoor slacklining fun. The excessive amounts of rain that the area received made for some fun driving and riding through the washes, but, also created some serious limitations as to where I could take the van for some boondocking. It also meant, that on some trails, the usually dry creek beds might turn into 27 creek crossings, and the water is COLD!
I am pumped to have been able to check Tucson off my hit-list of places to ride, but I wouldn’t make it a top destination to return to with my mountain bike (road bike – yes). My next stop is meeting up with one of my best (riding) friends in Sedona. Now that is a place I have been really looking forward to shredding.
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And always remember, home is where you park it!