We were in Arizona for our annual winter trip last week and I got to thinking about our first year of mountain biking. Last year we were on this same trip at McDowell Regional Park near Fountain Hills, AZ. After spending a week or so running and road riding we were going to head to Tucson to do some hiking and more road riding, as we wanted to climb Mt Lemmon again. On our second day at McDowell Heidi said, “Let’s go into town and buy mountain bikes.” She’s like that while I’m generally more of a, “Ahhhhh, let’s think this through” kind of person. After a few minutes of back-and-forth, though, I came around to her way of thinking and we headed to REI. Next to our RV, it was probably the best purchase we’ve made in the last 10 years.
I had been scouting out a few bike options eariler in the year because we wanted to do some bikepacking after I quit working. I knew we wanted hardtails with 27.5+ tires and had narrowed the options down to the Salsa Timberjack and the (at the time) new REI Co-op DRT 2.1. It seemed like it was really hard to find the Timberjacks anywhere and since we’re big REI fans, I was thinking we’d probably buy the Co-ops when the time came. (I didn’t know that would mean December. Haha)
After we picked up our new bikes in Scottsdale we spent the next 3 days riding all the trails at McDowell. We promptly booked another week of camping and cancelled our plans to go to Tucson. Our road bikes were lonely in the rack, but we were having too much fun in the dirt. Mt. Lemmon would have to wait.
Over the course of the next 12 months we rode these same moutain bikes in Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon, British Columbia, Montana, and Idaho. We bought a bunch of bikepacking gear and went on a 5 day trip in Idaho (Smoke-n-Fire route) that was harder than any bike trip we’d ever done (by a long shot). It was super hot, had tons of climbing, as well as crazy hike-a-bike sections over multiple road washouts. We were completely unprepared for it and it kicked our ass. In other words, it was perfect. And our bikes and bikepacking gear performed as well as we’d hoped when, months earlier, we were dreaming about long days in the saddle, bikepacking through forests and over mountains.
We’ve been trying to settle on what was our favorite place to ride this past year. During our long summer trip we spent a week in Bend, OR and liked it so much we went back later in the summer for a second week. While there we rode the Phil’s trail network almost every day. So Heidi and I easily agreed that Bend was our favorite spot. There are miles and miles of well-marked mountain bike-specific trails that are perfect for our (newbie) abilities. A close second place was Whitefish, MT, where we had some nice really rides in beautiful country. But, the threat of grizzlies made it a little less enjoyable so Bend gets the top spot!
Anyway, we just got back home from this year’s trip to McDowell. Once again, we had great weather and an awesome trip. We got to spend some quality time with Heidi’s mom and her husband, who just moved to Sun City West. And, of course, we got in tons of great mountain biking.
The Co-ops in Whitefish, MT
Our happy place in Bend, OR
Bikepacking near Boise, ID
Bikepacking – hike-a-bike #1
Matt in Kimberley, BC
Heidi back in the desert one year later