Mount Lemmon is Arizona’s Most Famous Cycling Climb Ride
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Mount Lemmon is Arizona’s Most Famous Cycling Climb Ride
ROAD BIKING, TUCSON, Arizona – Arizona enjoys many of the USA’s top cycling climbs, but professional cyclists and amatures flock to Tucson for cooler temperatures, less traffic and some of the most challenging climbs. Tucson’s top road biking climbs include Mount Lemmon, Mount Graham, Madera Canyon, Kitt Peak, Whipple Observatory (cyclocross or hardtailed mountain bike needed) and the eight mile paved bike ride up Hokpins. When plotting your Arizona road biking vacation, Tucson is the center point for incredible climbing rides.
Road Biking Mount Lemmon Description: Perhaps the greatest ride in America, Tucson’s Mount Lemmon is hands down the greatest climb – and the greatest road bike ride – in Arizona. Park your car in the Madera Village parking lot in front of Le Buzz, coffee up and you will be ready to for the cycling ride of your life.
Cyclists can road bike Mount Lemmon year round. From November through March the weather can be unpredictable. We really recommend cyclists to carry layers of clothes. The weather in any mountainous terrain can change rapidly. If you are looking for a great Mount Lemmon alternative, consider Green Valley’s Madera Canyon where the elevation only goes to 5200 feet. You won’t be cheated! The final 2.5 miles will give you 14 percenters to climb.
Mount Lemmon is world renown. The ride starts gentle, and gradually gets steeper. Mount Lemmon makes for an epic day. The descent is one of the greatest you will ever enjoy.
Why you love it: “Mt. Lemmon is Arizona’s quintessential ride for a lot of reasons,” said Joan Thompson, Tucson resident and rider for Vistoso Cycling Club. “It’s a climb that provides a rare combination of sustained climbing, excellent road surface, spectacular vistas, and importantly, an escape from the 100+ summer temps in Tucson. One of the best parts of Lemmon is that it a world class climb right in our backyard. Its an easy ride to the base from anywhere in town. If you are so inclined you can ride Lemmon every day. You can make a quick trip to Molino Basin before work, or you can grind up to Windy Point after work to catch the sunset.”
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Description: This ride takes cyclists up one of the highest mountains in the state. From the desert floor to the mountain’s peak, this ride is a challenge with nearly 8,000 feet of climbing! Located in Safford, just an 90 minutes from Tucson International Airport, most cyclists consider this to be a more challenging cycling climb ride than Lemmon. Dress warm and carry layers of clothes and plenty of water. It can snow here just about any time of the year.
Why you love it: “It’s the whole experience that makes it special,” said Sean McCormack, fourth year racer and San Tan Racing rider living in Buckeye. “The difficulty, the switchbacks, the trees, etc. It lets you imagine that’s what it’s like to do the big climbs in the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees that most of us only see on TV. There’s a reason that’s the state championship hill climb, and I don’t think anyone that has ridden it could think of a better place to fight for a polka-dot jersey.”
Description: This route provides cyclists with a challenge and a view. While making a variety of climbs, a few easy and some difficult, cyclists are provided with a fantastic view of Verde Valley, which looks especially beautiful during the month of October.
Description: This route can be as long or as short as a rider chooses to make it, as there are various pit stops along the way. The bulk of the course takes cyclists through the Superstition Mountains providing cyclists with breathtaking scenery.
Why you love it: “Once you hit the ramps into Canyon Lake it really feels like you’re in a different world,” said Jake Spelman, five-year cyclist and Gilbert resident riding for Athlete Octane. “Living in Gilbert, it’s great to know that there’s real climbs and descents not too far away.”
Description: This ride circles Kitt Peak National Observatory and out to west Tucson-Ajo Highway and can be up to more than 100 miles in length if started from the heart of Tucson. This course combines a low, flat road ride and a difficult, steep climb up Kitt Peak.
Description: With 6,000 feet of climbing, the ascents are plenty and of a variety. This route crosses Seven Springs, down to Bartlett Lake and back.
Why you love it: “My favorite group ride in the Valley is BOS and I like to ride out to Seven Springs as part of that ride,” said Sally Aston, a five-year cyclist and rider for Bicycle Haus who lives in Goodyear. “It’s a fun out-and-back that adds some miles. I’ve only done the ride out to Bartlett Lake once and I loved it because it’s hilly and pretty. I love climbing!”
Description: This short loop provides cyclists with a variety of wild plant life and cacti giving it the title of one of the prettiest routes in the Tucson area. This route has a few sharp turns and a long climb that goes on for more than a mile.
Why you love it: “At Saguaro East National Park you are surrounded by saguaros and incredible views all the way around the eight-mile loop,” said Dan Gabalski, a 20-year bike enthusiast and ex-resident of Tucson, currently living in Flagstaff. “The loop is one way and the terrain is perfect for riding. [It has] rollers, a steady climb, fast descents and lots of curves. Sunset rides are absolutely amazing with the views over the Tucson lights and all this for a $25 yearly pass. I love it so much I’ve donated extra money there many times.”
Description: El Tour de Mesa uses this route for its annual road race. It takes cyclists through central Scottsdale, onto the Beeline Highway (State Route 87), along the Salt River and through Usery Mountain Regional Park and back to Mesa.
Why you love it: “I liked the scenery,” said Alexis Gannis, rider for Curbside Cyclery and Grand Canyon University who took third in the most recent El Tour de Mesa. “Tonto National Forest and Saguaro Lake are so beautiful. It makes suffering and hammering it up Beeline, Bush Hwy and Usery so much more enjoyable. [It] gives me something else to focus on rather then listening to my legs telling me to stop! In general, it’s a great route. It’s also very safe [and there isn’t] much traffic.”
Description: This route takes riders around the McDowell Sonoran Preserve though Fountain Hills and and up and down various rolling climbs.
Why you love it: “The Tour de Scottsdale route offers everything – beautiful Sonoran Desert scenery, challenging hills and an exhilarating nine-mile descent. Riding a course through saguaros, cholla and ocotillos is a uniquely Arizona experience, and that’s what makes it so special,” said Michael Murphy, a three-time Tour de Scottsdale participant and 10-year cyclist.
Description: The entirety of this ride goes through both urban and scenic views within Saguaro National Park and can begin in various locations to make the ride shorter or longer. The portion within the park is made up of a variety of climbs and winding roads, which can prove tedious.
Why you love it: “The Gates Pass route is one of my favorites,” said Marilyn McDonald, who has been riding since 1999, competing all over the world from state, to World Cup, to the USAC national racing calendar. “One of my favorite sessions is repeats up the backside of Gates. It’s not a very long climb, but it challenges you with different grades and maxing out on the top. Once you are up there the view is one of the best. [It is] challenging but beautiful and painful, but not so long you hate it. It’s a great climb for any cyclist to see.”
Description: With a max elevation of more than 9,000 feet, this route is sure to take your breath away, literally. The climb to Arizona’s highest peak is not easy, but it is beautiful.
Why you love it: “I love Snowbowl because of the views from the summit and the crisp cool air,” said Kyle Gandy, two-year cyclist riding for DNA Cycles Racing and Northern Arizona University. “The altitude makes the workout worth the suffering.”
Description: This popular Saturday morning group ride takes cyclists from Tucson to Green Valley in a loop.The scenery includes mountainous desert before returning back to Tucson.
Why you love it: “The Shootout is great because of the route, the cyclists, the challenge, and that it continues year round,” said Ben Ferguson, Tucson cyclist and rider for Tri-Sports/Eclipse racing team. “I have many friends that ride it regularly – just wish I could join them more often!”
Description: Thisloop takes cyclists up South Mountain and around Ahwatukee. This route includes a tough climb to the infamous towers that many Valley cyclists like to use for climbing practice.
Why you love it: “I love it because I feel safe riding,” said Alex Argueta, five year cyclist from Tempe who rides for fun. riding for fun. “Toward San Juan Road it’s a nice warm up and then an amazing climb to the towers. [It’s a] great route for intense training if you don’t have much time to train.”
Description: This route is used for the Hillside road race that was unfortunately canceled in 2014. This course includes a big descent before a long climb back out all along State Route 96 and State Route 97.
Description: This triangle-shaped course has been used as the route for the Colossal Cave road race for years. With a start on Pistol Hill, this ride has few curves, rollers and only one small climb.