We understand that it can be overwhelming to try and choose where you want to ride with Chasing Epic, since we currently have eight different locations on offer. Add in the variability with different seasons, itineraries, and skill levels, and sometimes it can be too much. That’s why we’re putting together a series of articles (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall naturally) that provide updated information on next year’s trips, with everything you need to make a decision.
And of course… our winter 2023 trips will be the first ever for Chasing Epic! Winter for us is all about the warm desert southwest, and so it’s all about Arizona! We’ve been working on putting together a killer trip that could fill in some of the “downtime” of the cold and dreary winter, and we’ve finally nailed it. Beginning next year, we’ll be running two trips in late February and early March in Tucson, Arizona that will get your riding season started off the right way!
2023 Arizona Winter Ride Camps (based in Tucson, AZ)
Technical Level: Advanced
Fitness Level: Intermediate +
Summary: To kick off our very first set of winter riding trips, we wanted to put together something that was both “approachable”, but also in line with the difficulty of all our other trips. Our goal with these Arizona-based trips is to give our riders some motivation to stay in riding shape all winter, but also to give you a proper Chasing Epic ride experience. So… how do we do that within the span of a 4-day trip with only three days of riding? By combining three days of kick-ass riding, and easing you into it bit-by-bit.
Our trip will start with a ride on the Arizona Trail (AZT), where we’ll take it relatively easy on the first day with ~20 miles, some easy climbs, and some breathtaking scenery; keep in mind, this first ride is meant to get you back into the swing of things, burn up the legs and lungs a bit, and get you used to the bikes. After the “warmup” day, we’re getting right into it with back to back days of rowdy, technical, desert riding that’s sure to knock your socks off. Both the second and third days will start off with a shuttle (but there’s still some decent climbing both days), with an average daily descent of around 5,000 vertical! This trip will most certainly challenge advanced level technical riders with proper desert chunk, so be sure to bring your A-game to this one. We compare the difficulty level to our Fruita/Moab trip.
Day 1: Expect to meet at our lodging in south Tucson around 5:30pm, where we’ll set up bikes, do a brief introduction, unpack gear, and have a welcome dinner and drinks.
Day 2: Arizona Trail Out and Back (with options). Today we’ll hit the Arizona Trail south of town with a relatively easy 20-mile ride to get your legs and lungs back working again after a (hopefully short) winter break. We’ll build in a few medium-length climbs, flowy descents, and some of the best desert scenery you’ll see on a bike. There will be a few short technical sections to help you get used to handling the bike in a desert environment, but nothing like you’ll see the next couple of days!
Day 3: Red Ridge into 50-Year Trails. OK, enough warming up… now it’s time to get into the good stuff. Red Ridge is a backcountry-style technical trail that drops off the back/north side of Mt. Lemmon, and is generally bypassed for the standard Lemmon Drop, which we’ll do on Day 4. We’ll start the day with a shuttle up Mt. Lemmon to where Red Ridge begins… it drops around 2500′ in 5 miles, so you know what you’re in for. Be prepared for tech, chunk, tight singletrack, and one of the best desert backcountry rides you can imagine. After a big descent to start, we’ll traverse (and climb a bit) over to the 50-Year trail system, which is chock full of tech, slabs, and chunk. There will be a handful of options for finishing out the ride, but expect around 20-22 miles on today’s ride with 1500′ of climbing and about 6000′ of descending!
Day 4: Lemmon Drop to Town. To us, this ride has the potential to rival the Whole Enchilada shuttle in Moab. Depending on winter/spring conditions, we’ll either shuttle to Green Mountain or Bug Springs (Green Mountain adds around 4 miles) and begin our ride from there. This ride is *mostly downhill* overall, but there are a handful of short/steep climbs and a couple brief hike-a-bikes, so come prepared. The tech riding on these trails is out of this world, and it’s a perfect progression from Bug Springs, to Prison Camp, to Bellota, and then on to the last section, Milagrosa. There will definitely be lines and sections you can expect to walk if you’re not completely comfortable with rowdy chunk, but we’ll have time to session spots and see if we can’t get everyone through the whole thing alive!
Expected Weather: Highs in the 70’s, overnight lows in the 30s so it’ll definitely be chilly at times. Our second and third rides start much higher above town, so you’ll want a light jacket to start those rides since it will be a good bit cooler.
Recommended Bike: This is one of those “it depends” locations for us. If you’re a confident descender and have the tech skills to back it up, you can definitely handle these rides with a trail bike (GG Smash, Revel Rascal, Propain Hugene). If you’re a strong climber but need a little more travel for the downhill tech, then by all means go with the enduro bike (Revel Rail 29, Propain Tyee). Our personal take? Go full enduro, bro.
The Final Word: We’re super stoked on this trip. First, these winter trips will give you a reason to keep riding and staying in shape throughout the winter. Second, it’s awesome that we can extend our season and give you another bucket-list destination to ride with Chasing Epic. And third, the rides we plan on doing on these trips are absolutely legit. The technical riding is for real, and we think it’ll blow you away.
All that said, you can’t take these trips lightly- these rides will still push you, and as we always say: the better shape you’re in, the more fun you’ll have with us. The terrain here is very different (everything in the desert is out to get you!), and it’ll take some time to get comfortable with the dirt, the rocks, the harsh environment. But you know what? That’s what makes the riding so incredible- when you conquer a tech section, or when you ride a line you never thought possible, it’s so much damn fun.