Arizona State Parks & Trails recently approved a small grant to SDMB to support our Bike Ambassador program. The funds will be used to provide jerseys to Bike Ambassadors which identify them clearly out on the trails, and for First-Aid Kits and Be Cool trail etiquette materials. Congrats to Nathaniel Gordon for submitting a successful grant to support the SDMB Bike Ambassador program. Look for them on the trails.
Over the last couple of years, our recreation trails have seen a surge of use and popularity, including by people who had little previous experience recreating in the outdoors. In some cases, there have been instances of lost hikers, people who have run out of water, and close encounters with wildlife, and in some cases conflicts between trail users.
In response, the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists launched a Bike Ambassador program in March as one way to address all of these issues. Our goal is to be of assistance to all kind of trail users, not just bikers, but also to promote good trail etiquette among the growing ranks of mountain bikers.
Bike ambassadors are selected for their diplomatic skills in dealing with people; they are not trail enforcers or patrols. Rather, they are trained to help all trail users—hikers, trail runners, dog walkers, equestrians, hand-cycle users and bikers—who may in need helpful directions, extra water, assistance in fixing a flat tire, basic first aid, or other kinds of minor assistance. Sometimes, people just want to know “how far is it?”
We currently have 18 bike ambassadors who are out on nearly every trail in the Tucson valley where bikes are allowed (among other kinds of uses). Look for them: they are wearing blue and gold (think Ukraine colors) jerseys with “bike ambassador” prominently printed on the front along with the SDMB logo. They are not setting any riding records but are out there to engage with trail users and improve the outdoor recreation experience for all.
Each bike ambassador is charged with helping to make the trails safer for everyone since trails are common ground. Ambassadors have bells on their bikes to alert others to their presence, and they have been trained on how to behave around horseback riders. Besides serving as goodwill ambassadors, after each ride, the they complete a report which details which trails they rode one, how many users they saw and type of trail users, number of cars in the parking lot, and they note any trailhead issues or trail conditions that need attention. These points are then shared with the relevant land managers, in this case Pima County and Marana Parks & Recreation. We vetted this program with them and they see the program as a valuable volunteer contribution to increasing trail safety and improving the trail user experience.
Mountain bikers are sometimes cast as scofflaws in the community who are only concerned about recording the fastest times on local trails, everyone else be damned. While every group has its share of renegades, this characterization is untrue of most mountain bikers, however. To reinforce the importance of sharing the trail with others and exhibiting appropriate behavior on the trails, our “Be Cool” campaign with mountain bikers was launched 3 years ago with the specific goal of improving trail etiquette amongst mountain bikers. The elements of our etiquette campaign:
Personally, we have noticed an improvement in trail etiquette here in Tucson with the "Be Cool" program, particularly at Sweetwater where the past was sometimes marked by complaints and conflicts from hikers about MTBers. Our new bike ambassador program is designed to take the new step to make our trails even safer and better—for all users.
TransitCycles is the first woman-owned and operated bicycle shop in Tucson. Owner and head mechanic, Jenna, has been a bicycle industry professional for over 20 years.
Jenna's passion for bicycles started in her early-teens with modified three-speeds she picked up from garage sales and thrift stores. She bought her first "real" mountain bike, a Gary Fisher Mt. Tam, in 2002 and has been hooked ever since.
Jenna began her professional career in 2001 in Rochester, NY and worked for three nationally recognized shops in the area. in 2014, Jenna left New York and moved to Santa Cruz, CA where she worked for a popular bicycle manufacturer as well as a high-end mountain bike shop in San Jose. After a few close calls in California, she moved to Tucson in 2017 and made herself at home.
Jenna purchased her dream shop, Transit Cycles,from Duncan Benning in January 2021 and has dedicated her life in an all new way to the bicycle.
Transit Cycles is located at 267 S. Avenida Del Convento in the MSA Annex, near the base of A Mountainand just off The Loop (exit westside at either Congress or Cushing St.)
Our current hours are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Tuesday-Saturday and 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday. Please check our website transitcycles.com or on Instagram @transitcycles for any changes.
Transit Cycles carries Revel Bikes, Esker Cycles, Surly, Salsa, All-City, State Bicycle Co. and Radio bicycles in stock. We also special order Why titanium bicycles, MONÉ and Baphomet steel bikes, Linus townie-styled bikes and Cleary kid's bikes.
Transit Cycles is a full-service repair shop. From brake bleeds and suspension overhauls to building your dream bike- wheels and all, our work is done right the first time.
After mechanical service, we specialize in what we like best: bike-packing, commuting, and doing our best to rely on automobiles as little as possible. Our weather here is absolutely fantastic in Tucson, and if you want to leave your car parked, we can help you with that.
We carry all types of racks, bags and accessories to make getting out (or getting away) on your bike easier and more enjoyable. We do our best to carry bags and accessories made in the US. We like to support our neighbors the best we can, so in our shop you'll find brands like Bags by Bird, Widefoot, Oveja Negra, King Cage, Nittany Mountain Works, Revelate Designs, Old Man Mountain racks, DOOM handlebars and many more.
Come check us out!
Contact the shop at:
Instagram @transitcycles or
Jenna@transitcycles.com Thanks Tucson!
We have been asked by Pima County Parks & Recreation to notify everyone that the Big Wash TH at Rancho Vistoso Blvd. will be CLOSED for a full 6 weeks while construction crews work on wash bank protection for an adjacent development. There will be absolutely no access to/from or parking at the Big Wash TH between February 21 – April 4.
The Big Wash Trail (1.3 mile trail between Rancho Vistoso Blvd. and the “Honeybee” trails to the north) will remain open but you will not be able to access it from the south. There are no other alternative access points except the church trail. Given how small the church parking area is, bikers should consider parking at the old detention center lot on the east side of Oracle Road. Edwin Road has also recently been plowed and you can access the upper Honeybee trails from this road. Development of any user created trails to bypass the construction at Big Wash is prohibited.
This will inconvenience many in the local riding community, but is unavoidable and necessary for public safety. Please share widely and adapt accordingly.
UPDATE: 8(ISH) DAYS OF XMAS 2021 RIDE SERIES
With rain forecast for the next several days, be sure to check with the host of the subsequent rides to see if they will be held. Contact information for each host is below.
The 8(ish) Days of Xmas ride series is back! The 8(ish) Days was started in 2007 when some Tucson locals decided they wanted to ride every day between Christmas and New Year’s, and it’s grown into a showcase of the amazing trails and riding community in Southern Arizona. It’s a chance for folks to get out with the organizations and clubs that make Tucson a great place to live and ride. So come on out, try some new trails, make some new friends, and celebrate the holidays by bike! All are welcome for all the rides, but make sure to check out the events for info about trail difficulties.
Tuesday 12/28: Our MTB Rides Tuesday Night Lights
Event Host: https://www.facebook.com/events/294374232574121/
The Ride: Camino Loma Alta to Pistol Hill and back on the Arizona Trail
Meet Location/Time: Camino Loma Alta TH @ 7:00 PM
Wednesday, 12/29: Old Pueblo MTB
Event Host: https://www.facebook.com/groups/203787656312279
The Ride: Honeybee trails with a Badlands option (bring lights!).
Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate (depending on route).
Meet Location/Time: Big Wash TH @ 2:30 PM
Thursday, 12/30: Portal/Explorer Trail Build Day
Event Host: sdmb.org or https://www.facebook.com/SDMB.org
The Ride: Build fresh trail at Tucson Mountain Park.
Difficulty: You decide!
Meet Location/Time: NW Corner of Kennedy Park @ 9:00 AM. Bring water, snacks, rain coast, and work gloves.
Thursday, 12/30: 50-Year Trail
Event Host: Catalina Brewing Company, Brian Vance @ 520-275-2875
The Ride: 50-Year trail to the Chutes, maybe Upper 50 and Baby Jesus if there is interest.
Meet Location/Time: Golder Ranch Road parking lot @ 9:30 AM
Friday, 12/31: Guy Fawkes and the Cycling Anarchists “Champagne Ride” (Champagne for Everybody!)
Event: Cancelled because of forecasted rain
The Ride: Tortolita Preserve Loop
Meet Location/Time: Tortolita Preserve TH @ 5:00 PM
Saturday, 1/1: MTB Addicts Hangover Ride
The Ride: A leisurely booze-fueled loop at Fantasy Island
Meet Location/Time: Fantasy Island Valencia TH @ 11:30 AM
Sunday, 1/2: SDMB Poker Ride & Trail Run
The Ride: Non-competitive poker ride/run in the Tucson Mountains. Multiple distances. Get cards, win prizes!
Meet Location/Time: NW corner of Kennedy Park (Ramada #40) @ 9:00 AM
E-Bikes, or electric bikes, have become increasingly popular in recent years with most major bike companies selling at least one mountain E-Bike. They have become widely accepted across much of the rest of the world; however there has been significant pushback to their acceptance in the United States. Here we strive to objectively discuss some of the ongoing controversy around E-Bikes, lay out the rules governing E-Bike usage for different land managers, and lastly identify where they can and cannot be ridden in the greater Tucson area.
Note that SDMB as an organization DOES NOT have an position about E-Bike usage, however, we partner with multiple land-management agencies to build, maintain, and advocate for trails in the area and therefore feel it is our responsibility to explain and discuss local policy and potential controversy surrounding E-Bikes. Understanding the history of the debate over mechanized vs. motorized recreational designations is important to understanding the current debate over E-Bike usage, especially for e-mountain bikes on multiple-use single-track trails.
^ “The Elephant in the Room” by Stephen Haynes (originally published in DirtRag 2015)
What is an E-Bike?
There is a range of classifications for E-Bikes (see classifications below), but at a minimum all have a battery powered motor and pedal-assist function. Additionally, class 2 E-Bikes have a throttle that can work without pedaling. E-Bikes have provided a great resource for bicyclists who could not ride certain terrain or certain distances (due to age, injury, illness, or lack of physical ability) by providing an additional battery powered pedal-assist or throttle function. This also presents a potential problem, as the pedal assist and throttle functions allow more power to be transferred by any particular rider onto the riding surface.
The three E-Bike classes are defined as follows:
*All classes limit the motor’s power to 1 horsepower (750W).
Classification of E-Bikes differs based on land-management agency and riding area. Many agencies (U.S. Government: US Forest Service / Bureau of Land Management / National Park Service, Pima County) define all E-Bikes as motorized therefore only allowing E-Bikes where other motorized vehicles (e.g. motorcycles) can also travel. However, some agencies (locally, the State of Arizona) consider class 1 E-Bikes to be functionally similar to non-E-Bikes and therefore allow them to travel everywhere that a mechanized bicycle can also travel. This disparity in interpretation means that is E-Bike access is not ubiquitous across all trail networks. From here on we will only discuss Class 1 E-Bikes as they relate to traditional road and mountain bikes due their popularity and to their variation in regulation by land-management agencies.
Additionally, E-Bikes were initially very easy to spot, as they had an externally mounted battery, large motor case, and heads up control panel (e.g. Haibike SDURO shown below). However, as E-Bike design has progressed in recent years, they have come to look increasingly like non-E-Bikes (e.g. Specialized Turbo Levo below). This “blending in” of E-Bikes has led to difficulty in differentiating E-Bikes from normal bikes for park and law enforcement rangers and therefore regulating them within different agencies.
What’s all the controversy about?
Remember the mention of motorized vs. mechanized travel above? This debate stemmed from federal agency interpretations of the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Act) (for much more information on federal wilderness click here). That act defined motorized methods of travel as inconsistent with wilderness character and banned motorized travel within all future wilderness areas. Separate federal agencies then interpreted the Act, subsequently developing their own regulations governing recreational use within wilderness areas managed by each agency. In those regulations, the U.S. Forest Service defined bicycles as a mechanized form of transport, as they are human powered but provide a mechanical advantage (via gearing) to the rider. The agencies also interpreted that mechanized travel was not consistent with wilderness character and banned mechanized forms of transport (including bicycling) from all current and future wilderness areas. Additionally, there is a currently a push by some members of the mountain bike community to reopen that debate about the interpretation of whether mechanized travel is consistent with wilderness character, as it was not explicitly stated in the Act and bicycles were riding previously in areas that have since been designated wilderness. That long-term debate directly influences the current debate about E-Bike usage on designated non-motorized trails within the United States today.
Federal trails and roads are all specifically designated based on the types of allowable uses on that trail or road through the formal travel management process. These use types include hiking, horseback riding, bicycle riding, motorcycle riding, larger off-highway vehicle (OHV) driving, and street-legal vehicle driving (see table below). As E-Bikes are considered motorized, they are lumped in with motorcycles in where they are allowed to ride on federal lands. Many trails in popular riding locations (e.g. Santa Catalina Mountains) are designated as non-motorized, therefore E-Bikes are not allowed on those trails. Additionally, many state and local jurisdictions (locally, Pima County) have adopted federal guidelines for designating allowable uses on trails to maintain consistency with adjacent federal lands.
^ U.S. Forest Service singletrack trail signage in Sedona, AZ
Allowable uses by trail/road designation:
Hiking, horseback riding
Hiking, horseback riding, bicycling
Primitive motorized trail
Hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, E-Bike / motorcycle riding
Primitive motorized road
Hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, E-Bike / motorcycle riding, OHV driving
Improved motorized road
All other uses and street-legal vehicles
Regardless of how you feel about the wilderness debate or how mountain bikes or E-Bikes have been classified by federal agencies, current regulations govern where and how we can recreate. Not following posted regulations not only opens you up to a citation from law enforcement, but it also risks losing continued future access for all mountain bikers on our local trails.
So, where can I ride an E-Bike?
In order to answer this question, you need to know what agency manages your local riding area. If you don’t already know, please read our first SDMB In the Know dispatch: Land Managers 101. E-Bikes are prohibited from all non-motorized trails managed by any federal agency or Pima County. E-Bikes are allowed on state lands, City of Tucson property, and trails managed by the Town of Marana (please see the table below for specific riding areas). *Note that as the Arizona Trail was designated as a federal non-motorized National Scenic Trail, E-Bikes are not allowed on it even if it is passing through lands that would otherwise allow E-Bikes (i.e. AZT in Oracle State Park). Additionally, while the Town of Marana has provided funding for trail construction and now maintains trails within Tortolita Mountain Park, Pima County manages this land, so E-Bikes are not allowed on the Ridgeline/Wild Burro Loop and roughly the upper half of Wild Mustang. Bikes (and E-Bikes) are only allowed on specific Town of Marana managed trails in the area including Lower Wild Burro (above Alamo Spring Spur)*, Alamo Spring Trail and Spur*, lower Wild Mustang, upper Javelina, and the Tortolita Preserve (* Note as these trails are accessed through the Tortolita Mountain Park, one could not ride an E-Bike to these trails). Finally, note that there are also many Forest Service motorized trails and roads (north and east side of Catalina Mountains, Redington Pass area, Santa Rita Mountains) that allow E-Bikes as well as motorized vehicles (see Coronado National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps here).
Essentially, this means that E-Bikes can legally ride on less than ¼ of the ~400 bike-legal miles of single-track in the greater Tucson area.
Land management agencies and local riding areas where E-Bike are or are not allowed to ride:
Local Riding Areas
E-Bike Use Allowed?
U.S. Forest Service
Santa Catalina Mtns (Mt. Lemmon), Redington Pass, Santa Rita Mountains
National Park Service
Saguaro Natl Park: Cactus Forest Trail, Hope Camp Trail
Tucson Mountain Park, Sweetwater Preserve, Enchanted Hills, McKenzie Ranch, Big Wash Trail, Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Painted Hills, Tortolita Mountain Park
*Arizona National Scenic Trail (statewide)
Town of Marana
Dove Mountain Trails, Tortolita Preserve
City of Tucson
100-Acre Wood Bike Park
AZ State Parks
Catalina State Park, Oracle State Park
AZ State Land Dept.
Fantasy Island, Honeybee Canyon, 50-Year, Willow Springs / 24 HOP Course
It is imperative that local riders know and comply with the posted regulations governing E-Bike use for all local riding areas. Not doing so could potentially jeopardize future access for all mountain bikers. If you are a rider considering purchasing an E-Bike, please research where you can legally ride it. Bike shop owners and employees can be crucial in this education process by informing potential E-Bike buyers that they will be limited to riding in the few local areas that allow E-Bikes or trails and dirt roads that also allow motorized vehicles.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about where E-Bikes can legally be ridden in the greater Tucson area. If you have any questions about E-Bike or general mountain bike trail access, please contact us at SDMB.
The results of the recent McKenzie Frenzy Race are now posted. Congrats to everyone who participated and enjoyed fabulous weather for a race--and no wind! More than 80 people signed up to participate. Also see overall results here: 2021 McKenzie Frenzy Results - Overall.pdf
Arizona State Parks and Trails has launched the 2023 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation (SCORP) public survey. Every five years, the SCORP must be updated. This plan gathers information and recommendations to guide the management and funding priorities for outdoor recreation in Arizona. Please make your voice heard.
If you participate in outdoor recreation in the state of Arizona, please take the survey. The survey takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete and is available in English and Spanish on the Arizona State Parks and Trails website (azstateparks.com/scorp).
Public participation by Arizonans over the age of 18 is vitally important. Arizona State Parks and Trails is collecting feedback from user groups, the general public, stakeholders, advocates, and recreation providers to develop outdoor recreation priorities for the state for the next five years. These priorities will inform grant criteria to guide the distribution of state and federal monies to non-profits like SDMB that can aid in the acquisition, development and maintenance of outdoor recreation sites.
The survey will be active through December 2021.
Southern Arizona is a great place to ride all year long and we have some of the best beginner trails in the state. "Singletrack" ranked the Sweetwater Trail as one of the best beginner trails in the state.
#1—The Bike. To get started, make sure you have a good quality bike that is sized for you. A competent bike shop can get you outfitted, and we have many good bike shops in Tucson, Oro Valley, Vail and Sahuarita. Whether your decide to go for a hard tail (front suspension only), full suspension; aluminum-frame, carbon-frame; fat tire, chubby, regular; or 27.5 or 29’er tires; tubeless tires or tubes; flats or clip-in pedals--all are personal choices. Confused? At first this can all be TMI (too much information) but learning about all this will help ensure that you have a bike you can grow into. Spend some time talking about all these features at a local bike shop that specializes in mountain bikes. Buy a bike that is better than your current level of riding so your can progress into the bike. For more information on buying the "right" bike in a video, click here. Don’t buy a cheapo bike (like a Huffy or Mongoose) to save money, and if you rent a bike, rent only from trusted, reputable bike rental shops. This is a “buyer beware” market because not all bike rental companies are the same. The best ones should provide a good quality bike with tubeless tires, basic bike repair tools, water, a map of the areas you will be riding, a helmet and a bike lock, at the minimum.
#2--The Trails. Next, check the SDMB website for the best beginner trails as a place to get started. We have put up 4 of the best beginner trails. Master your competence on those and then progress to some intermediate trails. Check them out here.
#3—Personal Gear. Personal equipment is another essential. Everyone who bikes should wear a helmet, riding gloves are very helpful and help reduce numbness that can develop, water is absolutely essential, as is sunscreen. Depending on how long you plan to be out riding should determine how much water to take. Always over-estimate how much water you will need so you don’t run out. Using an electrolyte solution in your water or by itself will help prevent cramps and replenish body salts and other electrolytes you will lose by perspiring. If your bike uses tubes, be sure to carry a pump and patch kit. Know how to fix a tube with a hole in it before you head out on the trail or ride with someone else who knows how to do this. For Arizona conditions, we highly recommend riding with tubeless tires--you will have fewer flats. Click here for a video about tubes vs. tubeless tires. If you ride tubeless tires, be sure to carry at least one CO2 cartridge and air value. Sometimes a small plastic bottle of sealant is also a good idea for longer rides where the trailhead may be miles away. You might also consider carrying some tire plugs as these are a better solution than putting in a tube if you do experience a flat. Walking back to your car while pushing a bike with a flat tire is never fun. For more information via video, click here.
#4—Tips for Safe Riding. Your bike is an advanced piece of technology and engineering that can overcome many obstacles, but you have to trust the bike to do what it was designed to do. Remember, though, that you are always in control and can stop, steer around obstacles, or slow down as you wish. Here are a few common riding tips we usually provide to beginner riders:
Most importantly, have fun and be safe. Mountain biking is a great sport that is growing, and so are the number of trails. You’re only a beginner once, so learn how to ride the easy trails first so you can move on up to things more challenging. And check SDMB's Facebook and Instagram pages for announcements about bike clinics led by certified MTB instructors.
Outdoor recreation is an iconic part of Arizona - from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the canyons and bajadas of the Sonoran Desert. Arizona has a history of stewardship for our lands, waters, and wildlife. Yet, we are falling behind our neighboring states in capitalizing on our unique outdoor assets. Arizona needs an Office of Outdoor Recreation to help us leverage the potential of our natural and cultural resources. The time is long overdue. The time to act is now.
An Office of Outdoor Recreation would help to enhance the quality of life for Arizona’s residents, promote sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities for both residents and visitors, and expand and invigorate the outdoor recreation economy. This office would leverage jobs, prosperity, and wellness for all state residents in both rural as well as in large metropolitan areas. Bridging the missions of existing state agencies such as wildlife conservation, tourism, and management of state parks and trails would allow each to build upon the work of the other and scaffold the effect of their efforts.
Enhance economic opportunities and job diversity, particularly in rural communities;
Increase access to and opportunities for transformative outdoor experiences for all segments of Arizona’s diverse population;
Facilitate the growth of new outdoor recreation businesses and industries;
Cultivate a stronger, more resilient outdoor recreation workforce;
Increase awareness of the value of outdoor recreation for improved public health, community well-being and economic vitality;
Provide a unified voice to promote the economic, social, health and other values of outdoor recreation, trails, wildlife protection, and access to public lands;
Enhanced outdoor recreation economic activity, particularly in rural areas;
Measurable growth in local and state tax revenues from outdoor recreation activities;
Coordinated planning, use, access, and promotion of outdoor spaces within Arizona;
Provides a central clearinghouse for outdoor business support, recruitment, expansion, retention and recruitment, especially for rural areas;
Improved vitality for rural communities through increased population growth, fueling jobs for teachers, doctors, construction workers and more;
Higher success rate for local community grant writing and fund development.
Arizona would benefit from a unified voice to promote the economic value of outdoor recreation, trails, and public lands. Our neighboring states’ offices for Outdoor Recreation have already demonstrated the value of having such an office. The time for Arizona to tap into the $459 billion dollar per year outdoor recreation industry is now.
© 2018 - Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists -
SDMB is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (Tax ID#27-4499320)
PO Box 65075, Tucson AZ 85718