In a city known for it’s gastronomy and preservation of the Old West, bike riding isn’t something that necessarily comes to mind when visiting the Old Pueblo.
If you do prefer two wheels instead of four, there are few places better suited for exploration on your bicycle than Tucson.
The year-round sunny weather makes for lovely conditions, and Forbes even listed El Presidio as number two on their top 10 list of most bikeable downtown areas in the United States. For those with an adventurous spirit, Tucson may be more your speed, as it’s frequently mentioned as one of the top cities to explore via mountain biking.
Before you begin your bike riding adventure make sure to prepare for a few elements Tucson may throw at you during this time of year. The temperature tends to jump from the morning hours to the afternoon, so be ready to dress according to this climate change. Make sure to bring UV blockers to block the sun's UV rays and to also wear a decent amount of sunscreen. Lastly and most importantly, stay hydrated, the heat may cause a lot of dry conditions and you don't want a cramp to end your day early.
The scenic route more your thing? There are plenty of places to explore the beautiful Arizona landscape on your bike. Mount Lemmon is a popular destination for professional cyclists and serves as an ideal place to train, as the road up the mountain provides ample room for cyclists and cars. If you decide to make the trek up the mountain, prepare for the air to get a little bit cooler towards the top as the less than 30-mile journey elevates to over 6,000 feet, starting from the desert floor and ending at the mountain’s peak. In May, the Mt. Lemmon Hill Climb takes place beginning at McDonald Park, where riders can travel in a large group on an expedition up the hill as the Greater Arizona Biking Association will help provide food, stops and maintenance help for riders along the way.
For a moderate ride that has its fair share of hills but none of the strenuous variety, travel to Gates Pass just outside of the city. A low ascent up the road leads you to a breezy downhill descent into Tucson Mountain Park, where you can mountain bike the trial system for a more intense ride. This section of the pass is considered one of the best places in Tucson to view a sunset. It gives you two routes, north on Kinney Road to the Arizona Desert Sonora Museum and Saguaro National Park West, or a loop back down past Old Tucson.
Saguaro National Park East
On the other side of the city, Saguaro National Park East is an 8-mile journey considered by locals to be one of the most beautiful places to ride in the state. With a number of accessible paved trails, the Cactus Forrest Loop Drive allows riders to enjoy a smooth bike ride as they examine the animal and plant life of the Sonoran Desert. The park also includes 2.5 miles of mountain bike trails for those wanting a little bump in their ride. Make sure to carry a wallet, as there is a $5 entry fee to enter the park.
The Loop is also popular among bike riding enthusiasts as it links shopping destinations, parks and neighborhoods together through a car-less path that stretches over 100 miles long. The path was once used as an access point for maintenance workers to maintain the walls of the Rillito, Pantano and Santa Cruz rivers before people realized they would make for great access points for the public across multiple neighborhoods. A recently opened route takes bike-riders all the way up to Oro Valley and provides an entrance to the lovely Catalina State Park.
If you're passing through or in town on vacation without a bike, try the TUGO bike share program, which has 330 bikes scattered across various stations throughout 13 different neighborhoods. The program can be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Find information on where bikes are located, the number of available bikes at each station, directions and approximate trip times for your intended destination through the Cyclefinder App on iOS and Android. One thing is for sure no matter what your intentions are, whether it's to save gas, exercise or for sport, two wheels is the way to go.