Trails & Tips

Explore in and around the phoenix area to find some of the best trails. Be it easy or challenging, find bicycle rides in Arizona. Links to trail maps and guides. New to cycling - read on to prepare for your next ride.

Beginners Guide To Urban and Mountain Biking

In Arizona, trails are everywhere. Ride the canal or the park. Ride in the National Forest. There is a trail for every skill level. No matter which way you go, there is a great place to take your bike nearby. 

Below, find some places to go, riding tips, and great advice to get anyone started on a mountain bike or a beach cruiser. 

See you on the path!

Need A Reason To Ride

  • It helps you sleep better.
  • Moderates the need for Insulin for diabetics.
  • It's a perfect choice to improve cardio fitness.
  • It contributes to your overall health and well being.
  • Burn up some calories and help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Contributes to strong bones and reduced risk of bone loss.
  • Increases circulation, while reducing the effects of arthritis.
  • Relieve anxiety, stress and tension (get a dose of endorphins).
  • Gets you outside with your friends - shown to improve longevity.
  • Studies indicate that any exercise increases creative reasoning and contributes to improved mental state - It's fun and makes you feel good.
  • Regular exercise from bicycling is not only easy on your joints and body, but also contributes to heart health, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.

What To Wear

HELMET - A helmet is essential (it actually can provide shade and keep you cooler when moving). Many people wear a bandanna under the helmet to absorb sweat and block bugs. There are some very comfortable headbands and caps for riding. 

SHORTS - Most people will tell you that a good pair of riding shorts can make all the difference in comfort. Bicycling shorts are made with a pad to protect you, absorb sweat and they have no seams to dig into your skin. Cycling shorts also fit snug, so they become a second slayer of skin, effectively making a barrier for chafing. 

SHOES - A good pair of shoes can affect comfort, pedaling efficiency, come in a vast variety, and can even have a cleat on the sole to latch onto the pedal. Bicycling shoes have a stiff sole, supporting the foot, easing foot fatigue, and improving the transfer of effort to the bike. Bike control is improved, especially if you use a toe clip/strap or a cleat with "clipless" pedals. 

GLOVES - Gloves come in many colors and styles. For road or urban riding, finger-less gloves work well. For the trail, full-finger gloves are the best choice. Gloves improve grip, protect your hands from blisters, can be had with gel inserts, and protect you hands when you have a mishap.

BACKPACK - These days, bicyclists have a huge variety of backpacks to choose from. Carry supplies - especially water - extra clothing, food, your phone, tools and much more (Jessica even carries her dog!). They are found in myriad sizes and types, with one for every use.

JERSEY - Not essential, but sure can contribute to comfort. You can get MTB shirts, long and short sleeve, high SPF, and much more. Express your style. Tuck it in or let it hang out. Either way, these new fabrics and styles make the journey more enjoyable.

JACKET - Carry a light weight wind breaker to cover up with for sudden rain or a cool climb. Layers are best, letting you peel them off as you warm up. 

SOCKS - Not too thick, but good wicking action, is best. Running socks are good, but many cycling specific socks may work even better. Avoid heavy hiking socks because they inhibit air flow and make pedaling inefficient (they squish).

SUNSCREEN - The sun is brutal, so don't forget to apply ample sunscreen and take along some extra for the ride. 

Favorite Trails

Hawes Trail System (Tonto National Forest)
The Hawes Loop Trail system in North Mesa is a collection of great singletrack trails that wind and loop through fantastic desert landscape. It is a local favorite that has a little bit of everything for every rider, novice to expert. Across the street, west of Power, is the TRW loop - a great beginner ride (although some parts of the trail do wind through the Reservation, which technically, requires permission to cross).

Access to parking for the Hawes trail system is on Power Road, just as it descends to Bush Hwy. There is no designated parking area. Many people park at the Wallgreens (Power & Thomas).

McDowell Mountain Park (
Maricopa County Parks)
These are some of the best trails in the area and very well maintained. It is not as rocky as other Phoenix area trails. It consists of several twisty single track on rolling (and some steep) trails. The surface consists of decomposed granite and small stones which can be challenging, but very fun, especially when turning. Some of the trails are directional, all are very well marked, and they have facilities throughout. Some of the loops are easy, like Pemberton, while others are a little tricky, like the Sport Loop. All are continuously groomed. The park is located just North of Fountain Hills.

Sedona (Coconino National Forest)
Sedona provides some of the best trails in the world. If you live here and mountain bike, you must make a trip to Sedona for a riding adventure. There are trails for the beginner and advanced, with the most incredible views and a host of things to do. Shop, hike, ATV, explore - this is definitely a destination you will want to get to with your bike.

Scottsdale Greenbelt
This is a comfortable bike/pedestrian path maintained by the City. Riding is very easy, with many places to stop and enjoy the surroundings. 

TrailForks
Trailforks is a mountain biking trail database & management system, supplemented with Pinkbike content. Trailforks is a platform for riding associations to keep track of trail conditions, builders to log work & riders to share and plan their rides. 

Emergency Preparedness

Emergency first aid kit for the road or mountain bike.

When you ride, especially in the desert, it's a good idea to think about first aid and survival. Here is a quick reference guide to help you assemble a good kit when you go out into the desert or a road ride:

  • Water - plan at least one quart (32 ounces - about a liter) per hour, and have some for backup, in case you break down. Water bottles hold 16-24 ounces. A hydration pack can hold much more. See the Camelbak¬© website for more on hydration. Plan at least 50oz (1.3l) per hour in the AZ weather. (Archer's Bikes is a Shimano and Osprey dealer.)
  • Have a snack in case you bonk - carbohydrates are better on the road than protein
  • A cheap hair comb - used to help pull of cactus and spines (tweezers are good for the small stuff)
  • Antiseptic spray, like Bactine¬©, to clean scrapes immediately (improves healing time, prevents infection)
  • Several gauze pads (3") to clean wounds and cover them for the ride home
  • Athletic tape to hold the gauze pad in place
  • A repair kit (folding multi-tool, plastic ties, tire levers, spare tube, patches, pump and/or CO2 and $5 to give to someone that stops to help you)
  • An emergency whistle and small red flag to signal for help 
  • Charged cell phone
  • Your glasses or reading glasses
  • Put everything in a gallon freezer bag to keep it all dry
Don't forget your water bottle
Shimano makes bike-specific hydration packs
Osprey Viper 3


Repairs

Repair kit what to carry to fix a flat.

Flat tires are a part of cycling. Every cyclist, from professionals to the complete beginner gets them, but don't fret - a flat tire doesn't have to be the end of your ride. With practice you can change a flat in about 5 minutes and get back on the road. 
When you head out for bike ride, you should always carry the gear needed to fix a flat, every time. Even if you don't know how to change a flat yet, bring these items anyway. Someone else might be able to help you. 

  • A spare inner tube (or two, for longer rides)
  • Tire levers
  • Pump or CO2 cartridge
  • Wrench to loosen your axle nuts
  • Before you start out on a ride, check your tire pressure and make it at least the rating listed on the side of the tire. 


If you want to avoid most flats, 
Desert-Proofing your tires is a good investment. It provides three layers of protection, Slime tire sealant, a heavy duty tube, and a lightweight plastic liner. The Slime will seal any small punctures, the heavy duty tube works with the Slime to make a good barrier and better sealing and the liner guards against sharp objects. Our desert-proof option includes the Slime, tube, liner and installation.

Alternately, if equipped for tubeless ready, going tubeless is exceptional. It's lighter and more reliable. The only downside is you must have rims and tires that are made for holding a good bead and they do need to have the sealant refreshed every few months. 

No matter how you set things up, you still should have a backup plan in case you get a flat.

Tire levers to take off tireHandy wrenchesCO2 InflatorsCarry a spare tube

Trails

Mountain Bikes and Trails Around Mesa, Arizona

By Tom Canavino  

    If you are seeking an awesome mountain bikes adventure, be sure to check out Mesa Arizona, a favorite for bike trails. For those that don't already know, Mesa was voted one of the top 10 cities for riders, and such accolades don't just come from an obscure publication, but by Forbes magazine itself.
    Therefore, with such high praise, get your bike and head out to a trail, you won't be disappointed. Life is full of fun and adventure for all those who are ready to go for a ride, pun intended.
    For all those that are new to the trails around Phoenix and Mesa you are in for a real treat. The fact that the city offers more than 40 miles of bike lanes paired with close access to a plethora of desert biking trails certainly helps! There is no better way to meander through some of the southwest's most stunning landscapes than using mountain bikes. This could be a fun adventure for the entire family.
    Let everybody grab their bikes and head out for some fun in the sun. Finding affordable trail bikes is now much easier than ever thanks to the internet and innovation in general. You can get quality used bikes without parting with a fortune. Even the brand new ones offer so many choices and incredible bargains, there's really no excuse for not getting yours and joining countless others on the trails.
    You will often find riders zooming down the popular Usery Pass Road toward Usery Mountain Regional Park with rows of saguaro cacti and desert brush at your side. It's a fantastic sight to behold. Many people often overlook the landscape when it comes to mountain biking, it's really one of the best ways to explore the beauty of nature available to us every day.
    The area is full of wonderful residents who are friendly and nicely accommodate you. The area offers unique landscape and scenery not seen anywhere else in the world, never mind just the United States.
    Riding is commonplace and most residents seem to own a bicycle so they can explore the vast terrain. Riders can delve deep into the wilderness or for those that are more conservative, there's always the scenic route along Power Road into the Tonto National Forest.
    In this place, you can ride parallel with the Lower Salt River while capturing some of the best views of the iconic Red Mountain. And, let's not forget that Mesa attracts riders from all over the world via numerous cyclist events and festivals, including El Tour de Mesa. It's a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a sport that has brought so much fun and joy to many folks around the globe.
    The choices are plentiful when it comes to choosing a path and the natural beauty of the gorgeous landscape along old roads and trails will make you want to slow down on the pedals so you can absorb the ambiance, taking in all the fantastic views. Get on your bikes and take the entire family on a fun adventure in Mesa, Arizona.


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