Following a friend’s recommendation, I made my way early the next morning to Fairwheel Bikes near the University of Arizona campus. There, Max, the uber-helpful store manager, set me up with a sweet Specialized Tarmac carbon road bike, and even took the time to fit the bike to my frame, with all the proper saddle and stem adjustments, along with pedals to go with my road shoes. He even threw in some free water bottles to boot. From there, I made my way (bike in the backseat of the rental car) to La Buzz, the coffee shop and roadie hangout on the corner of Tanque Verde and the Catalina Highway — the traditional start to the Mount Lemmon hill climb. Yes, I was determined to ride up what we had so easily driven up the day before. The road is a true road bike classic, especially in a place like Tucson, which is easily as cycling-mad as more well-known meccas like Boulder or San Francisco. Everywhere I went I saw cyclists out and about, even on broad strip-mall boulevards, and even in 95-degree heat. But the Mount Lemmon climb was a classic, and I needed to check that box.
I won’t bore the reader with all the gory details, save that I made solid progress up the well-graded route for several hours before the increasing altitude, increasing headwinds, and decreased energy reserves began to take their toll. Still, I managed to make the summit with only a modicum of cramping, and enjoyed the long cruise down (though with plenty of headwinds and a few painful interim climbs near the top). Total stats for the ride were 65 miles and 8,300 feet of climbing — definitely a solid day’s work in the saddle, though within reach of any fit weekend warrior. Arriving back at La Buzz, I exchanged (what I thought to be) knowing glances with a few other cyclists still lingering in the parking lot.