JBake pointed out to me a ride this Saturday, posted by a user on the Tucson MTB forum. It would be some trails at the top of Mt. Lemmon, connected for a 30 mile ride with 7k ft. climbing. But, with the 2.5 hour drive, I modified that a bit and started at Molino campground at 7:30 am – only 1:15 hour driving time! On the ride up the Mt. Lemmon highway, I encountered 100s (?) of roadies. This weekend was “Easy peasy Lemmon squeezy”, and so it was quite busy and motivating to ride a bike. I passed a few roadies, which always cheers me up – even when they are obviously struggling with insufficient gearing and were probably roped into this by their friends. My goal was to make it to the Palisades visitor center in 2 hours, in time to meet the unknown folks from the Tucson MTB forum by ~10 am. I was spinning a good cadence and without stopping, made it to Palisades in 1:50 hours. This left me with plenty of time to stretch, eat, and do some people watching at the rest area. Promptly at 10 am, I heard some mountain bikes coming down Mt. Bigelow trail and when I asked the leader what his name was, he replied “I am Vern, I am bigworm on the forum”. I joined Vern, Steve, Long, and Rene and we headed towards Connector/Secret trail and 1918.
At the end of 1918, we met another group of mountain bikers who were quite a bit younger, and would join us for Sunset trail. And here, Jessy the mule, and her owner appeared, of whom I have heard before, but never met. They were both friendly and cheerful, and seemed mostly interested in finding a quite place to go for a walk – undisturbed by mountain bikes and fallen trees.
We were now a group of 12-ish bikers of various abilities, and so it was getting a bit slow at the technical places. Not my kind of thing. But, one of our group, Steve, got a sidewall cut and while he was stitching that with needle and thread, we watched some of the younger guys ride & crash at the exposed rock sections. Vern pointed out some delicious smelling flowers and birds. It was a good time. I also rode a couple new sections on Sunset that I had walked before; thanks Vern!
At the general store, I ran into Pascal who was on his Saturday touring ride. After some water and burritos, time was getting too short and Vern decided to cut Apen Draw trail and instead go straight to Oracle ridge.
We waited for Steve and his leaking rear tire after one descent for a while, when he finally appeared above us at a cliff and yelled that his bike was broken. He’d have to hike back out and meet the rest at the Control Road.
We turned at Dan’s Saddle towards the mining operations and cruised down dirt roads to the Mt. Lemmon control road. After a bit of riding up the Control Road to their cars, I bid them farewell. My conclusion about Oracle ridge is that it is a lot more fun in a group, and not stuck in one’s own suffering. The guys I was riding with were a pleasant and hard-pedaling crowd. Looking forward to our next adventure in Tucson!
I thought I’d ride to the top of Mt. Lemmon as it was only 14:30. But, my legs didn’t feel great and I was exhausted by the time I got to Summerheaven, so I decided to head down and ride Bug Spring and Molino. In retrospect, I was just dehydrated from the heat and sun on Oracle Ridge as evidence by my huge headache later that evening.
At the top of Bug Spring, I took a good break and electrolytes, and started to feel fresh again. I was ready to test my slick “Raven” tire on this sketchy trails. The tire works surprisingly well on climbing, but when it breaks loose, it does so in a very rapid manner that is hard to control. So, I took it very easy on the downhill and things went generally well sliding-wise. On Molino Basin, I cleared all the short climbs which I didn’t expect to be able to do with a slick and I was stoked about that. Back at the car at Molino campground just at sunset, my eyes didn’t burn as I did not have to do the long descent down Mt. Lemmon highway.
Awesome pictures on Vern’s blog.
Stats: 53 miles, 8600 ft., 11:10 hours. GPX track