Hit the road in one of the country's cycling capitals.
Tucson and cycling go together like spokes and hubs, like bearings and bottom brackets, like LeMond and the color yellow - in other words, they're a pretty darn good fit. Ever since cycling in America started to really gain popularity Tucson has been at the forefront, and it's easy to see why. It's an amazing place to ride. With unheard-of amounts of sunshine, warm dry weather, endless backroads, wide-open desert vistas, and steep mountain passes, Tucson has clearly cemented itself as one of the top cycling destinations not only in the U.S. but in the world.
Tips For Road Biking in Tucson
Hydration is important for cyclists no matter where they ride, but due to Tucson's warm and dry climate, it becomes especially important. Hydrate well before you go out and consider taking an extra bottle on longer rides. At the very least, research your route and locate places to stop for a refill. Along with the H2O factor comes the discussion about UV rays. The ample sunshine of the Sonoran Desert is a big part of what makes riding here so appealing, but it is also powerful. Be liberal with the sunscreen and, if possible, add some UV protective gear to your kit. Temperatures tend to fluctuate greatly in the winter months, when Tucson's cycling season is at its peak, sometimes jumping more than 20 degrees from early morning into the afternoon. Bring along your arm and leg warmers if you venture out early, then strip down when the temperature starts to rise, as it most certainly will. Other than that, all the universal rules of the road apply. Always wear a well-fitted helmet. Know where you're going or bring the GPS to avoid a longer ride than you hoped for. Kindly share the road with cars and other cyclists. And last but not least, enjoy the ride!
Pro cyclists and their teams have been coming to train in Tucson for decades for a lot of reasons, but one thing, in particular, keeps them coming back - Mt. Lemmon. This climb is without a doubt the best in the state and one of the best in the country thanks to its sustained 4-6% grades, smooth asphalt and ample room to avoid cars. But perhaps the best feature is the ability for riders to gain nearly 6,000 feet in under 30 miles as they ride up Catalina Highway from the warm desert floor to the crisp alpine air at the top. This climb is the definition of "Hors Catégorie", as even the scenery along the way defies classification.
See why The Economist put Mt. Lemmon at the top of the list for Seven Best Rides in the World.
The Loop is the perfect way to get around town via bike and is one of the reasons why Tucson is consistently rated as one of the country's top cities for cycling. No matter where you are in town you can get on this interconnected pathway and ride. The two most popular sections follow the conveniently located Rillito and Santa Cruz riverbeds, and a newer section stretches up into Oro Valley along the Cañada del Oro wash, easily connecting cyclists to the entrance to beautiful Catalina State Park. The pavement is like butter, the views are spectacular and best of all... NO CARS!
Click Here for a map of the loop courtesy of Pima County
A ride out to Gates Pass is a great way to get a little bit of everything on your ride. Warm up with some short to medium climbs as you leave the city and head west approaching the pass. Then enjoy a fast windy descent that drops you into the beautiful valley at the heart of Tucson Mountain Park. Ride to your heart's content on mostly flat, smooth asphalt past the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and up to Saguaro National Park West. Then loop back to town via Kinney Rd. heading south to Ajo Rd., or turn back and tackle the rather stout climb back up the pass for a faster return trip.
Saguaro National Park East
The short, 8-mile loop through the highly acclaimed Saguaro National Park East is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places to ride in Arizona. With very little elevation gain, buttery smooth pavement, and spectacular views, this ride is a must for any Tucson-bound cyclists. With the exception of one fairly long but gradual climb, it is easy to ride for just about anyone. Bonus, if you can make it out around sunset, you will not be disappointed.
Note: A $5 entrance fee is required to enter the park.
Kitt Peak National Observatory is not just a popular destination for astronomers, it's also a favorite for cyclists due to its remote location and ideal terrain. Clocking in at over 100 miles round-trip, the ride from Tucson to Kitt Peak combines a long stretch of flat riding through the low desert with a steep grind of a climb to get to the observatory which sits at nearly 7,000 feet. This very well might be one of the best rides in the galaxy. Please Note: The Kitt Peak Observatory and the mountain road may be closed. Check before you ride - Click Here for current status.
Ride a TUGO
Tucson's aptly named TUGO bike share program is taking the city by storm. For those who don't have their own bike and don't have time for a bike rental, this is definitely the way to "GO". With this easy and affordable option, riders can connect from downtown to the University of Arizona and beyond. See the sights from a whole new perspective and do it in style on one of these fresh 3-speed cruisers.
Find all the information you need to get going at TUGObikeshare.com