Cycle: A Survivor's Guide to Biking in Arizona's Extreme Weather

No matter how much experience or confidence any of us has, the second we step outside we are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

We here at Cycle got a good reminder of this lesson last weekend while mountain biking up north in Munds Park when a three-headed perfect storm erupted without warning while out on what was supposed to be a short ride. Thankfully, some good preparation and level-headedness helped to keep things under control throughout the downpour and lightning barrage so that a safe return home was eventually achieved. Needless to say it made for quite a harrowing afternoon spin.

Because Arizona summers can bring such extreme weather -- from excessive heat to sudden monsoons to the aforementioned thunder and lightning storms -- it is important to make sure that any ride is properly equipped and the cyclist has good, basic knowledge of how to deal with unanticipated changes, just in case.

John Groseclose via Flickr
Desert storms move in over the Superstition Mountains near Four Peak Trail.
Know the route
Before heading out on any ride, a cyclist should always have a general sense of where he or she is headed and share it with someone. This is especially true during the summer with this harsh, unpredictable weather. But don't just have a single route in mind. Have alternatives just in case something makes it so the planned route can't be completed. And always know where you can bail out at any given moment because that may be the safest choice of all.

Last week was a wet one up north, so when the sun finally peered between the clouds and shined down on Munds Park for more than an hour, the opportunity to break away from the endless Olympics viewing and squeeze in a short ride was irresistible.
The plan was to just drop down into the Frog Tank Loop and run a couple quick circuits before dinner.

Before fully committing to the ride (because there's nothing worse than ride interruptus), an online check of the latest weather reports and Doppler radar showed that the skies were all clear and that the visible storm clouds were moving to the northwest of the area. The sunny skies and clear weather outlook equaled time to gear up and head out before the temperamental skies could change their minds.

Despite some muddy trails, all remained calm and clear as the ride got to the top end of the first loop. However, just as the turn was made the dark clouds quickly consumed the northern and western skies with thunder starting to roll behind the hills. The original return route looked to be cut off by oncoming storms so Plan B was set to follow a forest road back home, but the rest of the blue sky quickly disappeared and any remnant of good weather collapsed under the weight of thunder, rain and darkness. Plan C, the shortest route back to Munds Park over a rocky rancher/ATV trail, quickly kicked into effect.

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