January can only mean one thing. It’s time to get down to Tucson and put in some miles.
Racing bikes has it's perks. The Orucase team has traveled and raced all over the world. This has given us a unique, on the ground (or in the saddle) view of all the major cycling destinations across the US. We'll be visiting a different city each month in our blog to showcase the top rides, top food, top bike shops, and other cool features of well known cycling cities.
For January we start with Tucson. Every winter, right after the holidays, we'd head down to Tucson to train the house down. We’ve done it all, from renting a 1 bedroom apartment for the three of us the day we moved there, to living in a condo complex that had real grass lawns!
Constant sun, a nice 80 degrees, dry, and moderate altitude make Tucson a great place to spend the winter riding. Not to mention Mt. Lemmon which has 21 miles of uninterrupted climbing at 5%, before a little dip down and another 7 miles up to a cookie store (we’ll touch back on that later). The city and its roads are spread out, but once you've read this you'll have no trouble finding your way around.
Where to Live
When we moved to Tucson for the first time we didn't anticipate the size of the city. The street grid is massive, and can take a bit of time to ride across. We lived in North Eastern Tucson the first year, near Mt. Lemmon, and this limited our riding west of town. From then on out we lived in the Catalina Foothills area. This North central location allows easy access to rides on all sides of the city, is a bit quieter and has awesome views of Mt. Lemmon in your backyard.
The Group Ride
What would Tucson be without The Shootout? Bring your A game for a fast and furious hammerfest heading south out of Tucson. Try and stay near the front, plus, you never know who might show up and drop you...
What: A mega group ride, we're talking 1-200 riders, that rolls out of town slowly before hammering to the top of Shootout hill before regrouping and then hammering back into town.
When: Saturdays at 7:30, keeps moving earlier to 6:30 later in the winter.
Where: The Starbucks at University.
Tip #1: Bring extra clothes for the ride to the start, it can be below freezing before the sun rises in Tucson.
Bonus #1: Get some extra miles by heading out with the big boys to climb Madera Canyon, a 13 mile climb before heading back to Tucson. A good way to get in 100-120 miles @ 23mph+.
Old Spanish Trail
A great rolling road on the east end of town, perfect for filling in some extra miles on the way back from Mt. Lemmon.
Gates Pass + Big Square
A short steep climb with some cool views at the top before dropping down into "Old Tucson" sets you up for tackling Big Square, a big flat square on the north west edge of town. Head back into town on Picture Rock Road, but watch out for traffic!
Supertraining defined. A ~120 mile out and back, on one road. But you'll be treated an 11 mile climb @ 6% up to an observatory with awesome 360 degree views of the desert before heading back to town.
A total 29 miles to the summit. With the first 21 miles of continuous climbing at 5% grade. You’ll start at a modest 2,700ft and climb all the way up to 9,133ft passing through numerous climates and some awesome views. The climb starts at mile marker in the northeast corner of Tucson. The intersection of East Catalina Highway and East Snyder Road.
Bonus #1: Ride up to the summit and check out http://thecookiecabin.org/
Bonus #2: A good time from mile marker 0 to mile 5 is 20 minutes. Although certain other cookie aficionados have done it in under 18.
Tucson's got it all. From trendy spots downtown by the university, to real authentic Mexican food, to cafes. We used to use our recovery rides to go try a different mexican restaurant every time, however this might make it hard to ride uphill home.
El Guero Canelo: Sonoran Hotdogs (You should google that if you've never seen one) and Mexican street food.
Nico’s: Awesome lunch spot with Mexican street food. Amazing Burritos, Carnitas was my go to. Best of all they have multiple spots all over Tucson.
1702 Pizza & Beer: The name says it all. They serve up mega sized slices of pizza with a extensive beer list.
Le Buzz Caffe: Cafe at the base of Mt. Lemmon. Perfect for easy days.
The Cookie Cabin: The aforementioned cabin that sells mega sized cookies on top of Mt. Lemmon.
The Bike Shops
A high end shop at the base of the foothills. They've helped us out multiple times. A good place to stop for ride food and service.
If you're feeling lucky check out The Desert Diamond Casino on Nogales Highway.
What's next for Orucase's Cyclist Guide?
Tune in next time as we tackle another favorite city of ours, or better yet sign up for our mailing list to be automatically entered to win an Orucase Airport Ninja Bike Case.