It’s Saturday night and as I get ready I go through my mental checklist: do I have the right shoes? Yes. Should I wear my loose blue top or the cute black one? Have I eaten enough or will I get hungry later? Better have a drink now so I’m ready when I get there. I pull my hair back so it’s out of the way, throw my pack over one shoulder, grab my mountain bike and helmet, make sure I have my bike lights and I’m out the door.
This may not be everyone’s idea of how to spend a night out but I sure do love giving up the nightclubs for natural nightlife that surrounds Scottsdale.
The trails around Scottsdale are becoming well-known to mountain bikers across the country. The acres upon acres of preserved desert offer trails suitable for every level of rider, whether you prefer easy flat gravel paths or rocky and technical singletrack. Mountain biking in the desert around Scottsdale is growing in popularity and so is a unique type of mountain biking: night rides. In summer, we mimic the native wildlife, staying active in the early morning and late at night. Mountain biking at night is a fun and different way to get to know the desert from a new perspective. Whether to escape summer heat or to make the most of shorter winter days, night riding is fun in every season.
Scottsdale has a strong cycling community with many great locally owned bike shops that provide a lot of support to new riders. One way they do this is through sponsoring social bike events like the Summer Night Ride series at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. This is my kind of wild Saturday night. One weekend a month in the summer, the park and a few local bike shops come together to host HUNDREDS of riders for a night ride. High-powered lights are required and it’s recommended that you ride the trails during the day at least once before attempting a night ride. Most Saturdays, the ride takes place on the Pemberton trail, a 16 mile loop with moderate grades and a mix of hard-packed decomposed granite, sand, and apple-sized chunky rocks.
Rides are always published by McDowell Mountain Cycles and the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. For mountain bike rentals check out REI Co-Op Experiences, and remember that high-powered lights are always needed on a night ride.
Here are three reasons you should ditch the bar and go on a night ride instead:
It’s a whole new way to see the desert
The desert comes alive at night. Spiny lizards, desert cottontail rabbit, and elusive mule-deer venture out under the night sky. Daylight lingers long on the distant horizon and stars abound, only growing brighter the further away you get from downtown’s busy lights.
You’ll get your workout in while you socialize
It’s a busy world these days and it is hard to find enough time in the day to do all the things you want. Knock two of them out at once! Plus, with this kind of night out, you can avoid that extra beer that makes Sunday a little slow. Instead, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and rewarded – perfect for heading out to Sunday brunch.
You’ll feel like a kid again
Too often these days we are caught up in small talk, asking about work and replying how busy we are. Biking is exhilarating and there’s something about biking at night that elicits a feeling of pure childhood thrill. Remind yourself how good it feels to shed your schedules and responsibilities and spend an evening with less conversation and more grinning with your friends.
At the summer night ride series, each small group rides at their own pace, but most people like to take it easy and stop to chat along the way. Everyone looks out for one another, creating a sense of extra security. At the end of each night, the organizers grill up hamburgers and brats and have cold water on hand. Food is free but donations are welcome. Pack a cooler with ice cold beer and leave it in the car while you ride. After all that hard work, grab a brat and kick back with your riding buddies with a cold drink under the stars.