Riding Heaven's Highwayson the grand tour
Mesa to Payson- Hwy 87
We've had the good fortune to spend this past week riding around the east side of Phoenix. One ride took us from Mesa to Fountain Hills on Hwy 87 and then returned via Shea,
I was impressed with the very wide shoulder on 87 from McDowell Road all the ways to Fountain Hills. We would now like to ride 87 all the way to Sunflower or Payson IF the wide shoulder continues the majority of the way to either city.
With all the high speed traffic on 87, I will not ride it without the shoulder.
Does anyone have first hand knowledge of the shoulder conditions beyond Fountain Hills?
I don't have first hand knowledge of the shoulder conditions, but, in case you haven't done it yet check google maps. They have their streetview coverage of that road, i only checked in a few sections but it looked like a decent shoulder but it has the rumble strips on it.
The Beeline (AZ 87) is good for riding about as far north as Bush Highway, the turnoff for Saguaro Lake. Once you get much beyond that it gets more narrow, the north/south lanes split. There's sometimes rockslides along the road too.
Not saying it can't be done, or isn't done, but I'd make sure the weather cooperates, go with plenty of sunlight, make sure you have a cell phone, water, etc.
Sounds interesting. I would like to do it if you guys havnt already gone.
Hey, I've taken the trip twice! It's a pretty difficult climb. Make sure when you go up, do it with carbon, cause aluminum is going to be punishing especially on the climbs around Mount Ord and the last haul from Rye into Payson. The return from Payson is brutal too, with the long climb from Mount Ord to Sunflower. There are only two water stops on your way from Fort McDowell Casino to Payson. There's a water tank in Sunflower, with drinkable water, but they have a sign saying it's only for car use, ie " I think to avoid lawsuits", then in Rye there is a store. That's all you'll find in your 80 mile trek from Mesa to Mount Everest! Be safe, and try to keep to the extreme right of the shoulder, because I've noticed pulled trailers tend to swing into the shoulder, especially on the turns. You don't want to be smacked by one of those 75 mile per hour moving cargos, or you'll probably be a goner.
Also, on the return from payson, take the same route you took climbing up, going against traffic, until you get to the base of the Rim in Rye. There's like no shoulder on your way back if you go with the direction of traffic and you'll need plenty of shoulder for the speedy descent. Hope this helps!
I lived in Payson for fifteen years and have driven that road hundreds of times, seeing bikes is rare and for good reason. The sheer volume of drunken idiots traveling up and down that hill is staggering, many towing trailers or boats on a high speed mountain road. Then there are the trucks, tour busses and RV's. Much of the local population are rabidly anti-road bike and make no secret of it. To top that off the shoulders are covered with gravel, sand, glass and debris. There is no chance I would ride past Bush Highway.
Did you really just recommend riding the wrong way on a freeway? I've heard crazy recommendations before but site this takes the cake. All of the cake.
Originally Posted by Outcountrybiker
Who knows if the OP even remembers starting this thread, but in case someone else uses it for research, DO NOT take the wrong - way advice, for Christ's sake. Yes is a freeway and yes cars are going 80 mph but if you insist on riding it at least go with traffic.
I think a bicyclist has more chances of getting hit by motorists going down the crazy descent riding with traffic. I had my own experience with honking motorists going down which made me loyal to the wrong way passage out. To share a lane with 80 mile per hour motorists is craziness to me on that stretch between Payson and Rye, no matter how fast a cyclist is flying down the rim, it's like playing chicken with a speeding train, there's bound to be some crazy driver who's probably going to hit you. A wide shoulder, is essential, and if a cyclist keeps an eye on incoming traffic and obstructions in the shoulder ahead of them, it becomes a smooth voyage. I've done the trip 5 times already!
so let's assume you're going to get hit.
If you're traveling the same direction as an 80mph vehicle, and you're doing 25mph, you're getting hit at 55mph. If you're traveling the opposite direction, you're getting hit at 105mph. This does not take into account now things flying into your face coming off the road, the mental game of watching cars come directly at you, and putting yourself in a really good situation to be cited for traveling the wrong way on a highway.
Your advice is completely asinine.
If you're that frightened, you should probably not ride that road in the first place.
Just for clarity, the stretch between Payson and Rye is Oxbow Hill. The Mogollon Rim is north of Strawberry, it's the great big cliff face in the distance that you can see when you top Oxbow Hill looking north with the casino in the foreground.
Originally Posted by Outcountrybiker
Just out of curiousity, how do you feel about the descents on the way up? Sycamore Creek and Mt. Ord are pretty fricken serious descents, do you switch sides there?
Last edited by bronco71; 12-01-14 at 02:33 PM.
If a cyclist doesn't ride the brake, a cyclist will be doing double than 25 down Oxbow Hill. No brake at all, which is very dangerous, and with a tail wind, I bet a cyclist can even reach the speed of traffic. That's pretty good advice though about the speed of impact differential, I may, even with the cars honking at me along the few miles of flats before the descent kicks in, to try sharing the road with traffic racing in from behind me.
I'm starting to think your account is a fake one and someone is just trolling. Reach the speeds of traffic? Riding your brakes? Riding against traffic?
Have you ever ridden bikes before? I've been on 10 mile 6%+ descents in full tuck and can hardly exceed 50 on straights.
Honestly, please stop giving advice before you lead some poor ignorant person to their grave.
Just out of curiousity, how do you feel about the descents on the way up? Sycamore Creek and Mt. Ord are pretty fricken serious descents, do you switch sides there?[/QUOTE]
No I only switch sides coming back from Payson, then I go to the right side once I reach the base of the hill at Rye. Sycamore Creek is pretty fast and dangerous coming back from Payson, but the Mt. Ord descent going up to Payson beats them all! A cyclist can really fly down this stretch if they don't use the brake so much. It starts right after the turnoff country road that goes up to the peak of Mount Ord.
Just a thought, but if you have to travel the wrong way on an 80 MPH road to feel safe, maybe its an unsafe road for bikes?
From Mesa to the 4 Peaks turnoff is safe both ways. Past that, going towards Payson is OK but coming back is sketchy at best. Going with traffic on the sections without shoulders is suicide. You will be hit. Against or with traffic if you get hit you'll be dead. Against traffic I guess you'll be more dead ? If I had to choose I'd pick the shoulder and go pretty slow even pulling off depending on traffic.
I personally wouldn't do either option coming back. I've ridden to Payson but not back.
Last edited by jprides; 12-03-14 at 10:24 AM.
I rode a tandem on the B-Line from Payson to the Roosevelt Lake turnoff in 2005 as part of the Greater AZ Bicycle Association ride across AZ. IIRC, there isn't much shoulder coming down to Rye but you don't need one because you'll be running close to the same speed as the cars. My experience may have been optimal being part of a large group so drivers were aware of cyclists on the road after passing the first dozen.
FWIW, I brake when brakes are needed; Not until then. I would worry about blowing a tire off it I wanted to chicken-brake all the way down.
The first mile or so south of the casino is uphill a little. You'll be doing 20 at best, cars will be doing 70 and there's no shoulder to speak of. Then there's Round Valley where the whole road narrows and there's a semi-blind right hand turn. There's another uphill before Oxbow hill, this one steeper. This road is un-safe for cycling.
We drive that way frequently for hikes - there is now a wide shoulder almost the entire way from Mesa to Payson that I would not hesitate to ride on with a buddy or two; I would not personally do this ride alone due to the remoteness of the area. The way back is a different story as there are long segments with no shoulder as others have mentioned. Normally this would not stop me - recently I did a Phx to Tucson ride where long segments had no shoulder and we did fine. Just be prepared for drunkards pulling trailers/boats and semis pulled over on the shoulder. In the Mt. Ord / Matazal area north of Sunflower your bike speeds on the curvy descents will be near car speeds. I would avoid rides like this on weekends and especially holidays as everyone and their mom are escaping Phoenix for the camping towns.
Last edited by cellery; 01-25-15 at 09:53 AM.