I think this trip was my best yet to Arizona, and I’ve come here many times now. Other than losing my camera and some issues with Dave’s bike, the trip exceeded our expectations. The weather was as good as it gets in Tucson. In another month, it will be getting too hot. Earlier this winter, it was unusually wet. We scored a perfect four days. Our bodies held up well too. Averaging nearly five hours per day of rigorous off-road riding this early in the season is a solid confirmation of base fitness. How many Americans can do any type of physical activity like this at 47 years old? I definitely felt like a kid again these past four days. Play all day, eat all night.
Tucson riding ranks right up there with the best spots this country has to offer. Strangely, in most mountain biker’s minds, Tucson does not make the list. I think riders just don’t know. There is as much riding here as there is in Durango, Sedona or Moab.
So can one say Tucson is better than Durango? That is like saying Chardonnay is better than Merlot, or Starbucks is better than Dunkin Donuts (ok, this last one is true). There are distinct differences between Tucson and Durango. You have air to breath most places in Tucson, although not as clean as high country air in Durango. You ride Tucson in winter/early spring, which is typically dry. Durango is ridden in late summer when monsoon thunderstorms are daily deals. Both offer unique scenery, the stuff glossy calendars are made of. Both cities have vibrant mountain biking communities that build and maintain trail systems for our sport. The city of Durango does have much more charm than the sprawling metropolis of Tucson. You can spend a week at either city and do daily epic rides and not repeat anything. In my opinion, the two compliment each other very well since they are best ridden at different times of the year.
Two trails stand out from this trip. The Bug Spring Trail (Bugs) on the flanks of Mt Lemmon offered some challenging terrain and mix of great scenery. I’d definitely work this five mile trail into an epic loop again. The other stand out was the Brown Mountain Trail just north of the Tucson Mountain Park. Again, this loop offered some extremely challenging terrain that was just doable enough for Dave and I for it to not be a slog fest. I love ridge riding. Even though this ridgeline was only 400-500ft above the valley floor, you could see in all directions from the peaks, affording fantastic views of TMP and the Santa Catalina’s. I’d work this trail into another ride again someday too.
Brown Mountain Loop
As long as I can turn pedals over rocks and dirt, I plan to keep going back to Tucson every year or two. It is a perfect place to hit as ski season winds down in New England and weather is still on the messy side for epic road or off-road riding. I rationalize this trip as “spring training,” but the fact of the matter is, it's just plain fun to break away with mountain bikes once in a while. Other’s pay exorbitant fees to join organized spring training camps in the south western part of the country. I’d rather go with free-form structure and plan rides that no doubt provide similar training value. It is like getting the training value for free. We had way too much fun to even realize our bodies were being pushed beyond the normal envelope several days in a row. We saw hundreds of roadies over the four days, many with Power Taps, no doubt fixated on achieving “numbers.” Our numbers were measured in smiles per mile.