Originally published in the Spring 2018 Edition of Mountain Lines. You can find all of the issues of Mountain Lines available for online viewing or download here.
By Art Ranz,
McDowell Sonoran Conservancy master steward
So often when I am working as a trail guide at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, I am asked about trails and sites that seem far away to the visitor. Hawksnest Trail, Coyote Canyon Trail, and the unusual Michelin Man saguaro cactus are just a few places people want to visit. “So, how can I see them without hiking 15 miles?” I’m often asked. My answer is, “On a bike, of course!”
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is quickly approaching 200 miles of trails into some of the most beautiful areas in the Valley. It has some of the widest varieties of biking experiences in the area—the steep and rugged trails in the southern part of the Preserve and the smooth, almost groomed trails in the northern part. Within Brown’s Ranch in the northern area are the technical Diablo Trails with challenging rock formations for experienced mountain bikers, as well
So, how can you get started?
Some riders just hop on a mountain bike and get going. But others find that getting some basic training makes learning easier, faster, and safer.
The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy offers free mountain bike classes every month covering basic skills with your own bike, or a rented one. It is a super way to get started, and a great way to make the transition from road biking. Flat tire repair, helmet fitting, a skills clinic, and an easy ride in the desert make the training a fun outing. Many local commercial outfitters offer guided rides that include bike rental, and they also offer quality rental bikes for our classes or for just heading out on your own.
The Conservancy also offers several guided mountain bike rides each month. These are advanced, beginner and intermediate skill rides with multiple experienced guides. It’s a great way to see new places in the Preserve and to meet new, like-minded riders of all levels. We ride for two to three hours at a casual pace, stopping to discuss techniques and interesting areas of the Preserve.
Please see the calendar on our website at mcdowellsonoran.org for the dates and locations of the clinics and the guided rides.
For more specific information and questions, email us at Bike@McDowellsonoran.org
As responsible Conservancy bikers, we constantly strive to improve the multiuse trail system where bikers, hikers, and horses share the trail. We teach and encourage cooperative courtesy with all groups. There are also significant safety concerns to heed when riding in the Preserve. Helmets are a must! With all the sticky, prickly things in the desert, the ability to repair a flat tire is essential.
It can be a long, hot walk back to the trailhead pushing a bike! Like all activities in the desert, plenty of water is high on any safety list. A charged cell phone is essential, but cell phone coverage can be spotty, so always tell someone where you are riding and when you expect to return. Navigation skills are important, and phone apps like Maprika help considerably. But one should always have a paper map and know how to use it. Safety or sunglasses, and a small first aid kit to treat injuries and remove cactus thorns are highly recommended.
Wow! Biking in the Preserve is really much more fun than this bit sounds! I so often hear, “I would never be able to do that!” But I have seen bikers with very little skill become accomplished and safe riders with just a little instruction and a bit of determination. There’s one warning though—once you try biking in