I spent the first part of this week at a conference in Phoenix.  I brought my Ritchey BreakAway with me and added on a few vacation days to the trip.  Yesterday I did a 62 mile ride north of Scottsdale and never really got away from traffic, but I was riding in shorts and a short sleeve jersey, which was a pleasant change from Ohio.

Today I got up early and drove to Tucson to do the ride that was my primary reason for bringing the bike with me.  I rode to the top of Mt. Lemmon.  The ride started at the intersection of Tanque Verde and Catalina and finished 29 miles later in the town of Summerhaven at the top of the mountain.  The first 4-5 miles is relatively flat, but then the road kicks up for the next 2 miles.  It is a beautiful climb on a very smooth road.  There is a wide shoulder on much of the route.  I was expecting a tough climb and a great descent.

It was cool enough to wear arms warmers most of the time and I could tell that I had some tailwind.  At one point I entered an area with evergreens on both sides of the road and the valley was filled with a wonderful smell.

I stopped a few times at some of the scenic overlooks to take a few pictures, but otherwise kept a pretty steady pace to the top.  There is a visitor’s center about 5 miles from the top and I spent a few minutes chatting with 2 visitors from England and the woman who runs the place.  Another riders passed me while I was in the visitor’s center, so I finally had a rabbit after 24 miles of riding by myself.  I caught up with him after about a mile and we rode together to the top.  I had a good second wind after the break at the visitors center and a mile or two of downhill and I was able to hold a faster pace to the top.  We chatted about some other routes in the area and finally split up when I went to get lunch and he continued to the ski area.

I stopped at a tiny cafe in Summerhaven and had a great pork BBQ sandwich on the patio.  It didn’t feel that cold, but I was surprised by how hard the wind was blowing.  I threw on a jacket and started to head back down, fully expecting to enjoy the descent.

That was the first time that my plans didn’t work out today.  There is a short climb out of Summerhaven and then about 22 miles of downhill before getting back to the flat roads.  What should have been a great 22 miles of gentle turns and easily controlled speed turned into a white knuckle, freezing cold, wobbly hour of fear.  The head wind was brutal.  Since I was going downhill I didn’t have to work against it, but it chilled me enough to cause my entire body to shake.  The Ritchey bike with the old Mavic Helium wheels just could not handle the wind at speed.  Combined with my shivering, the bike started oscillating as soon as I get over 30 mph.  It was impossible to hold a straight line.  Combined with canyons and cliffs right next to the guardrail, the lack of control and the shivering made for a scary, scary ride.  But, I made it back to the car safely.  It’s uncommon for me to enjoy the climb much more than the descent, but that’s the way it worked out today.

Filed under: Ride Notes