Photo Essay: 2023 Winter Ride Camps in AZ
Last week, we wrapped up the last of our first-annual Winter Ride Camps based in Tucson, Arizona. You’re probably thinking: Tucson, that sounds amazing in late February… mid 70’s, sunny, and lots of dry trails to ride every day. Well, in a normal year you’re spot-on… but this year you’d be a little off-base. In true Murphy’s Law fashion, we arrived on the tail end of one of the worst winters in recent history, with consistent snow and cold temperatures for the last several months.
All that said, we always have a Plan B (and sometimes a Plan C!), and we did our best to make sure we filled our days with epic riding that would get our riders off the trainers and onto true desert singletrack. One of our big rides- Red Ridge- was off the table due to huge snowfall high on Mt. Lemmon for both trips, but it was game on for the rest of our plan. Check out our descriptions and pictures below for a summary of what we ended up doing… all in all, it was a huge success with mission accomplished (for the most part), and it was the first of many winters we’ll get you motivated and out on the trails. Stay tuned for details on next year’s trip!
Day 1: Arizona Trail (Cienegas Creek to Pistol Hill)
This was the first day of our original ride itinerary, and so we were stoked to get the second group out on it for a smooth, fast, mellow warmup day. The AZT runs north-south through Arizona from Utah to Mexico, and offers some incredible riding. We set up a point-to-point of approximately 24 miles, riding from south to north, that gave our riders a great way to shake the cobwebs off and get used to the bike again. Today’s ride offered flowy singletrack, a few short punchy climbs, and views that seemed to go on forever.
Day 2: The Lemmon Drop
The Lemmon Drop is the real deal. Seriously, this ride is one of the most physical and technical you’ll find on any trip we do, and it should be on the bucket list for everyone that loves chunky, rocky, technical riding. We didn’t let a little bit of snow on Bug Springs (the top 5-6 miles) affect our ride, as both groups got to sample winter hiking on the first climb… the second group literally hiked through 4-8″ of snow for 30 minutes at the beginning!
From there, you get a bit of everything. Bug Springs is technical and flowy, Molino Basin is super fast with enough tech to keep you on your toes, and Milagrosa is all-in, super rowdy and has more rocks than you’ve ever seen in your life. For the day, we managed just under 20 miles with 1800′ of climbing and over 6000′ of incredible downhill!
Day 3: Starr Pass Loops
Our original plan for the third day of this trip – Red Ridge- was too snowy to ride (thanks to all that snow we mentioned above), and so this is where our flexibility came into play. On the west side of Tucson sits a fairly quiet network of trail that’s drop-dead gorgeous and offers enough tech and miles for a solid half-day of riding. On our first trip, we hit these trails after being rained out one morning; on the second trip, we wrapped things up on the last day with 12-13 miles in the morning.
So, that’s a wrap on our first set of Winter Ride Camps… what’s the final tally? How about 56 miles w/ around 4500′ of climbing and over 10,000′ of descent, just enough warm weather to keep everyone happy, and dozens of smiling riders!