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Great Road Rides

Visiting the Phoenix area and want to ride
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The Phoenix metro area, commonly referred to as "The Valley of The Sun" or just "the Valley" is sprawling. There are 25 cities and towns plus three Native American Indian Communities within the region. From Buckeye in the west to Apache Junction in the east it is almost 70 miles as the crow flies. It's a similar distance from New River in the north to Casa Grande in the south. This area is larger than several of the smaller eastern states! Ranches, resorts, luxury homes and trailer parks can all be neighbors in virtually any part of the Valley. And exactly where the municipal boundaries are can a bit fuzzy, even for locals, as one community often blends into the next. The city of Phoenix occupies a central position in The Valley. But even with the most central base of operations for your visit, some parts of the area will still be quite remote.

"The Valley" is formed by the Salt River, which in many places is basically a dry river bed for most of the year. The watershed covers a huge portion of the state, including much of the higher elevations to the north and west. Flowing generally southwest, the river reflects the overall tilt of the Valley. As a rule of thumb, if you are riding north or east, you will be going uphill. Grades are mostly gentle but persistent and some small mountains pop abruptly from the valley floor; South Mountain, Camelback Mountain, and Piestewa Peak (formerly known as Squaw Peak) are notable examples. The elevations vary from over 3100 feet above sea level near Carefree in the north east to under 900 feet in Buckeye. There are several canal systems in the area and these tend to follow the contour of the land, running at right angles to the rivers and washes. The biggest road bike climb around is in South Mountain Park. The drive climbs for 7 miles, going from about 1400 feet above sea level to over 2600. This is only 3% overall grade but some sections, particularly one, very near the top, are much steeper. There are no roads to the top of Camelback or Piestewa but foot trails make these popular with walkers, hikers, and runners. The roads around these and other smaller mountains can offer some heart-pumping grades but normally the steep grades are under a half-mile in length, and there is invariably a whoosh on the other side.

The canals, washes, and mountain preserve areas form the basis for a developing network of off-street multi-use trails. These trails are a variety of surfaces from paved to highly technical mountain biking single-track. In most cases these trails are used by everyone from bikers to runners, walkers, horseback riders, rollerbladers, stroller pushers...

One particularly nice part of Phoenix is the Biltmore District. The Arizona Biltmore Hotel is located near 24th Street and Camelback Road and it is the hub of this area of mixed commercial and residential development dating back to the 1920s and reflecting the leading edge architectural styling of the era. This area is close to some of the nicest segments of canal path, mountain bike trails, residential street riding that Phoenix has to offer. It puts urban attractions such as the Desert Botanical Gardens, The Phoenix Zoo, Tempe Town Lake, The Heard Museum, and many more within about a 7 mile radius. A round-trip ride from the Biltmore to the top of South Mountain would be about 40 to 50 miles of mostly urban streets. Bike lanes would be available for much of the route. Nearby, mountain bikers will find that "Trail 100" threads its way through miles of desert preserve areas. In some areas, hybrid bikes would be suitable. In other areas, it can be fairly rugged and technical.

For a more suburban experience, consider basing your visit out of the Anthem, Tramonto, Carefree, or Cave Creek communities in the north of the Valley. This desert foothills area is the first hint of the transition from the Sonoran Desert to the Northern Arizona portion of the Colorado Plateau. From this part of the Valley, the drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is under 3 and-a-half hours. Carefree is an upscale master planned community first conceived in the 1950s. It's neighbor to the east, Cave Creek is a genuine frontier town with roots in the 1870s. Still further to the east, in the I-17 corridor, are Anthem and Tramonto. Development here is turn-of-the-century... THIS century! Bicycling Magazine deemed The Black Canyon Trail the best ride in Arizona in it's September 2012 issue. The southern end of the BCT is a few miles east of Anthem. From there, it is sixty-plus miles of single track mountain bike trail north to Mayer, Arizona. For the roadies, a 50 mile loop ride starting in this area can get you to places where understanding the inherent dangers of cattle guards is an issue, and where the roads turn to dirt.
 
In the past, I've suggested that the Candlewood Suites could be a good place to stay for a short visit to the Valley when folks are bringing their own bikes. This hotel property has a back gate which is literally right on the paved Cave Creek Wash Trail (CCWT) and only about a mile north of the intersection of CCWT and the Arizona Canal trail. Candlewood Suites is easy to get to from the airport since it is right off I-17 (aka Black Canyon Highway). This location is very close to Metrocenter Mall. There are plenty of restaurants close by:

Candlewood Suites Phoenix
11411 North Black Canyon Highway
Phoenix, AZ

If you are looking for a rental property in the Phoenix Metro area which is close to trails and are also looking for bike rentals. I suggest getting in touch with the good folks at Trailhead Bike Shop and Cafe:

http://www.trailheadbikecafe.com/ (they are also active on Facebook).

They are at:
Trailhead Bike Cafe
6825 N 16th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85016

Their location is within sight of the Arizona Canal trail and about 4 miles down the canal path from the Metrocenter Mall area. I'm not sure Trailhead rents bikes, but I have every confidence that they know how to get wheels under someone. They are very close to Trail 100 and other mountain biking opportunities in the mountain preserve areas. There is also some nice road riding areas nearby, such as Paradise Valley.

Our friends at Exhale Bikes are specialists on the mountain bike trails in the north part of the Valley (Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, Deem Hills, Black Canyon Trail, etc.). These areas are more remote and perhaps less clearly marked than Trail 100. At the same time, I think the road riding in the north part of the Valley is significantly less urban. The Skunk Creek Wash trail connects with the Arizona Canal Trail near Arrowhead Mall offering many miles of paved off-road multi-use trails in the northwest corner of the Valley.

They are at:
Exhale Bikes
2814 W Bell Rd Ste 1475
Phoenix, AZ 85053
 
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