We own a bike shop. this means that George and I can never travel anywhere together from March through November. We also live in VT where it is very cold and snowy these days. I decided that this year, we were going to take a trip somewhere warm during those few months that we can actually escape. We're not really beach people, prefering the active getaway. So when Deejay started talking about SSAZ in Tucson, our decision was pretty easy. We were headed to AZ to ride singlespeeds in the desert.
The first couple of days in Tucson it was raining. Pouring at times. At least it was a warm rain, but I was really hoping for some sunshine. We had to get up wicked early on Saturday morning to make it over to the starting park, as we drove there the moisture had made fog as thick as pea soup. Temps weren't bad for us northerners, i didn't bother with arm or leg warmers to start - wasn't that cold.Above is the starting group. There were about 60 riders headed up, only 5 of them were women including myself.
We left the staging park and rolled out en mass to the starting line, chit chatting and getting to know some of the other riders.
The first part was a long fireroad climb. You can see in the photo above that i'm pretty much solo at this point. There were a couple of people behind me somewhere, which made me feel just a little bit better. But, you see, it was all part of my strategy. I knew it was going to be a long day and I wasn't going to waste all my energy on the fireroad and have nothing left for the singletrack. Besides, I had a backpack full of food and water and nothing better to do than ride my bike all day. Why rush things?
Here I am rolling up to the first aid station, end of the fireroad climbing part. You can see that there are others here, I wasn't actually too far behind. George and I headed out together onto a super fun singletrack section. It was fast and smooth and just amazing. It was still early in the morning, so the light was perfect and the whole desert riding experience was really amazing. It wasn't too long when we caught up to a pair of riders fixing a flat. We passed them there, but ended up riding with them for a little while afterwards.
Above you can get an idea of the landscape and the beautiful day. So different than VT riding and such a nice change from snow.
Due to all the rain they head earlier in the week, all the washes and streams were flowing. The first half of the ride was definitely a wet feet ride with loads of crossings. Some you could ride, others got a little deep and George wasn't keen on me to submerse my hubs. I wore the wrong socks for this ride, I should have scrounged up some wool socks as the synthetics rubbed wrong when they were wet and I was hiking - which was unfortunately pretty frequently.
So after the superfun singletrack, came some steep climbing and lots of stream crossings. Followed by fire road climbing and descending. This area is heavily used by off-road vehicles and we saw a lot of them. They were all quite friendly and courteous and looked like they were having a blast. It seemed to take forever to get to the next rest stop - you know it's coming up, you just have to get back to the main road but it was taking forever. I was already tired at this point and we'd been at it for 3 and a half hours - the amount of a normal long ride for me. And we were only about half way done. I knew George was feeling it to - after all, he hadn't been on his bike for a month. We agreed that we were going to ride on at a totally sustainable pace and we were going to finish the whole ride.
So back on up the fireroad to the other aid station for a beer. We were right on the heels of a group of 3 guys and there were a couple of other riders just hanging out there drinking in the sun and beer. After eating as much food as we could stomach, off we went for more singletrack. This stuff was pretty fun too, though more climbing in the first part. It would have been more fun with fresh legs, but I certainly enjoyed it.
After a little while we joined forces with the group of three in front of us. They had one guy who was not doing well and they were locals and knew where we were going and what sort of terrain lay ahead. Towards the end the trail got really technical and rocky and rough. I was beat and having a hard time steering and braking appropriately and was definitely walking a lot of the stuff. There were cacti of all sorts all along the trail, and landing on one was not something I wanted to do. Sure enough, I fell over at one point. Thought I was good, but when I stood up there was a cacti ball lodged in my butt. You cannot pull them off like burdock seeds, i tried.
Anyway, we made it to the end. 48.5 miles on a mountain bike with only one speed. It took us 8+ hours, but we weren't last and there was still beer and pizza left when we got there. I'm stoked. Three months ago i was in the cardiologist office on a treadmill trying to figure out why my heart didn't work right when exercising. I didn't know if I would ever get to have a good ride or run again. And so it was just a huge personal victory to do this ride.