How to Cycle the American Southwest

Опубликовал Admin
26-12-2020, 18:20
The American Southwest presents a cycling challenge not possible in most other parts of the United States. It is fairly remote and some parts of the Southwest have a low road density. This article will give you some points to consider before going on a journey that was once only done on horseback.


  1. Pick a start and end point. Figure out where you want to go to before you head off. There are several factors that should influence your choice:
    • The elevation plays a factor. Generally speaking, from El Paso TX heading westwards till Colorado River, there is a drop in elevation making it easier to cycle.
    • The desert is a real factor. It's hot, dusty, lonely, and lacks services and water.
    • Be aware that most National Parks and National Forests have specific restrictions on where you can ride. Check their websites when planning your route.
    • You also need to ensure that there is some way to transport your bike to and back on your journey, unless you are supported, then you just need to be driven back. If you do not have that luxury, look where the Amtrak pick-up points are, or check out where you can fly in and out. If you fly, note that you need to box up your bike.
  2. Pick a good time to go. A large portion of the Southwest is a desert. So if you go during summer, expect to deal with an average of 100ºF (or 38ºC). Winter temperatures can drop below freezing and you can even see snow in the desert! The windows between these two seasons may be the most pleasant.
  3. Choose your route. This is not as easy as it sounds. As there are only a few proper roads going across this region, you may actually need to use the interstates for certain stretches. It is legal to do this but do not try this in other states! Stretches of the Interstate that you can take include the I-10 and the I-8. Note that if you're cycling from California to Arizona and New Mexico, using Interstates is unavoidable. Some itineraries that might interest you include:
    • The Red Canyon, Utah, has a resurfaced cycle track on the highway running through the Canyon.
    • New Mexico has a cycle ride called the Enchanted Circle. This is a loop of almost 100 miles (160 km) that starts and ends in Taos.
    • If you're stopping off for some city life, Albuquerque, NM, has many trails and was named the third best place to bike in the US in 2006.
    • US Route 66 has good back road options. Ride west from Williams, AZ along the Interstate for 20 miles (32 km), then head onto the remaining section of Old Route 66 between Seligman and Kingman. Take Oatman Road to Needles, another small part of the I-40, then back to Old Route 66 through Amboy to Barstow.
    • Texas has the Davis Mountains Loop, 75 miles (121 km) with a gain of 3,000 feet (914.4 m) elevation as you travel. Amazing views!
    • Arizona has the Mount Lemmon ride. It covers 28 miles (45 km) from the Sonoran desert and ascends 6,500 feet (1,981.2 m) to Mount Lemmon. You definitely need to take warm clothes on the trip.
    • Nevada has the US 50 route. It goes for 45 miles (72 km) west to east from Pony Express Station to Austin, or continue to Eureka for a total of 58 miles (93 km).
    • Oklahoma has the Sulphur Loop, a 51 mile (82 km) tour.
  4. Pack your equipment. Make sure that you have all the equipment you need for your trip. Buy what you can at your starting point and buy what you can't before getting there. Some things you should consider taking with you include:
    • Puncture proof tubes (for the cacti and rough roads)
    • Clothing, including hats, sunglasses, bandanna, etc.
    • Sunscreen and bug repellent
    • First Aid kit
    • Maps, maybe GPS/compass, elevation and temperature indicator (usually a watch combination is best), etc.
    • Puncture kit, extra inner tubes, and other relevant spare parts
    • Sufficient food and water; use a suitable water holder that you can access easily while riding.
  5. Book accommodation in advance. This is especially important if you are frequenting highly touristed places or there aren't many lodgings available where you are going.
    • If you plan on camping, be sure to have the appropriate supplies and to update your outdoor knowledge, including treatment for snake bite and stings. Always check local regulations on camping before camping wherever you feel like!
  6. Train for the expedition. If you have never done such a long distance tour before, you are advised to train for it. The requirements for such training are not the subject of this article.


  • Keep someone informed of your progress by texting him at every rest point at night.
  • Do not cycle at night, it is dangerous as fast moving cars will not see you until too late.
  • Bring along plenty of sun block, there is a lot of sun in the Southwest, even in winter.
  • Know how to repair bike problems such as punctures, broken chains, etc. before leaving. On the plus side, most major towns will have a decent bike store.
  • Look for places of interest to visit when planning your route - museums, historic sites, parks, renowned people to talk to, and places to stop and eat!
  • Consider joining an organized ride to gain a safety net, not to mention making planning easier. Non-profit events like the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure ( offer rides that often go through the southwest while offering great support and a purpose to the ride.


  • Some roads are extremely badly cracked. Consider seriously getting a bike with front suspension, to avoid injury to your wrists. The roads around Yuma, AZ, have this problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Bicycle
  • Panniers and a rack
  • Items suitable for a bicycling tour
  • First Aid kit
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