Pedaling on Pavement

By: Teresa Bitler

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December 2, 2014

Find some of the nation's best cycling - and best cycling events - on Arizona's roadways.

About the author

Teresa Bitler

Teresa Bitler

Teresa Bitler is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Sunset and Valley Guide magazines. She is the author of Great Escapes Arizona as well as four Arizona-related iPhone travel apps and is currently working on her second guidebook, Backroads & Byways of Indian Country. She can be reached at www.teresabitler.com.

With 300-plus days of sunshine and thousands of miles of cycle-friendly roads, Arizona is consistently ranked a top destination for serious cyclists, but you don’t have to be hardcore to appreciate the state’s scenic routes. Even casual riders can explore a neighborhood on a road bike or cheer on racers at premier cycling events.  

Where to Rent

Don’t have a road bike, or don’t have it with you? Don’t worry! You can find rentals at reputable bike shops throughout the state, including Absolute Bikes in Sedona and Flagstaff, River Cyclery & Sport in Lake Havasu City, Cactus Bike in the Greater Phoenix area, Arizona Outback Adventures in Scottsdale, Sun & Spokes Bicycle Shop in Sierra Vista and Cycle Tucson. For a Grand Canyon bike rental, head to Bright Angel Bicycles, the authorized in-park concessioner, located at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the South Rim. 

When making a reservation, be sure your rental includes a helmet, pump, repair kit and spare tube. You may also want to ask whether delivery and pick up is available. 

Popular Routes

Staff at any reputable bike shop can help you find a route that meets your expectations and abilities, but if you want try your hand at some of the classic Arizona rides, consider these options.

In the fall, ride the roadway through South Mountain Park in Phoenix, or try the Prescott Bike Loop that begins in Prescott, dips into Skull Valley and continues back into the pines. 

As temperatures drop, set out on the Tortilla Flats Road Bike Ride, a breathtaking out-and-back through the Superstition Mountains. Or, head southwest of Tucson to tackle the challenging 12-mile Kitt Peak Bike Climb.

During the spring, consider the ABC McDowell Mountain Ride, a 69-mile loop through Phoenix’s northeast valley and past McDowell Regional Park. Or, just cruise the bike-friendly roads of Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Ranch. Once it warms up enough, enjoy the 46-mile Sunset Crater Loop near Flagstaff.

In the summer, follow Lake Mary Road, which begins in Flagstaff and meanders along its namesake lake past grassy meadows and stands of pine to Mormon Lake. Or, pedal along the North Rim Parkway, a scenic stretch that runs from Arizona Highway 89A at Jacob Lake to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. 

Endurance Training

Whether you want to train for more challenging rides or for a specific event, you have several options in Arizona. In Tucson, the El Tour Endurance Camp prepares riders for November’s El Tour de Tucson event, while the Tucson Endurance Performance Center holds year-round classes. At the end of February, Scottsdale Life Time Winter Cycling & Triathlon Training Center tests your mettle with a regimen of running, swimming and cycling. 

Cycling Events

Serious cyclists can compete in numerous well-known events throughout the state, including the 165-mile Cochise Cycling Classic, 104-mile El Tour de Tucson, 70-mile El Tour de Mesa and 3-day Tucson Bicycle Classic, a USA Cycling stage race. The first three have shorter courses as well, and the both El Tour de Tucson and El Tour de Mesa have Fun Ride options.

If you’re looking for a multi-day ride, check out the White Mountain Tour – two days of pedaling through the Ponderosa Pines. Or, challenge yourself to complete the 325-mile, 3-day Answer the Challenge ride, which loops from Scottsdale to Prescott and back. 

For a more family-friendly experience, bring the kids to Cyclovia Tucson, a biannual event in November and April that closes downtown streets to motorized vehicles so bicycle riders can enjoy them. Mesa holds a similar event, CycloMesa, in conjunction with El Tour de Mesa.

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