By Mike Touzeau | Special to the Green Valley News |0 comments
These guys are serious.
They might rest one or two, then seek out sandy single tracks and rocky ridges when they’re off road for two of five days a week on a bicycle seat.
Green Valley cyclists Bill Adamson and Chuck Hill have added an average of thirty trail miles to the 150 or so on the pavement they travel on two wheelers each week, and they’re bringing along new buddies and discovering new places to test their skills and sample scenery up local mountain trails and along the desert floor.
“I’ve learned not to crash,” quipped Hill, 72, who started only a few years ago on a hand-me-down bike from his son, but since has participated regularly in the annual Elephant Head race as its familiar oldest competitor, averaging only a little over two hours in taming the rugged 13 mile course.
He has consistently finished among the top 75 percent of entrants, even though they’re decades younger.
“He’s worried I’m going to enter it,” jabbed Adamson.
His friend at 74 has been riding his whole life, taking up mountain biking seriously about 25 years ago, tackling the 120 mile, 10,000 feet elevation gaining “Triple Bypass” challenge in Colorado where he lives in the summer.
They welcome newcomers to their informal group that organizes weekly excursions, exploring new trails as well as the regular rides in the area, which reflects an increased enthusiasm for the sport here.
They willingly pass along tips, and agree it’s never too late to learn something new, evidenced by Hill’s attendance recently at a three-day skills camp in Phoenix, where he refined turning and climbing techniques.
“You learn to lean instead of turning the wheel,” he explained, “and the most important thing out there is vision — ahead and peripheral.”
Taking tumbles is not an appealing option, especially for grandfathers, so knowing what you and your bike can do is essential.
“If you look where you’re afraid you’re going to go,” added Adamson, “you’re going to go there.”
Not a good thing when you’re following a group down a steep grade.
They suggest practicing in a parking lot if one is just starting out, learning to jump the curbs, shift, find the right gears, and maintain good balance over the pedals, then move on to West Desert Preserve, just west of town near the mine, where the single track winds easily without challenging grades.
Mountain biking is obviously much different than running the roads, which both still regularly ride when they’re not on the trails.
“There are more challenges,” Hill said. “You have to concentrate a lot more.”
“It’s like the difference between jogging and hiking,” Adamson agreed.
You have to get through sandy washes where the rear wheel won’t want to turn, move like mountain goats down scary steep rocky grades that grab your front tire, and climb back up heart thumping hills trying to stay with your mates.
Not easy, of course, but rewarding, Hills says.
“There’s a variety of scenery, and it’s fun. I like doing something that is a challenge to get better.”
They roam trails from Tucson to Patagonia, pointing out a variety of their favorites sites:
Robles — Between Ajo and Irvington just west of Mission Road, it’s about 15 miles of varied terrain, from easy to difficult, some of it widened to include hand crank biking (now that’s a challenge.)
Sweetwater — Off I-10 near Silverbell, this 12 mile single track is easier, but a distance to drive from here.
Elephant Head — Rocky and loose, Adamson said. It’s easier to enjoy the 13 miles of spectacular views from the Mt. Hopkins Observatory to the Madera Canyon Proctor visitor center than the other way around.
The Arizona Trail — They have their favorite segments, many along old ranch and mining roads, with Sahuarita Road, Box Canyon, and Gardner Canyon Roads all good starting points south or north to pick up the famous trail.
Diablo Mountains — At Hunter Access near Sopori Ranch on Chavez Siding Road off I-19 south of Green Valley, the group likes the 27-mile ranch and forest road marathon with a counter clockwise loop across Red Springs Pass that circles the Diablo Mountains.
Bull Springs Road — Accessed off Mt. Hopkins Road, this 27-mile trek to Patagonia is scenic, but the first half is a killer.
There are many others, and some they like to keep to themselves, but if you have the right ride and the right gear and some experience, and take all the necessary precautions, there’s some great mountain biking to be found in this area, even if you can’t keep up with these two.