Frequently Asked Questions


I'm thinking of moving to Tucson. What kind of riding (both mountain and road) can I expect, how busy are the trails, and how close to town are they?

If you can survive the first summer and like it, the rest is easy. Tucson is a very well kept secret as far as biking, both mountain and road, is concerned. Year-round riding and a variety of trails close to town make it hard to beat.

If you are looking for trails out your back door, it's possible if you live on the edge of town in some places. Even if you don't, there's a lot of good riding available within a half-hour's drive. Here's a quick look at the areas available. Drive times are approximate from the Tucson Mall.

Tucson Mountains (30 minutes west). Home of Tucson Mountain Park, Old Tucson, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Many miles of trails from flat and mellow to steep and technical. Typical desert riding. That
means everything from hardpack to sand, rock, and rock-covered trails. A very popular area, but even so you'll rarely see anyone on the trails during the week in the early morning hours.

Tortolita Mountains (30 minutes north). More desert riding. We almost never see anyone but cattle. Old jeep trails with some technical available. It's State Trust Land that a $20/year recreational permit will give you access to.

Santa Catalina Mountains (30 minutes to 1+ hours depending on where you go). Lots of national forest with lots of trails in different terrains. Lower elevations have some great and often technical desert rides. Higher elevations (pine forest) offer a few mellow and some very technical trails that even hikers avoid. Great summer riding. A $20 yearly pass gives you access to parking and facilities.

Rincon Mountains (1+ hour east). More national forest. Includes the ever popular Chiva Falls area. I don't recommend it because of high use and trashed jeep trails, but it's an option.

Santa Rita Mountains (1-2 hours south). Still more national forest with more miles of dirt roads and jeep trails than you can shake a pump at. The Arizona Trail winds through there in a combination of singletrack and jeep trails. Desert riding.

Climate and Riding. Winters are usually in the 40s at dawn and warm up into the 60s and 70s during the day. Great morning riding weather with a light jacket and tights. Summers at their peak are 70s or 80s at dawn and 90s and 100s at high-heat. As long as you start your riding day before dawn and get done by 9 or 10 am, you'll be fine once acclimated. Even 100º isn't so bad once you get used to it. If you don't already, get in the habit of drinking a liter an hour whether you feel like it or not. The Catalinas offer higher elevation riding (6000-9000 ft) in conifer forests when you want a respite from the heat.

Road Riding. Hundreds of miles of roads in southern Arizona with light traffic. Plenty of bike lanes in town to get you out to desert roads north to Globe, west to Ajo, and east to Texas. Once you get out of town, traffic is light. The interstate carries most of the traffic and there's not much to attract drivers west of town. The Mt Lemmon Highway (Santa Catalinas) offers a 25-mile uphill climb (2500-8500 ft). Kitt Peak is a scenic 12-mile climb about 40 miles west of town with great views and a national observatory at the top.

Hiking and Trail Running. For those trails in wilderness areas off limits to bikes, there's plenty of hiking and trail running.


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