Look, I get it. Tucson is hot in the summer. But I still like to get out and mountain bike as much as possible. There are those who still brave the heat and ride during the day but honestly, I don’t see how they can do it. They must have to tow a trailer loaded with water behind their bike. I tried, and learned quickly that I don’t do well with strenuous exercise in temperatures above 95 degrees or so.
So, as someone who loves to mountain bike year-round, my knobby-tired brethren and I have learned to adapt and keep our passion alive when the temperatures climb. And the key point is pretty simple: Stay away from the sun.
You’ve got three options:
Early Bird Gets the Worm (or in this case, Sweet Singletrack and Sunrises)
This is one of my favorite times to ride. The desert is still nice and cool from the night, and you can enjoy one of Tucson’s spectacular sunrises. You also don’t need to lug around lights and batteries. From June through early September, you’re going to want to be finishing up before 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. Many times I’m out on the trail by 5:00 a.m., which leaves ample time to get a great ride in, AND stop to enjoy the sunrise.
I can’t explain how wonderful night-riding can be. It brings a completely different perspective to not only your riding skills, but also the world around you. Different sights, sounds and smells that what you’re used to during the day. This obviously also comes with it’s own set of challenges. A decent light is a must. There is no need to purchase a top-of-the-line if you’re only going to be occasionally riding at night. But likewise, don’t just buy a cheap LED at your local super-store and tape it to your handlebars. There are very reasonably priced LED lights that will provide you an ample amount of light. There are some that like a helmet-mounted light, others like a handlebar light, and a growing number that like BOTH. Helmet-mounted lights are popular because they help illuminate where your head turns, so you can keep the trail’s turns bright. The downside of helmet-mounted lights is that they tend to visually flatten the terrain in front of you, because the shadows cast by the light is at the same angle as your eyesight. Handlebar-mounted lights show a more accurate view of the terrain in front of you but their downside is that they only illuminate the trail in front of you when you’re riding straight. When you encounter a turn, they’re still pointing off into the desert. So the obvious answer here is to purchase BOTH! The chances of getting lost at night is greater, so be sure to let your loved ones know where you will be and when you expect to return. It’s also a good idea to ride with someone in case you eat dirt. And finally, realize you’re not the only critter to take advantage of the cooler weather. You might encounter a few more animals at night, so be aware and cautious.
Up, Up, Up
Tucson is surrounded by mountain ranges and the tallest of is the Santa Catalinas. Mt. Lemmon is the highest point at roughly 9,000 feet, which means daytime temperatures are 30-degrees cooler in the summer. Not only are the temperatures enough to get you to drive the incredibly scenic 30-mile Catalina Highway, but there is a plethora of amazing hiking/biking trails awaiting you and your family. Grab a pizza and cookie in Summerhaven (the small cabin-filled village at the top of Mt. Lemmon) and go for a ride. Or take a ride on the Ski Valley’s ski-lift that runs during the summer. One thing to note: Most trails on Mt. Lemmon are not for beginners, though they’re great to hike, too.
Tucson is becoming a world-renown mountain biking destination, and by just modifying when you ride, it’s easy to bike year-round and experience the 300-plus miles of singletrack we have to offer.