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

photo by Jason Franz
Mud and muck building up on the legs and bike.
Prepare for the worst
The second that the weather starts to break down, heat, wind, dust and water can instantly transform dry surfaces and parts into mucky, debris-ridden messes with the odds of a mechanical breakdown jumping to highly undesirable levels. So instead of trying to stay light and arrogantly think "that won't happen to me," pack for any potential mid-ride disaster and know how to deal with it.

One of the nice things about mountain biking is that it's appropriate to wear a backpack while riding, which means a near infinite amount of stuff, including a large reservoir of water, can be packed for any ride. Basics must include at least one spare tube, a bike-specific multi-tool, and an inflation device (as easy and fast as CO2 may be, hand pumps are far more reliable and never run out of air). A rain cape or light jacket is always a safe bet as well.

For roadies who don't want to their aero disrupted by the added back mass, be sure to keep similar essentials in a back jersey pocket or in a saddle bag.

But simply carrying these items doesn't mean you're covered. Know how to make simple repairs such as fixing a flat (without creating another one by pinching the new tube) or replacing a broken chain link so that minor crises can be averted. And practice these skills by doing minor maintenance at home between rides.

A heavy deluge of rain and hail began to drop upon the trail with no sign of letting up in any direction. Lightning flashes were not yet visible but the crackling of thunder grew louder and closer. About midway up the shortcut trail, flashes with near instantaneous concussive blasts started just to the south. This became the first of three times that the bike was dropped instantly and a safe spot to squat was sought out in a nearby wash or ravine, the preferred safety spot when caught out like this.

Just before the third round of lightning while trying to ride on towards home, the rear wheel totally deflated, requiring a quick repair. Unfortunately the tubeless tire seal wouldn't reset as gallons of water collected in the mud-coated jersey and shorts and lightning continued to crash all around.

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