As this blog post is published my flight home from Arizona will be touching down at Pearson airport in Toronto. (Update: Fight delayed and so this blog post will be published first. Fine.)
It’s been a wonderful week of philosophy, riding bikes, hiking, and generally hanging about in the Arizona sunshine.
I’ve been trying think about how to organize my reflections on this trip which has been very different from past Arizona bike trips but successful and important in other ways.
I mean the biggest difference was that it wasn’t an organized bike tour with tour leaders, a schedule, other riders, and big distances. I’m very much still recovering from knee replacement surgery and I can’t commit to riding a certain number of kilometers each day. I wanted to go riding for a week in Cuba but with my right knee now getting worse, I knew that was too much.
What’s the same? Disassembling bikes, loading them and all of our cycling clothes and gear for a week into bike boxes and then reassembling, moving clothes into bags packed in the bike boxes. It’s like going from a plane trip where everything is carefully organized into checked bag and carry on to a car road trip with stuff strewn across the back seat including random roadside snack purchases, and then back again.
What’s different about the do it yourself trip with bikes is making individual decisions about where to go and where to stay and where to eat. I kind of like that bike tours take that out of your hands. We stayed in the full range of places from the conference resort hotel for a couple of days after the conference, to a bed and breakfast in Ramsey Canyon, to a KOA cabin near Picacho Peak to a Best Western on the outskirts of Phoenix, and finally a cute boutique hotel in Sedona.
This trip was more like ‘rent a car and drive around and bring the bikes along’. It’s not my usual style of riding from place to place. We were heavily car dependent and not even riding everyday. But we did ride most days and it felt so good and so important to get back on the bike.
Often Sarah and I would hike in the morning (when it was colder) and drive to the new place and bike there. That’s the other difference between past Arizona trips. Not surprisingly January is colder than February. It was below freezing most nights and we even had some snow. But by lunch hour it had warmed up to 13-15 degrees Celsius most days.
My longest day of riding was 25 km. We also did more riding on bike paths than I usually do. I needed the safety of the path and the ability to concentrate on pedalling and the mechanics of riding without worrying about cars and drivers.
The really good news is that it felt better each day. It’s remarkable. On the first day, when I struggled just getting on and off the bike and clipping in I began to understand why some people just give up. I began to understand why someone might just decide that the road bike riding stage of their life is done. It was hard. But it helped that the road bike is the bike I had in Arizona and it helped that Sarah was super patient. And so we continued to ride and things got better.
I have a friend who had knee replacement surgery and who gave up riding with clipless pedals. She said it hurt too much clipping and unclipping. I thought it wouldn’t bother me because I’ve been clipping and unclipping on the trainer, but it was different out in the world. It took effort and concentration to do it in a way that didn’t bother my knee. After a few days, I think I’ll be fine with my pedals and shoes.
On the one hand, it’s an incredible luxury to have my bike here and just ride a bit each day in the sun. On the other hand, road cycling is a thing that really matters to me and I’m so happy to be back on the bike. I’m looking forward to longer bike trips again, like Arizona and Cuba and maybe even Newfoundland. But for now I’m enjoying my little 20 km rides on sunny Arizona bike paths and quiet roads. It was confidence building and a reminder of how much I enjoy riding my bike.
I’ve really loved my US winter riding trips and I’m hoping to add Cuba to the rotation soon. I’ve also been wondering about bike tours in New Mexico. Anywhere you’d recommend for a week of warm weather riding?
Here’s my accounts of past winter bike trips:
March 2022 Alton Illinois. See here and here and here.
January 2020 Mount Dora, Florida
January 2019 Clermont, Florida
2015 Arizona in February and South Carolina in March
February 2010 Arizona, see here
Here’s some photos from this trip.
Finally let me just say there’s nothing like holidays to make fitness feel fun and easy. Even while recovering from knee surgery, I met my step goal everyday and even logged enough intense activity heart points.
Here’s hoping for some dry pavement and warmer weather at home so I can start commuting to work by bike again soon!
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