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Great Road Rides

Welcome to Arizona
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Another valuable resource for cyclists in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area is the Bike Ways Map, available for free from the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). The latest version of this map is from 2008 and is available by calling 602-254-6300.
 
ABC often gets questions from out-of-state bicyclists who are either planning to ride through Arizona, or bringing their bike here for a visit. I'd like to use this forum thread to provide some suggestions to those riders who are not familiar with the area.

Arizona is a beautiful state and it is not ALL desert. There is a remarkable range of environmental conditions ranging from low, hot desert to sub-alpine zones, where elevations can pass 7000 feet above sea level. Huge stands of Ponderosa Pine abound in the higher elevations, but the Sonoran desert dominates a very large and central portion of the state. The desert has its own beauty, but it can be harsh. Yes, it is a "dry heat." But, in the summer, temperatures in excess of 115 degrees (F), are a bit like sticking your head in an oven. You will notice it is indeed VERY dry, but also VERY hot. The expression "hydrate or die" carries a lot of weight around here. Personally, I find that if I keep pouring in the liquids, and there is a bit of air moving, I can ride in temperatures up to about 108 fairly well. I like to say, "Sweating was invented here." Of course your mileage may vary and running out of water can be a real show stopper. To put this in perspective, I could go through almost a gallon of water per hour while riding in that kind of heat. And, quite remarkably, I won't be needing bathroom breaks very often. If you are travelling between these areas, both winter AND summer equipment can be needed.

Another thing that Arizona has is wide-open spaces. This makes for dramatic views. But, it can also mean replenishing supplies (including water) can be problematic. Bottom-line: plan accordingly. In some remote areas, at some times of the year, carrying enough water may be almost impossible for sustained daytime riding. You might consider riding during the cooler time of year or during the cooler times of the day. You may find that you can get in your miles by riding either very early in the day, or late in the evening. Siesta was also invented here! Some folks choose to ride in the dark. Of course, riding in the dark makes it hard to see all the beautiful scenery.

For the Phoenix area, I consider April to be the best all-around month for riding. On average, Phoenix gets only about 8 inches of rain per year. Historically, April, May, and June are the driest months. But, by June, average high temperatures are in excess of 100 degrees. In the summer, humidity increases and afternoon showers are not uncommon. Autumn riding is also pleasant, but the chances for rain are slightly higher than in April and May. Winter riding is excellent, but you might want to wait until a couple of hours after sunrise to let the morning chill burn off. Leg and arm warmers and coolers come in handy year-round, for dealing with dramatic temperature changes throughout the days. And, don't forget the sunscreen. Sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes!

Here are a few routing tools that I'd like to point out:

Google Earth and Google Maps are both free for individuals to use. In addition to driving directions, Google Maps now provides routing guidance for bicyclists and pedestrians. Google Maps has routed me onto roads that aren't yet built, so it is probably a good idea to double check their suggestions. Google Earth allows you to zoom in, all the way from space, to seeing 360 degree street level views. The quality of the imagery can vary, but most of the times, if you zoom in sufficiently, bike lanes (or the lack thereof) are clearly visible in Google Earth (or in Google Maps, using the Satellite and Hybrid views). 

TrimbleOutdoors provides the back-end technology for Bicycling.com  for route mapping and sharing. Choose either site, they share a common database. Creating an account is free, and the functionality is impressive. You can create a route with a few clicks of the mouse and then you can share it with the world. You can also import routes that you've already ridden, from many GPS devices or smartphones. This is the easiest way I know of to produce an elevation profile for a proposed route. It is also a great way to document your trip by attaching images or video clips to locations along the route. Try going into "Search" and click on the link "to search by name or keyword". From there, clicking on "Advanced Options" allows you to enter the group name "AZBikeClub." 

CrazyGuyOnABike.com describes itself as, "A place for bicycle tourists and their journals." This site currently features over 5400 journals, describing everything from day-rides to global odysseys. Pictures and firsthand accounts provide valuable insights and hours of entertaining reading. This is another free site (supported by donations) created by a cyclist for cyclists. Powerful searching options let you search in a variety of ways. 

AdventureCycling.org produces cycling maps for the Adventure Cycling Route Network (over 40,000 miles in the U.S. and Canada). Their "Southern Tier" route crosses Arizona's southern central portion from east to west (and vice versa). The "Grand Canyon Connector" route intersects the Southern Tier in Tempe, Arizona and links it to the "Western Express" route in Cedar City, Utah. The Western Express is a mid-country route which traverses southern Utah, connecting San Francisco, California with Pueblo, Colorado. While you can get general route information freely from their web site, their reasonably priced maps provide detailed information tailored specifically to bicycle touring.

Ride safe and enjoy beautiful Arizona!
 
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