Green Valley West Desert Preserve

Susan and I were cleaning up the house and found a county bike map (separate from the normal one) of the Green Valley area. It showed an area of unpaved trails near the corner of Continental and Duval Mine Road. A little Google-ing and I had a name – the Green Valley West Desert Preserve. Never heard of it… better check it out.

I took the Cannondale since the Giant is still sitting with a blown up fork and the terrain was described as Fantasy Island -like. There was an unlocked gate at the corner which appeared to lead down a powerline road. What I didn’t know and would later learn is that the nice single track began there as well and I didn’t see it. I went down the powerline road and it sucked pretty bad. Example of the sucking:

I ended up doing a big loop around the place on subideal routes before stumbling on the singletrack. Now we’re talking – it was very fun and perfect for a cross bike. The place was covered in massive chollas but fortunately I (or my tires) didn’t get stuck with any, just my shoes a couple times.

Marana Campfire

For a few months a weekly Friday night campfire gathering has been happening near the Tortolita Mountains, organized on AZFJ and ExPo. I went for the first time and turned it into a mini bike adventure by dragging the ATLAS out. Of course the week I finally manage to make it, nobody else shows up! Luckily, Angry Tim, who lives nearby, came to the rescue with a camp chair and beer(s).

I packed what I’d consider my ‘full’ camping setup; tent, heavy bag, and thermarest. I winged it for dinner (had a ton of pasta when I left at about 4pm) and brought my backpacker stove for oatmeal in the morning, bike tools, a few personal items, a bunch of water, and warmer clothes for the chilly morning hours. Certainly enough stuff for a very comfortable camp but not too heavy and nowhere near as much as you could fit in the bags. The weight was barely noticeable, this bike is a complete beast.

It wasn’t hard to find a very bike-friendly route which even included a neat unpaved walking/biking path through some of the Dove Mountain housing developments. Riding into the sunset – also very nice.

The morning was damn chilly, I’ll likely bring a little more to wear if the forecast is for around or less than 40F. On the way out back to Tangerine Road I got a better handle on the dirt portion of the route. I think I’ll refrain from posting the GPS tracks of my way to the campfire – it may have involved throwing the bike over a barbwire fence and trespassing across the Ritz Carlton (don’t tell anybody). Fortunately that isn’t necessary and won’t be repeated. Not that I’d want to anyway, I was probably pretty lucky not to suffer great injury during the fence stunt.

Sun ATLAS Cargo Bike

I’ve always lusted wildly after an Xtracycle but I don’t have a bike that would be very good with a Free Radical (my Motobecane commuter becomes a noodle with a moderately loaded BOB trailer) and something like the Big Dummy is too expensive for me at this time. Imagine my excitement when Steve told me about a new bike from Sun, the ATLAS Cargo (unnecessary capitalization mine) – a 55-lb roving bridge truss of ChroMo which is only $700. By June of last year he had one in person at the shop and it was awesome.

After securing a job for the semester and feeling out that Susan wouldn’t kill me for getting another bike, I went for it. Henry at There and Back was able to get me one and have assembled and ready to go in only a couple days. After a little fumbling for fit, I took it up “A” Mountain. To my surprise it was insanely easy, no doubt owing to the obnoxiously low gearing (22 in front, 34 in back on 26″ wheels) that is available.

Of course I had to get my old bike home, that was pretty fun too…

My first grocery trip was a breeze. Six bags fit very easily in the bags and the bike’s handling was totally unaffected. Not sure how much more I could fit, the bags expand further but then I might be spilling groceries out on the road since they become less encompassing as they expand.

2011 Biking Review

My goal for 2011 was to bike 6000 miles. That sounds like a lot and is wildly more than I pulled off in 2010, but truthfully it’s a pretty typical and reasonably attainable total for a recreational cyclist. Throw in my commuting/lifestyle aspirations and it isn’t too bad at all.

Things were going very well through about May. I did a few charity events, a short bike tour, was going on lengthy solo rides with good frequency, and occasionally meeting Steve for brief morning rides. At the beginning of the summer the fork on my Giant exploded and my mojo basically disappeared. The heat, no schedule being out of school, and a blown up bike were too much for my ever-crappy motivation and the summer passed with very little biking. That put a damper on the fall and I never quite got back to my spring awesomeness.

These trends are fairly obvious in the above plot. Whereas the first part of the year is steep with no clear features (rides were frequent and large enough that they sort of blend together in the plot), the rest is flatter and there are clearly punctuated little jumps in the line where I’d finally manage to go on a big ride.

2012 will feature many of the same spring events – Bike MS, Tour de Cure, Tour of the Tucson Mountains, spring break bike tour, etc. – so I expect I’ll have another good start to the year. The key will be the transition to summer. Can I avoid becoming a complete pile? We shall see…

Bike 2011 Miles Total Miles
Cannondale 1405 4237
Motobecane 1086 1979
Giant 362 375
Beer 124 124
Total 3011

Chimney Rock from home (not quite back)

There’s a really great camp spot I’ve been to a number of times directly beneath Chimney Rock on the east side. Biking there has been something I’ve kept in the back of my head for a long time, but the length and the steep climb over Redington Pass have kept me from attempting it. With the new mountain bike, now seemed like as good a time as any to give it a try.

The ride up the pass was rough, being a massive person will do that to you. Fortunately it wasn’t undoable. I made it, and felt good enough to continue. The new bike has BIG gears (a 36 tooth on the cassette, insane) which made it possible to take a few slow rolling breaks rather than totally stopping.

I’d underestimated the difficulty on the other side of the pass, lots of rolling hills and short steep climbs, and by the time I was at the Bellota turnoff I was pretty severely tired. Turning around that far, only a few miles from Chimney Rock, would have been truly sad. This thought was a good one and it kept me going.

By the time I reached Chimney Rock… it was pretty bad. I describe the feeling as having a ghost-straw stuck into your chest, someone slowly sucking the soul out of your body. There was much walking on the way back to the main road.

This was one of those pictures that was taken so horribly into the sun that the only hope of it even looking like anything was to go black and white… err, I mean – artsy. Yea.

Speaking of horrible pictures, here’s one. My goal was to make it to this exact spot and it felt really good to have made it there on my own (i.e. without the help of my truck).

It got dark on me on the way home. I’d brought my little Spock lights just in case, but wussed out on the night ride across town and got picked up by Susan. This is a ride I will certainly repeat – hopefully with better results, and possibly including some camping?

Click for GPS track in Google Maps

Distance: 43.3 miles
Moving time: 4:36:–

Sweetwater from home (but not back)

There’s a very bike-friendly route from my house near Speedway and Country Club to Sweetwater. I basically ride to the UA, up Mountain Ave., and West on the river path. From there I can just pick up Ruthrauff, cross under the highway, and take it straight to the northern trail head. The last couple miles are a little harrowing with no shoulder and big rolling hills, but there isn’t too much of that.

It’s a little over 15 miles from my door to the north trail head parking lot. Figuring I normally ride about 12 miles at Sweetwater, I was looking at a mid-40 mile ride. It went really well. The ride over took only about an hour and my energy was great when I hit the trail. In fact, I probably rode stronger than I ever had at Sweetwater, maybe it was the nice warm-up.

I felt great leaving the trail head as well, my energy still very high. Unfortunately, somewhere between the trail head parking lot and Camino del Cerro I lost the bolt which holds the left crank arm on my bike! I noticed the pedal was feeling a little loose, and I figured I’d broken it – I’m still riding on the crappy plastic ones that came with the bike and they were smashed into the ground a number of times on the trail. What made me discover it was in fact the crank arm bolt was when… well, when the crank arm fell off the bike. That made it pretty obvious!

By some unbelievable fortune, about a minute after this happened the only other mountain biker that was parked at the north trail head drove by and asked if I needed a lift someplace. It was hugely out of his way, but I had few choices. The man was from Ohio, visiting town to do a bunch of biking. He was knowledgeable about local trails, a member of SDMB, and worked at a power plant back at home – all of which made for good conversation.

I had him drive me to There & Back where Steve got me all fixed up. It was a pretty weird end to the ride and I was cheated out of some miles, but it was a great time nonetheless.

When I bought my new cheap and crappy get-dirty camera, it came with this really insane case (complete with a deployable rain cover!). The belt strap is fairly adjustable and works perfectly under the stem.

This was the first time I’d ridden at Sweetwater since they installed some GLORIOUS signs. Easily the most effective trail signage I’ve ever seen. Their presence was a much welcome alternative to carrying around a useless hand drawn map as I’d become accustomed to doing.

Sweetwater is seriously beautiful. These shots are looking NE back toward the Catalinas…

Click for GPS track in Google Maps

Distance: 26.5 miles
Moving time: 2:38:–

Bike Tour Recon

I spent the day in the FJ doing a quick pre-run of some dirt routes for an upcoming bike tour with Steve of There and Back Bikes. In March he plans on leading a tour leaving Tucson, looping around the Santa Ritas (crossing them by dirt), and hitting Patagonia, Sonoita, and Elgin before returning.

The results of the dirt recon were discouraging… much of route which is ideal by map is basically unrideable. But, the purpose of the drive was to have a good time and learn about the route – done and done. My tires didn’t blow up and we had only one encounter with a gun-toting rancher (actually a nice guy), all in all a good day. Oh, and I lost my Losbetos virginity to a sweet, sweet breakfast burrito…

This area surrounding this ridiculously huge tree would have made an epic place to camp…

The sign read “EJ’s Summerhome.”