Arizona Mountain Biking … Got Oxygen?

I’ve climbed mountains to 19,000 feet and expected to be winded, but I wasn’t ready for the altitude and the rocks on uphill climbs during my mountain biking in Flagstaff, Arizona’s 7,000 -9,000 foot elevation! But with perseverance and determination, I busted on through 12 miles one day and 15 miles on another, then ate and drank well at the end of each ride! I must really remember to strengthen my quad leg muscles before any mountain biking here. Those muscles are different from muscles needed for walking and road cycling. I always appreciate my bicycle’s gear-shifting capabilities as long as I am in the best gear for uphills! Then I am also not gasping for air on these uphills … ahhhh!

Spending time in northern Arizona, away from the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, is a wonderful change of scenery and temperature. The wind, cooler temperatures and green color and freshness of pinyon pines, ponderosa pines and juniper trees are a welcomed sight. I can imagine hiking the 800 mile Arizona Trail from Mexico to Utah, USA and would love this section of northern Arizona to hike or mountain bike! I noticed one cache of water trailside and know the individual will appreciate the precious water! I have hiked sections of the Arizona Trail and water is not easily available so having caches set out is wonderful for a thru-hiker. Kudos to all thru-hikers: an accomplishment to complete the distance whether hiking or mountain biking the distance!

Water, thru-hikers appreciate this resource!

The trail varies from rocky uphills to smooth rides through gates and intersections with other trails. Wildflowers are beginning to bloom and I saw pronghorns romping through the forest. Deer, elk, squirrels and birds are seen here too during various seasons. Do take time to notice the natural beauty around you. It may be best to do that when you take a break from your bike ride, since most of your energy and sight will be looking at the upcoming trail and not necessarily the world around you! I’ve been known to look at something a bit to long and find myself falling off a trail. Would not recommend that action!

One of 4 pronghorn checking out the mountain biker.

A good portion of the land where we are bicycling also provides a grazing area for cattle. As a result we often need to open and close gates depending on the season and if the cattle are here. Often you’ll see more cow chips on the trail than cattle. Even if you come upon wildlife, they usually scoot away and want nothing of you. Those are healthy wild creatures not looking for human hand-outs or interaction. That is the way it should be! 

When you plan your next mountain biking adventure, remember: bring filled water bottles, wear a bicycle helmet and eye protection, bring a snack, bicycle tools, repair kit, tire pump, and use your shock pump before the ride so your front and back suspension points are ready for your bumpy ride. Know the trail and/ or carry a map or phone with a downloaded map. If possible, especially when riding solo, always a good idea for another person to know where you are in the forest. Enjoy your ride, be safe, have fun and consider Edmund Hillary’s quote, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” So true!

Mountain Bicycling … Am I Having A Good Time?

After each mountain bike ride I ask myself, did I enjoy the ride? No doubt I love moving onto areas of land it would take me longer to get to if I was walking. Add a beautiful sunny, non-windy day and I can enjoy this bicycle ride also as good physical and mental exercise. 

I ready my backpack, set my Garmin so I eventually know how much hardship I endured during the ride, clip into my pedals and take off for a ride. I only ride easy, green circle, and intermediate trails, blue square on maps, and even still find my legs challenged at times, especially when at higher elevations. Why is there always a rock exactly where I want to pedal uphill? And believe it or not, some rocks are in the wrong place even when I want to be gravity-led downhill, so I just roll right over the top of them!

More mountain bike trails are available throughout our country and hikers, dog walkers and other mountain bikers are sharing the trails. Maps and apps make it easier for us all to find places to be outdoors and during this pandemic it is an easy way to social distance. I love trails where I can see ahead and be sure no one else is on the trail and knowing I am soon to enjoy the flat, singletrack. 

You’ll notice I do not photograph trails full-of-rocks, steep uphill or downhill. I was surviving them through my smallest chain ring or walking! I find no shame in that walk. It simply allows me to get further out on a trail to enjoy another piece of scenery. We were on a segment of the Arizona Trail, originally designed as a 800+ hiking trail from Mexico to Utah, south to north through Arizona. Enough crazy people also started mountain biking it, but we thought a segment would be interesting since we had done other segments elsewhere in the state. After cursing the part I had to walk I was thrilled to go through this gate onto a grassland area. Yeah!

Further down the AZ Trail it intersected with Tom Moody Trail. Reading the trail signs, we discover petroglyphs in the area, so we check it out. A nice diversion and a place we returned to when hiking with our friends days later.

Now the ride back. The AZ Trail segment was okay, yet I also did hate the sandy areas. A good rain or snowfall is needed to tame sections of a sandy trail. Back to our main trail and finish our loop. Whew! Survived, no major falls, some aching body parts, I am done! Did I have a good time? Yes! It’ll be a few days before I mountain bike again. My body needs to recuperate from all the bouncing around and that is fine; I am not as young as I used to be. Till then a hike is just fine!

Mountain Biking Another Trail…Why?

I tell myself, the importance of mountain biking various trails is to determine what level I can safely ride, what level I can enjoy while riding, and what trail I might possibly return to ride again. And so it goes, out onto the S. Camino Loma Alta trailhead and Arizona Trail! The first third was okay with nice double track and some cardio moments to climb a hill, but overall okay. Next third was with a couple of water/stream crossings. What did I discover about myself? I am not good when trying to pedal through rocks, water, sand and to muscle to the other shore! My first attempt, in my life I will have you know, I tried and soon had my front wheel wedged between 2 large rocks and thus had to step with one foot into the cold water, and then came the second foot! (Good time to only have 2 feet.) Am I having fun yet? Not quite! I continue on the ride and the next time I see a stream I am already off the bike, a friend carries my bike across and I walk across the stream at a point I feel comfortable…but really hate having wet feet. The toes will take a few hours to warm up, if I am lucky. Then came the third-third of this out direction. It was technical-level for me. I was riding single track over very, very rocky areas. When did I give up? Well I took a left turn okay, but the second left turn had me soon kissing the ground and the left side of my body slammed against some rocks! Okay, the good news is I did not land in any cacti! Yeah! But this last portion of the trail was over my head, so I walked, and I watched some whipper snapper guys ride some amazing areas that I had a difficult time walking myself and bike over! Oh to be 20 again, or maybe not!

Our group reached an area by Colossal Cave and I thought it would be good and easy from this point to our return. We biked over dirt road and a couple of washes where water ran across the road….great… feet were almost dry and they were now wet again…then on the paved road and riding fast with a windchill on those wet toes of mine! So glad to see the parking lot come into view and know this ride was soon to be over! Many thanks to the others who were on the ride; their support; their humor….believe me, that’s important to have when one is discovering how much crazy one needs to mountain bike in certain areas! (I will return on the first two-thirds and then turn around and come back. If I am smart I will do it when the washes/streams have less water and before the heat index is to high.) Did I tell you I do love mountain biking! It is true!

Mountain biking with a few other crazy people I call friends!
Mountain biking with a few other crazy people I call friends!

My Return to Mountain Bicycling

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There are only a few places where I ABSOLUTELY need to be focused and mountain bicycling is one of them! This trail was a bit sandy, yet I was headed for a huge dip and a need to step on the pedals hard to come up the other side. The good news, I made it!

You see the cacti on the left in this picture? Even when they are at arms length from you they have  a way of jumping into the path. I needed to wiggle my bike tires around them since I was in no mood to change a flat tire. I know mountain biking in the desert has its challenges, but especially when the cholla cacti attack with their barbed spines into your skin. Fortunately it was not me who had the cholla attack, but I was there to help my friend who had a cholla hanging on the backside of her arm! With a comb I could pull the cacti off and with my fingers pull the remaining spines. Do not brush up near these cacti!

Ride on! We are still having fun! This is my retirement!