Group Ride Bucket List: Tucson Tuesdays with Fairwheel Bikes
The American Wild West is legendary. Rough. Tough. Physically challenging beyond belief. A brutal land where the strong suffer and survive, while the weak suffer and don’t want to survive.
There’s no better place out West to figure out if you’re one of the strong or weak than at the iconic Fairwheel Bikes Tuesday Group Ride, or as the locals call it – The Tuesday.
Although its cousin, The Saturday Shoot-Out gets all the attention, ask any local and they’ll say The Tuesday is more competitive and faster. What it lacks in length, it makes up in intensity. This ride has a little of everything: flats, rollers, and a short killer climb over the back side of Gates Pass. It’s open to anybody and everybody willing to show up at the crack of dawn for a balls-to-the-wall style ride. This usually includes Pro bike racers, Pro triathletes, and the local elite velominati. If you’re a type-A competitive rider who hates paying race fees, this ride is perfect. Just plan to go hard or go home.
|Location||Tucson, Arizona, USA|
|Distance||36 miles, 2 hours|
|Difficulty||Fast, Hard, 110%|
|Start||University & Euclid|
On Time, Every Time
They don’t take roll call or wait. Riders arrive like bees to honey. They come from all walks of life – butcher, baker, beer-maker, professor, doctor and Pro Tour sponsor, but all share one commonality, punctuality.
You won’t get dropped from the get-go. There’s a 30-minute warm-up segment. It’s a 2 x 2 pace-line with time to socialize and ask “Where’s a good local brewpub?” Though the sun may just be rising, the question will be answered without judgment. Venture up front and you’ll find the ride’s founder, Ralph Phillips of Fairwheel Bikes, leading the procession.
Mile 0-8 Turn right onto W. Ajo Hwy (Highway 86) and it’s time for 20 miles of on-the-rivet race madness, minus the podium. The first challenge is to make it up the initial gradual climb. With a SSW wind, stay as far forward and to the right as you can to catch a nice draft. Keep your eyes peeled for Arizona road debris – cactus, cracks, rocks, snakes and mufflers.
Mile 8-12 Get back up front before turning on Kinney Road, it’s a high speed 90 degree criterium style turn sure to string the pack out single file with gaps. Tip: Keep chasing if you’re off the back, there’s a stoplight a mile up the road that might help you latch back on.
Mile 12-23 The next few miles are the easiest on the route, but the peloton won’t go easy. Not a chance. After passing the Old Tucson Movie Studio turn left onto McCain Loop. Enjoy a nice downhill before the Pros put you in the hurt locker on a rolling climb up to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Mile 23-26 On the climb dig as deep as you dare, it’s followed by a 2.5-mile descent through the beautiful Arizona Sonoran Desert where you can recover (or not) before Gates Pass.
Mile 26-28 You’re almost at the end – of your rope by now. Gates Pass will finish you off and leave you twisting in the wind. It’s a 2.7 mile climb with the last bit at 12%. Attacks start at the bottom and won’t stop till the top. As you suffer like a dog on the lower slopes don’t look up to the left, it will only demoralize you even more to see the steep road snaking up Gates Pass.
Mile 28-30 After much suffering, you’ll reach the summit, turn left into the parking lot and rest as the pack re-groups – try not to fall over exhausted. The hard hard-core part of the ride is over. Time to enjoy a nice friendly downhill roll back to the start.
Mile 30-36 With any luck, you’ve got what it takes to suffer and survive The Tuesday, one of the most intense group rides in the west. I barely did via decades of experience, and a lot of wheel sucking. It was the hardest ride I’ve done in a long time…and definitely bucket list worthy.
John Woodson lives and rides in New Mexico, a legendary character that is always on the lookout for legendary rides. Or even less than legendary. But always a good experience. Do you organize or participate in a ride that qualifies? Let him know [email protected]
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