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So I took my bike out to Tuscon, AZ and rode my bike up Mt. Lemmon (pics)

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

So I took my bike out to Tuscon, AZ and rode my bike up Mt. Lemmon (pics)

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Old 04-15-18, 10:50 AM
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Wow, it looks amazing! Thanks for the pics!
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Old 04-15-18, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Sillyak View Post
Are all the rides written about in this thread accessible by bike from the city? Or did you need to drive to some of them?
Speaking only for what I've posted, I didn't drive to any group rides or start places. I rented a small house mid-town in Tucson. For the Mt Lemmon ride posted above, I rode 7.5 miles to and from the start point. There were usually bike lanes or otherwise bike friendly roads.

More pics, descriptions to come..
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Old 04-15-18, 01:20 PM
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I didn’t really need to, but the day after Mt Lemmon (a Monday) I took the day off from cycling and did some sight seeing instead. For Tuesday there is a regular, well known group ride that does the “McCain Loop”. It was an early start so I was wearing leg warmers, a long sleeve base layer, and long finger gloves. I rode the 4 miles or so to the start. It was on mid-town streets and toward the end of that leg there is a stretch that goes through the University of Arizona. Very cool.

I was at the start sort of early so only few riders had arrived. Right before 7:30am they started swarming in, like bees. Young, strong, fit riders, all looking amazingly cool. I was wearing my local race club kit, not bad, but I didn’t completely fit in. Then it hit me.. “I am totally screwed”.

I stayed with the group as it snaked through city streets heading generally west towards the desert museum. When we got into the less developed areas the road pitched up and there they went. There was no way I could climb like them, or most of them should I say. I made friends with a few other stragglers and we continued on to do the loop at a much less hectic pace.
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Old 04-15-18, 01:31 PM
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Gates Pass, another reason I returned to Tucson. I stopped to take this photo right before I made the final ascent. I'd fallen behind 2 friends I'd made only about 30 minutes earlier. Even so, they waited for me on the other side of the pass. Nice guys.

The notch near the center of the photo is the actual pass. If the resolution of the photo has maintained, you can see a saguaro cactus at about dead center of the notch. The diagonal line below and to the right of that is the road, which pitches up to a more than 14% grade. I was grinding up that pitch slowly and steadily while 2 other cyclist came down towards me and passed through. A few moments later they passed me from behind. They were doing repeats. Oy!

Gates Pass.png

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Old 04-15-18, 01:42 PM
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This was taken from the same vantage point as the above photo, only looking west. The Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world where the saguaro cactus occurs naturally. I love the desert.

Sonoran Desert.png
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Old 04-15-18, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by on the path View Post
Palisades Point, just over 7800 feet elevation. Not far beyond there's another 100 feet or so of elevation to be gained
@on the path, nice addition to this thread, and well done. I didn't know about this thread before, so thanks. Adding the bit below for those interested in climbing Lemmon.

Palisades does mark the end of the classic Lemmon climb, but for those so inclined, you can almost reach 9000 feet if you continue. Specifically, 5 miles past Palisades take the road that leads to the Ski Area. Ride through the Ski Area and you'll climb until you reach a closed gate to the observatory. That's the end of the paved road, and the stretch bit above the Ski Area has some steep pitches!

https://www.strava.com/segments/661024
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Old 04-16-18, 05:03 AM
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Originally Posted by pvillemasher View Post
I hadn't seen this thread until today when you posted, but I started from the beginning and read the first few pages. I thought, "Man, I gotta get to Tucson and ride!" I suppose just like you did when you read it in 2012. Looks very cool.

Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed your detour from the original thread.
I missed it the first time around as well. Coincidentally, the wifey and I had been discussing doing a Trek Travel trip next year, and one of the options is Tucson, which includes a day for the Mt Lemmon climb. Both stories/ sets of pics are inspiring us to go that way if we follow through on it.

That or drive out ourselves, with our bikes, since it's about ~14 hours from Austin.
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Old 04-16-18, 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
I missed it the first time around as well. Coincidentally, the wifey and I had been discussing doing a Trek Travel trip next year, and one of the options is Tucson, which includes a day for the Mt Lemmon climb. Both stories/ sets of pics are inspiring us to go that way if we follow through on it.

That or drive out ourselves, with our bikes, since it's about ~14 hours from Austin.
I'd drive. That's what I did. There's a cottage industry in Tucson of folks who put up cyclists in their homes and lots of info on the web about where to ride. The logistics are too easy to spend the money Trek Travel charges, it's not like you're going to Europe.
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Old 04-16-18, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post

That or drive out ourselves, with our bikes, since it's about ~14 hours from Austin.
Yes, 14 hours. I “mapped” it from Austin last night and thought the same. I’m taking my bike to Colorado in June (Silverton, Telluride and Durango) this year so putting Tucson on top of my list for next year.
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Old 04-16-18, 09:40 AM
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Incredible pics and thanks for sharing.
You guys capture what the sport is all about!
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Old 04-16-18, 10:46 AM
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Sweet pics guys. Makes me want to go on a road trip.
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Old 04-16-18, 03:04 PM
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+1 for this whole thread! I go to the mineral and gem show every Feb, now I'm gonna drag my bike along next year...
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Old 04-16-18, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by pvillemasher View Post
Yes, 14 hours. I “mapped” it from Austin last night and thought the same. I’m taking my bike to Colorado in June (Silverton, Telluride and Durango) this year so putting Tucson on top of my list for next year.
I've thought about a similar Colorado trip, but have yet to plan it. If you posted your experience in a thread here, I for one would be most interested in reading it.
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Old 04-16-18, 08:20 PM
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Hi Riders:

When riding the Catalina Highway, keep in mind that there is "no" water until you near the top, at the Palisades (at least the last time I checked).

Rose Canyon Lake, at about mile marker 17, claims to have drinking water, but I would not count on it.

Especially during our hot season, be sure to bring lots of water. Some riders drive the route the day before and stash water along the route. Some have super cool friends that drive sweep.

To ride in comfort, check out the Greater Arizona Bicycle Association's (GABA) Mt. Lemmon Hill Climb event each May. They have ~4 sag stops, with tasty food and icy water. The next one is right around the corner on May 4th, 2018.
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Old 04-17-18, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by GuitarBob View Post
@on the path, nice addition to this thread, and well done. I didn't know about this thread before, so thanks. Adding the bit below for those interested in climbing Lemmon.

Palisades does mark the end of the classic Lemmon climb, but for those so inclined, you can almost reach 9000 feet if you continue. Specifically, 5 miles past Palisades take the road that leads to the Ski Area. Ride through the Ski Area and you'll climb until you reach a closed gate to the observatory. That's the end of the paved road, and the stretch bit above the Ski Area has some steep pitches!

https://www.strava.com/segments/661024
GuitarBob, you are correct and I am aware. Summerhaven is on my checklist. To climb up to the observatory I might only try it with MTB gears..
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Old 04-17-18, 08:25 PM
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Great photos !!!
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Old 04-18-18, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by on the path View Post
The Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world where the saguaro cactus occurs naturally.
That was a fun bit of trivia that my Dad taught me after he retired to Tucson 20 years ago: All those old classic western movies that purportedly take place in Mexico or Texas were clearly shot in the Sonoran Desert...the saguaro are a dead giveaway.
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Old 04-18-18, 07:49 PM
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On Wednesday I intended to do about 3 hours of riding, hoping the weather would hold up. The plan was to ride highways and byways up into Oro Valley, then pick up a northwestern part of The Loop.

It's not alway sunny in the desert! Here's a view of the Catalinas from the west.

Wed 1.jpg

I picked up The Loop and headed southwest. It was my first time on that section and it quickly became my favorite stretch of The Loop. Don't be fooled, it's not a road but a bike path.

Wed 2.jpg

I love this mountain formation. It is distinctive and can be seen from a variety of vantage points. I took several shots of it from different locations. This shot doesn't do it justice but was the best I could come up with. A local told me it's called "Twin Peaks".

Wed 3.jpg

It actually started to rain very lightly towards the end of my ride. The pavement never got soaked, and neither did I. Ended the day with 44 miles.
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Old 04-18-18, 08:23 PM
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On Thursday I was scheduled to meet a friend in Green Valley later in the day for some riding. I rained a lot earlier in the day, but the skies cleared somewhat in the afternoon. I drove the ~50 miles to meet him. During the drive it started raining steadily. By the time I met my friend, who is from back east like me, it was so wet that we called it off and got a bite to eat.

On Friday morning I hemmed and hawed, wondering what the weather was going to do. I planned to ride a section of The Loop that was new to me. The route would take me no further than 40 minutes ride back to the rental, in case the rains came back.

The ground was very wet from all the rain from the previous day & a half. The river wash actually had some puddles and small pools. The otherwise dry desert has a very distinctive smell when the ground gets soaked by the rains. I rode for about 90 minutes and stayed dry, it did not rain.

Fri 1.jpg

I was getting ready to veer off and head back when I came across another cyclist, hardly the first I saw that day. We were heading in the same direction so I struck up a conversation with him. I managed to tack on another 20 miles to my ride while we made fast friends and talked about cycling and living in Tucson. He was a Tucson native who at different times (he was retired) lived all over the country, from the Midwest to the Northeast to the Pacific Northwest. "Mark" loves Tucson and would live nowhere else. I picked his brain for quite a while, continuing to plan my retirement while we talked. I didn't get a photo of him, but we stay connected on Strava.

This what the Catalinas look like when they are socked in. I managed to finish the ride without getting wet. Because of the extension to my original plan, I ended up with 47 miles that day. I did 230 miles for the week, not bad. The rains hampered my riding, but not much. I had a great time cycling and got away from winter for a week. I'm very much looking forward to going back.

Fri 2.jpg
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Old 04-18-18, 08:38 PM
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How safe is My. Lemmon? Hows the traffic? Lots of cars/trucks?
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Old 04-18-18, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by jordanair45 View Post
How safe is My. Lemmon? Hows the traffic? Lots of cars/trucks?
For a Sunday I'd say the traffic was somewhat light. It might be different during other seasons, I'd ask a local about that.

Most of the drivers were polite. Once in a while a driver laid on the horn. Surely a tourist, the locals generally are very tolerant of the cyclists. I never felt unsafe.
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Old 04-19-18, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by jordanair45 View Post
How safe is My. Lemmon? Hows the traffic? Lots of cars/trucks?
There are only a handful of residents at the top, so most everyone else is recreating or sightseeing. That means that during the week, traffic is usually very light. Depending on the time of year, there's more during the weekend, but I'd still classify it as light.

There is also a dedicated bike lane on the right as you head up. It's sporadic on the way down, but most people descending on a road bike are moving at (or above) the speed limit...
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Old 04-19-18, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by on the path View Post
I have a specific purpose in resurrecting this thread. Back in 2012 when the thread began, I was absolutely captivated by the pictures posted and the story that was told. I made it a personal mission to visit Tucson for some cycling in general, and climbing Mt Lemmon in particular.

WOW! Thanks "Kimconyc" for the original thread, and thanks also to "on the path" for bringing it back to present times.
I really enjoyed reading the adventure and seeing the sights.
I have a friend that lives in Tuscon, and I hope to visit him some day (I also have a brother that lives in Phoenix, so I should get there at some point).
Nice job!
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