I’m taking a page out of Josh Tack’s book today. Since I have not been doing any racing to write about, and minimal motivation has kept me from doing any “writeworthy” rides, I need to find other cycling related topics to ramble on about. As Old Man Winter’s presence becomes more and more apparent (even though it's sunny today), I’m listing off the top 9 of best cyling escapes (with a slant towards MTB) in the US. Take a look, find some plane tickets, and plan a winter escape.
9.) Phoenix, AZ: Great riding, great weather, and halfway decent culture. South Mountain has tons of technical trails, and is literally right out the backdoors of the folks who live south of the city. Other great riding within a drive includes McDowell Mountain, White Tanks, and Black Canyon City. Phoenix has a quality group of mountain bikers, with racing all through the winter, and ASU being nearby also means plenty of cheap booze. Phoenix is one giant parking lot though, so it's high on the list.
8.) Colorado Springs, CO: Can be a crapshoot as far as the weather is concerned. If the weather is good (meaning no snow, and 40s to 50s), and trails are open, you will be smiling. Pros such as Katie Compton, Kelli Emmit, and Alison Dunlap choose this for their winter training grounds, so it obviously doesn’t suck. Famous cycling rant-man Patrick O’Grady lives here as well. Bonus points for Garden of the Gods and The Air Force Academy are nearby as worthwhile things to check out. Just be sure to BYOB.
7.) Albuquerque, NM: Like Colorado Springs, the weather can be a crapshoot, but odds are it will still be better than wherever you are escaping. Great riding in the mountains north of the city, and phenomenal southwestern culture within the city. There’s a university there, so cheap anything is available.
6.) St. George, UT: Gooseberry Mesa is a well known spot to go ride, and proximity to Vegas make this a great place to head once it gets cold. You can spend hours upon hours riding trails, while being treated to spectacular views. The main buzzkill is you are in the heart of Mormon Country, so places will be closed on Sunday, and 3.2 beer will only make you have to pee.
5.) El Paso, TX: I’ve never ridden down in El Paso, but one thing is for sure, they certainly have great winter weather for riding. Current US Singlespeed Champ Jen Wilson, and husband Dave (Brec Epic SS winner) live in El Paso. This summer they told me the riding is great, nice and technical with steep climbs and descents. Juarez is just across the border, so cheap anything is available, just get back to the US before the sun goes down.
4.) Boulder City, NV: If it’s good enough for the Outdoor Interbike Demo, then its good enough for me. Technical desert riding is like a gift from the cycling gods, and this spot has it in spades. Las Vegas is a pretty easy place to get to, so that makes travel easy, plus if you’re lucky you can make some money while down there.
3.) Sedona, AZ: Sedona might get some snow, and can be cold, but it’s referred to as a mountain bike mecca for a reason. The riding is absolutely phenomenal, and there is tons of it. One of the best weekends I spent riding was in Sedona, where a group of 20 or some mountain bikers, rode close to every trail as possible down there. The landscape of Red Rocks makes almost any place you stop of picture worthy vista.
2.) Hawaii: This is pretty simple, Hawaii is just wonderful, and they have mountain biking, so it’s a no brainer. Sure getting a bike between islands is a bitch and will cost you your first born, but if you are spending time in Hawaii from November to March you have no reason to complain. Besides where else can you see an erupting volcano in the morning, and then ride singletrack in the afternoon.
1.) Tucson, AZ: Pros train here in the winter for a reason, it is warm and the riding is great. Starr Pass, The AZ trail, the entire front side of Mt Lemmon, and that is just a start of where to ride. Added bonus of SSUSA being held there this February, and a great cycling community. Cheap burritos and plenty of tequila are a great way to cap off any day of riding, and ladies who populate the U are gorgeous. Any time you can start in town, ride to a trail, then follow that same tail all the way to another county, you are in a special place. If you haven’t ridden in Tucson during the winter you are missing out.