As the Valley settles in for another summer and the triple digit temps are once again the norm, hydration re-emerges as the top health priority for area denizens. Without question, water is gold.
Just because it gets warm does not mean that we stop being active. Aside from swimming, cycling is actually one of the best warm-temp activities because the constant air flow is like standing in front of an evaporative cooler. But, that is sweat pouring out so that fluid needs to be replaced - constantly.
So, drink up before you head out, load up some bottles to bring on the ride, and have an idea where to refill along the way should those bidons run dry. And don't ever expect that refill to be free, although it usually is.
There is a common misconception among cycling circles that there exists a state law stating that no restaurants or convenience stores can deny a person free water. There are even some cleverly named legal websites corroborating this idea. But this law appears to only be urban legend.
"I have no idea where this 'law' came from and I've never heard of such a statute," says Sam Coppersmith, attorney and avid cyclist. "It seems like some sort of weird interpretation of Western water law of prior appropriation rather than riparian rights systems that are in place back East. Much more of a 'Code of the West' thing than an actual statute."
We at Cycle have rarely been charged for a water refill around town. Sure, there is the occasional rural outpost or family owned store that charges for anything and everything, but by-and-large local convenience stores and coffee shops will fill a water bottle with ice and tap water on the house.
This doesn't mean cyclists should assume that it's free. Just ask Tucson attorney Eric Post, who specializes in Arizona bicycle law.
"Last year I was riding on the Rillito River Park in the heat of the day when my riding partner and I were separated and she missed a turn. I rode around looking for her when I ran out of water. Very dehydrated, I finally found a restaurant that I could get to and asked for water. The kid at the cash register said he would sell me water at $3 per bottle. My knees gave out and I fell on the floor asking for water. I found my debit card and asked again and was told that I had to buy it or vacate. I was ready to ask for 911. Anyway, the guy ran the card and sold me three bottles for $9. After that incident I searched for the law about refusing water and didn't find it."
Post's episode proves that it's important to always have cash or card in a jersey pocket before heading out. Some stores will fill a bottle if you purchase something else like a Fig Newton bar or a bottle of energy drink. Often, that will even out or be cheaper than a bottle of water anyway.
But even if you know that the water and/or ice is free, don't act like it. Before bolting out after the refill, just check with the cashier and let them know you're filling the bottles with water and ice. Consider it courtesy.
Now the hard part becomes knowing where to water up. Phoenix may be the land of strip malls and corner convenience stores, but many routes still can stick a cyclist in areas devoid of...convenience. Here are some popular watering holes that cyclists regularly hit:
The foothills on the south side of South Mountain are a favorite playground for cyclists of all types. Whether a run on Desert Classic Trail, hill repeats on Desert Foothills Parkway or pacelining on Pecos Road, all roads back out of the Great Cul-de-sac lead past the Hillside Spot (4740 East Warner Road). This is more of a sit down restaurant that a walk-in store, but its sweet bike rack on the patio and tasty, low-priced menu make for a very relaxing mid- or post-ride stop.
Any ride up or around South Mountain almost always requires a stop at the Circle K on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Dobbins Road. Just a mile from the main gate to South Mountain Park, all riders riding to the towers, along San Juan Road, or hitting dirt trails from center of the park will pass by this store, and the store is very familiar with the spandex clad crowd.
The Pinnacle Peak General Store (8711 E. Pinnacle Peak Road, just west of Pima Road) looks like an old west saloon filled with drink fountains, shelves of candy and snacks, and even a decent wine section. The store actually hooks into a restaurant and other stores in the Village at Pinnacle Peak if you're looking for an extended break.
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At the top of Reata Pass where Dynamite Road/Rio Verde Drive intersects with Alma School Road sits a Circle K with wide open parking lots, a common spot to find groups rides base from on the weekends.
If water is like gold, consider ice platinum during the hot months. And even though no roads are cycled as frequently as those around and between Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain, nowhere along these roads can a cyclist find a store or drinking fountain to provide that invaluable refill. But tucked just inside the Camelback Inn, just off of Desert Fairways Drive, is a small open room with a sign calling it "Oasis". This spot is home to an ice machine, there waiting to be used to top off bottles and drop down the backs of jerseys. Be quiet, be courteous, be stealth. This is a source that cannot be lost.
Bush Highway and Usery Pass is among the favorite rides of the Jackalope Ranch Cycle Team (of one). The undulating roadway, steady climb and beautiful scenery bring us back time and time again. Problem is, there is nothing down there to keep bottles topped. But just above the preferred entry point on Power Road, on the northwest corner of McDowell Road and Power, is a cluster of spots to get filled, including Starbucks and Tropical Smoothie Café. Just know what you have before descending down to Bush.