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  1. #1
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    touring the southwest... in the winter!?

    hey,
    i live in maine and am sick of touring during the summer just to come back to the winter months, which are long and cold here. i want to tour from california coast into arizona/ new mexico, in january. i realize it will be chilly but i'm sure it's doable. thanks!
    -joe

  2. #2
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    i find the big bummer of winter touring to be the short days. i feel i need to get up at the crack of butt and go all day to get anywhere, and at the end of it, i have to entertain myself through a longer night. california has a mediterranean climate. we get most of our rain in the winter, so you may have more wet days than you want. they say it might be an el niņo year too. maybe the southern hemisphere instead of the southwest? just a thought. gl hf

  3. #3
    Hooked on Touring
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    Agree about the short days.

    Last year in the Deep South, even though the temps might have been warm, the days were still really short for touring. I was always beating myself up for stopping too long - even though stopping is part of the reason for touring for me. Also, I found myself riding at twilight far too often just to get where I was going.

    I've toured in every season, but winter touring in the U.S. - even in the South - requires a big change of reference points. Shorter distances, more batteries for the flashlight, reading material, and probably, more $$$ for motels and such.

  4. #4
    weirdo
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    Also, check on the specific route you`re looking at . A lot of people have the idea that AZ and NM are seriously hot desert zones that never get cold. But when Phoenix is still toasty, you can certainly have blizzards going on up in Williams or Flagstaff. There are some places down there that give you nice weather in the winter, but don`t assume that the whole of any given state will be warm. Maybe you already know that- just in case, though.

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    hey thanks a lot! i'm pretty pumped to just give it a go anyways. i'll tell you what, rainy or frosty conditions sound a lot better compared to arctic air and ice and nor'easters! one more question though, those of you who have riden through the southwest, do you get a ton of flats from the cacti that may somehow end up in the road? i remember in idaho a lot of people used some tube goo crap because of all of the goatheads, i hope i don't have to use that stuff.

  6. #6
    Senior Member adaminlc's Avatar
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    Cacti are a non-issue, unless you are planning on riding through one. Here in NM the big problem is goatheads. You will need some sort of extra-thick tire or slime or some such. I have had good luck with both, and currently use both. Heavy, but I only get one or two flats a year. As to the temps, right now we are running 50's at night at 70's during the day. You shouldn't find freezing temps until you are above 6000 feet or so, at least until the end of the month. Below 5000 feet it won't freeze much at all, at least until after the new year. Unfortunately there isn't much of a way to cross the state without crossing some mts. I don't know much about any other states, but if you want some specific info about NM let me know.
    I like fat tires and I cannot lie...

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    Agreed with adaminlc about using slime or somesuch, though I'm speaking from an Arizonan perspective. It's not so much the cactus as it is everything else--most desert plants have some sort of thorn, and it's the woody, twiggy guys that end up in the road and in your tires. There's also an abundance of small, sharp rocks & broken glass, so you'll need to take greater care with your tires than you're probably used to. I have been a fan of Specialized Airlock tubes, myself.

    The days are a little shorter, it's true, but nothing like Arctic days. You'll have more than enough time to travel. The riding is fantastic in the winter--almost all of the local club events like centuries, races, etc. occur between November and April, so the winter is right in the sweet-spot, climate-wise. The thing to be prepared for is big temperature swings through the day down in the Sonoran desert--you can go from 38 when you wake up to 75 by noon. Daily clothing takes a little planning.

  8. #8
    Dumpster cyclist
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    Hey Joe, it's good to hear someone else thinking of the same thing. I'm tentatively planning on a Southwest tour sometime this winter, to check out what it's like. I think southern NM, AZ and Cali and maybe Mexico are the general target areas.

    Don't be fooled by the fact that it's the desert though, despite having very toasty days, the nights can get very cold very fast. In Moab this time of year(and yes I know it's "high" desert), it gets below freezing at night.

    You know, I hadn't even thought about day length before. I can definitely see that being an issue. I was thinking lower mileages anyway because of weather, extra gear, and being a bit more careful, but I hadn't even thought of day length. I think this probably means breaking out the bike light, and at least being able to go further into the evening comfortably.

  9. #9
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    Living in Arizona touring in the winter is prime. I have used no protection at all on Kendras. Woulnd't recommend it but it works. Buy some Thorn resistant tubes.

    Watch out for the elevations. We have huge temperature swings in the low desert. 30-40 degree swings between night and day, can and will happen. 20 is common.

    November I am trying out for this route.
    http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/the-tour
    might bug out on the Mexico part.

  10. #10
    Crazy ole cat lady
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    Living in Alamogordo for a few years taught me that when the sun goes down the temperature rapidly gets colder. Its a much quicker drop than in moister climates. It also rises more quickly in the morning. Just something to keep in mind when doing your prep.

    Also, a useful rule of thumb is that the temperature drops about three degrees for every thousand feet of elevation increase. This was nice in that when the temperature was 100 degrees in Alamogordo (4000') it would be a pleasant 88 in Cloudcroft (8000'). In winter that translates to snow at elevation even when its nice in the basin.

  11. #11
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    LIke the others have said, expect cold temps at higher elevations, but it's doable if you have the right clothing and sleeping bag. You will have short days, so expect shorter distances.

    As for thorns - yep, it's a problem. We found the Schwalbe Marathon Plus were good - the goatheads didn't seem to be able to penetrate through. The goop is good, but if - for some reason - it fails to seal a hole, you'll have to throw the tube away. There is no way to patch a tube with goop - the goop eats away the glue or something like that. Just be sure to carry an extra tube or two and you should be fine. Also - although we camped in the desert a lot, we NEVER rode the bikes off road. We always walked them back in the desert to find a campsite and then visually inspected the tires before we got on to ride once back on the road. If not - the thorns will work their way in.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  12. #12
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    I did my first-ever tour from Phoenix to Tucson in early February 1995. It was awesome. We did get rained on some but there were also lots of beautiful 70-degree days. Can get cool at night but assuming you're sticking to the lowlands it won't be anything remotely resembling Maine! We tent camped most of the time and had no trouble staying warm. Our route took us East out of Phoenix into the Superstition Wilderness and then south to Tucson. We had no big problem with flat tires, but we both had teflon liners and thorn-resistent tubes. One thing we were surprised with on that route were the steepness of the hills. There were more than a few 10% grades. We didn't do a lot of research first - just pointed to a spot on a road map and went.

    Last winter I was down there in a car and drove the same route I had biked 13 years earlier. One major difference I noticed was a big increase in traffic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wheel View Post
    Living in Arizona touring in the winter is prime. I have used no protection at all on Kendras. Woulnd't recommend it but it works. Buy some Thorn resistant tubes.

    Watch out for the elevations. We have huge temperature swings in the low desert. 30-40 degree swings between night and day, can and will happen. 20 is common.

    November I am trying out for this route.
    http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/the-tour
    might bug out on the Mexico part.
    hey wheel, i did some of your route last year on a supported tour - the chiracahua monument is gorgeous and totally worth riding to the top and hiking a little.
    ...

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    hey! awesome advice. i never really gave length of day a thought. i'm fine with less distance per day, seeing as how i'm trying to skip out on the real winter of the north the longer i can stretch this trip out the better. the cold night temps don't bother me as much as cold day temps, i hate riding in cold air! i camped through some frost last week and i may have to get a new sleeping bag, mines lost a bit of warmth for sure! this is gonna rule, i want to try and hit every scenic park and botanical garden i can. how is the " stealth" camping in the dessert? i imagine less hiding spots.

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    So much BLM and National Forest land that the "stealth" part isn't really a requisite. Public lands are a lot more "public" out west than east-coasters realize.

  16. #16
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    Not much to add to the above other than expect some windy days too in the SW in the winter.

  17. #17
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    hey wheel, i did some of your route last year on a supported tour - the chiracahua monument is gorgeous and totally worth riding to the top and hiking a little.
    Is there a preferred direction of travel? Right now it will be from Douglas Arizona to I 10.
    Your Show Low round trip was spot on directional wise. I really envy your support on that route. OMG I was climbing the rim with 20 lbs of water and 7 lbs of food. I could have used more. Now you're back having done some of this route. I can only imagine how many awesome tours you been on.
    Valygrl yea that hike is so worth it. We will see if I can ride to the top of the hill.




    Quote Originally Posted by simplygib View Post
    One thing we were surprised with on that route were the steepness of the hills. There were more than a few 10% grades. We didn't do a lot of research first - just pointed to a spot on a road map and went.
    Here is a good example of staying in the basin versus riding the range. Nothing wrong with that, unless you want to be in the basin. Arizona is relentless with its basin and ranges as you got a preview of.
    Did you take AZ route 177 to 77? Or Route 79?
    **edit Another route known as the frontage road Phoenix to Tucson is completely flat. A 1,000 foot gain in 120 miles.

    Hope I didn't hijack your thread too much. Let me know.
    Last edited by wheel; 10-09-09 at 03:54 AM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeturtle View Post
    i want to try and hit every scenic park and botanical garden i can. how is the " stealth" camping in the dessert? i imagine less hiding spots.
    My experience with camping in the desert was great. I'd find a side road, ride down it a bit, and stake out my 100 sq ft off a little to the side, at dusk. There might be a few vehicles pass, but as my tent is small and not showy at all, I doubt anybody noticed. I'd lay the bike down and make sure any reflectors were covered.

    As you may be riding around southern AZ, check out the Tombstone area. There is a fine state park a little northwest, and Tombstone itself is an interesting, touristy destination. Also the arboretum near Superior.

    Don't discount Phoenix as a destination. Lots of outdoor stuff to see and do in the Valley. You can navigate much of the city using the canal paths. Bit tedious sometimes, but no traffic.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  19. #19
    BWF
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeturtle View Post
    hey,
    i live in maine and am sick of touring during the summer just to come back to the winter months, which are long and cold here. i want to tour from california coast into arizona/ new mexico, in january. i realize it will be chilly but i'm sure it's doable. thanks!
    -joe
    If you are camping I recommend taking a fully encloseable tent rather than a tarp or bivy. There are lots of dangerous critters in the desert. In my 20 years here in Arizona I have seen hundreds of rattle snakes and scorpions. At times run ins with them seem like a daily occurance. I have been stung a few times by scorpions and never had a problem like some people do. I've even been attacked by a rattle snake that launched off a boulder above me while hiking. It sank its fangs into the front of my shirt, but did'nt break my skin. I freaked and rolled 30 feet down off the cliff. Carry a Sawyer Extractor in case. Bites can be fatal to some. People say Gila Monsters are the most dangerous. I have only seen one up close while hiking and it was not aggressive. Taratulas are around but they are shy and a non issue. Coyotes are everywhere, but not dangerous at all. They are actually fun and playful at times with people - like dogs.

  20. #20
    imi
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    Quote Originally Posted by BWF View Post
    ... Carry a Sawyer Extractor in case...
    I checked their homepage out...
    http://www.sawyerproducts.com/B6B.htm
    looks interesting... Does anyone have any medical advice as I've kept to the "tight elastic bandage method" up to now...

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    wheel - don't know about preferred direction. I did tuscon - tombestone - wilcox - chiracauha - bisbee - tombostone - tuscson - with Pactour that trip.
    ...

  22. #22
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheel View Post
    Did you take AZ route 177 to 77? Or Route 79?
    We rode East out of Phoenix to Apache Junction and then took the Apache Trail up to Roosevelt Lake, turned South on 188, then West on 60 to Superior, South on 177 to 77, and continued south on 77 into Tucson. We had a vague plan to continue riding to Tombstone, Bisbee, and also to Rocky Point, but I blew my knees out on the hills and had to send my bike home after reaching Tucson. Regardless, it was a fantastic trip.

  23. #23
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    wheel - don't know about preferred direction. I did tuscon - tombestone - wilcox - chiracauha - bisbee - tombostone - tuscson - with Pactour that trip.
    Thank you.
    Yea There are so many routes down there it is hard to figure out which one to take. Anyone who rides through Tucson you can stop at the library the have a touring book on AZ roads which helps a little.

    Quote Originally Posted by simplygib View Post
    We rode East out of Phoenix to Apache Junction and then took the Apache Trail up to Roosevelt Lake, turned South on 188, then West on 60 to Superior, South on 177 to 77, and continued south on 77 into Tucson. We had a vague plan to continue riding to Tombstone, Bisbee, and also to Rocky Point, but I blew my knees out on the hills and had to send my bike home after reaching Tucson. Regardless, it was a fantastic trip.
    Wow that is one heck of a route. 11,000 feet in 180 miles. The Apache Trail portion I bet was brutal.
    http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Phoenix-Tucson

    If anyone wants to do this route. I suggest Taking 77 out of Globe. You will avoid a nasty stretch of HWY 60 and a tunnel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by imi View Post
    I checked their homepage out...
    http://www.sawyerproducts.com/B6B.htm
    looks interesting... Does anyone have any medical advice as I've kept to the "tight elastic bandage method" up to now...
    Current EMS thinking is that the extractor doesn't work, nor does the old "loose" tourniquet. The best practices now are to keep your heart-rate low & dial 911. It's really very simple, and also, in the winter, the chances of encountering an agitated snake are pretty low.

  25. #25
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    As long as you're traveling to get there anyway, why not continue down into the southern hemisphere. You'll get both warmth and long days, and probably cheaper prices.

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