If you’re going to be in Arizona soon you need to bring your bike!
Each year, thousands of cyclists from around the globe swarm to Central and Southern Arizona—and for good reason, too. From the diverse terrain and fantastic weather to the wide open roads and endless paths and trails—it’s easy to see why Arizona attracts all types of cyclists, from avid to casual, and everywhere in between. Let us show you some of our favorite routes and climbs throughout Phoenix, Tucson, and even stretching down into Scottsdale.
Okay, we’re starting out on the intense side of things. Just outside of Tucson lies one of the hardest climbs in the country—Mt. Lemmon. Most riders opt to park at the Safeway shopping center at the intersection of Tanque Verde Road and Catalina Highway and begin their journey from there. You start off at about 2,500 ft. and climb as high as 8,100, as the vegetation changes and air cools. The road is in excellent shape and there are plenty of rest stops and places to grab a bite on the way.
Recommended Bike for this route: 2018 BMC Roadmachine 02 FB 105
Take this rolling route out of Mesa and into the Superstition Mountain range. This scenic journey will have you winding next to the picturesque Canyon Lake while you climb to 4,000 feet before heading back down. Be warned, this can be a treacherous route during the summer months as the road (which lacks a bike lane or even an adequate shoulder in most sections) is often packed with eager boaters heading to the lake. Stick to the fall, winter, and early spring for this one. The route we picked is perfect for starters and doubles back at Tortilla Recreational Area for a 2-hour round trip. Feel free to add distance and continue on State Route 88.
Recommended BMC Bike for this route: 2018 BMC Crossmachine CX01 ONE FORCE 1
This route circles Kitt Peak Observatory after you ride on Tucson-Ajo Highway. The total distance here really depends on how far within Tucson want to venture. With plenty of parking and easy bike access around the University of Arizona campus you could start the ride there, but that makes for a pretty long day. We started this route at John F. Kennedy Park, near the birth of highway, still giving riders nearly 50 miles to reach Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Recommended Bike for this route: 2018 BMC RM01 THREE ULT Di2
If you find yourself north of Phoenix in Flagstaff, you should try the Lake Mary loop. This route has it all: wide bike lanes, short climbs, occasional rollers, incredible scenery, and plenty of spots to stop and fuel up along the way. If you’re looking for added height and mileage, turn up to Marshall Lake and ride to the observatory or hit it on the way back into Flagstaff. We find that parking and starting the route at Walmart on the corner of I40 and McConnell Drive works best.
Recommended Bike for this route: 2018 BMC Roadmachine 01 TWO eTAP
Gates Pass McCain Loop
Get ready to climb! Pass Old Tucson and the Desert Museum as you ride and prepare for the backside of Gates Pass, which features a short, killer climb. To add mileage, try adding in the McCain loop a few times, or in reverse to add variety. Be careful on your descent down the west side of Gates Pass—it’s pretty narrow in spots and has a few tight turns.
Recommended Bike for this route: 2018 BMC SLR01 ONE eTAP