Kids That Rip Indoor Skate Park

The East Valley has a new factory of elite athletes, sending competitors to this year's games that pit them against the very best in the world. And these athletes are only 11 years old. That's right, Kids That Rip Skatepark in Mesa sent two of its skaters to X-Games 18 in Los Angeles this summer to compete on the ramps. But not every skater out there has the goods to be X Games-worthy. So why not grind bowls, ramps, and rails aplenty on smooth wood surfaces indoors instead of baking in a cement microwave outside? Kids That Rip has over 3,500 square feet of street course bliss inside an air-cooled facility that will make it feel like Dogtown at Venice Beach. There also are the previously mentioned bowls and ramps, and even a tunnel. Skate camps for kids ages 5 to 15 run throughout the summer, starting at $199 per week for park members. The park also features an all-ages open skate at $15 for a three-hour session, with a themed open skate every first Friday.

Skate Park at McDowell Mountain Ranch Park

Yep, there's a skate park in North Scottsdale, and like most things in the area, it's pretty new. At 16,000 square feet, it's not the biggest skating spot out there, but it's got the tables, benches, planters, and ledges to keep you entertained, and a bowl that drops down about 10 feet. It's the second city-owned skate park in existence around here — the other one's at Eldorado Park on the other side of town — and it's a little more upscale than your typical skate park, as it's almost always spotless, with a covered patio and lights. It's connected to the city's recently built aquatic center, which probably is the best summertime perk you could ask for. It may not be the ideal facility for the more advanced skaters, but, hey, it's one of the few free things to do in North Scottsdale.

Known as the the Valley's fastest group ride, the BOS has been pounding the roads of North Scottsdale since 1981. Named for its starting point — the Bicycles of Scottsdale shop that has come and gone a few times at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard — the weekly group ride pushes out every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. with upwards of 50 to 60 cyclists making up the peloton. The roughly 60-mile route can change slightly from week to week, depending on the moods of group leaders, but by and large, the ride rolls north along Pima Road toward Cave Creek, cutting east for some climbing loops on Happy Valley Road and Legend Trail. The ride continually ascends to the summit point on Cave Creek Road known as "The Tower," a house with a large microwave antenna, just before the turnoff to Bartlett Lake. The return trip is where the fast part comes in, as it is nearly pure downhill all the way back into Scottsdale, and this group moves. If the idea of riding in a bunch is a bit intimidating, the route still is among the Valley's best, cutting along the scenic high Sonoran Desert along iconic landmarks such as Pinnacle Peak and Reata Pass.

South Mountain may be known worldwide as one of the planet's best mountain bike playgrounds, but imagine an alternate mountain bike trail system that combines a bit of everything from that premier park: a good dose of National, add some Desert Classic, a dash of Mormon, a pinch of Javelina, and smidge of Alta. Mash 'em all up and drop the results on the east end of the Valley, and, presto, there lie the Hawes Trail Loops.

It may be a vastly smaller network of single-track than its big brother to the west, but it twists like a rattlesnake ready to strike, with climbs and drops that keep even the most technically capable riders on their toes. Hawes and its accompanying trails take riders up to mine shafts and through a forest of cactus leading to some of the best views in the East Valley. The primary trailhead is on the east side of Power Road (if you start heading downhill to the river valley, you're too far) with a small parking area across Power that holds about 10 cars (otherwise plan on parking at the Walgreen's at Power and Thomas Road, about two miles south). The most ride-able loop is a combination of Hawes, Saddle, Saguaro, and Ridge trails in a counterclockwise direction, for a run of about seven miles. The trails are signed with some old wood-carved placards sitting on posts whenever the tracks intersect. For a sweet payoff, work to the top of Saguaro Trail and discover why that trail is also known as Mine Shaft.

The walls of downtown and Central Phoenix have been springing to life over the past few years, thanks to local artists looking to define this community through public art. Three specific areas of CenPho have become the home to a majority of these large-scale wall masterpieces: 16th Street, Roosevelt Row, and Grand Avenue. And there is no better way to take in this massive public museum than by bike. The three areas can be cycled on an easy, flat 10-mile circuit beginning and ending at Barrio Café on 16th Street, home to the Calle 16 Mural Project. With stops at The Hive, Roosevelt Row (be sure to check the alleys!), Phoenix Public Market, and Grand Avenue and Fillmore Street, Phoenix's finest mural artists are on display, with works by Lalo Cota, DOSE, Joerael Elliott, Jenny Ignaszewski, Rose Johnson, El Mac, and Luster Kaboom. Each of the murals speaks to, for, and about Phoenix in a unique, insightful, reflective, and provocative way, and seeing them by bike gives cyclists a chance to really stop and appreciate them as more than just wall decorations, because, after all, this art belongs to all of us.

One of the great things about Phoenix-area bike routes is that there is always a nearby ride whenever you get the urge. (You know the urge: the need to ride that just keeps building until you can't hold it any longer and you just have to go, even when it's dark.) And if you have to go at night, you might as well CRAP. CRAP stands for Car Resistance Action Party (which really just sounds like a bad excuse to call it a "CRAP Ride") and historically has been run on Tuesday nights. The ride started in 2006 as a social bike crawl from Tempe Town Lake along the Greenbelt to Old Town Scottsdale, where drinks are had. The ride then either returns along the Greenbelt path or cuts back through Scottsdale along other roads. All in all, it's a low-key 12- to 15-mile ride, and you always feel relieved and relaxed afterwards.

Part bike shop, part athletic training center, Faster is most unique because it is the nation's first shop complete with a cycling-specific wind tunnel. Discreetly tucked in the back of the shop, the tunnel is available to cyclists of any type — be they professional triathletes looking to perfect their aero tuck or weekend warriors wanting a good bike fit so their back stops hurting. They can get in the tunnel and see just how much drag quotient they create while trying to blaze to new levels of speed. This means that cyclists can go in, buy a bike, get it sized, and then get tested in a true wind tunnel to make sure they are riding that machine as fast as their physiology can possibly make it go. But the wind tunnel service does not come cheaply. Hourly rates start at $599, and the folks at Faster make no bones about the service being for athletes looking to optimize every bit of their ability and for manufacturers to test their latest developments. Either way, there's some cool science happening in the back of that shop and it's worth a trip to take a peek.

The Bicycle Cellar

Imagine a place that enables people to commute to work or school by bike, saving loads of cash while improving fitness, by supplying the all-needed showers and safe bike haven while said folks work through the day (or night). One such harbor exists in Tempe, at the city's Transportation Center. Started as an initiative by Tempe to encourage bike commuting, operations of Bicycle Cellar were awarded to Valley cycling stalwarts John Romero and Joseph Perez. They since have turned the room that included little more than a couple of rows of two-tiered racks, lockers, and some showers into a full-fledged, full-service cycling center and retail space. Bicycle Cellar is open seven days with staffed hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Monthly and annual Cellar members have after-hours (4 p.m. to midnight) access to lock up or retreive their bikes and use the facilities, with rates starting at $35 a month for bike storage. Cellar also has a wide array of bikes for rent, and its location near Tempe Town Lake, Papago Park, and ASU means that fast, fun riding is close, no matter which direction you head.

Simple physics dictate that in order to descend, one first must ascend. When it comes to cycling, it's widely known that climbing is not for everyone, although many believe that there is no greater descent than a descent earned. For those who fall into the former category and just go for the downhill bomb, Gnar Gnar Tours is your rescue, providing regular shuttle service up South Mountain every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. So, if you're one of those huckers bounding down National or Geronimo Trails on one of those burly downhiller rigs, a tow to the top with Gnar Gnar may be just what the doctor ordered. Runs up South Mountain cost $5 a trip or $20 for the day, and the shuttle stops at Scorpion Gulch near the park's main gate, the Heard Scout Camp, and Cactus Bikes in Akwatukee. There's also a shuttle service to Black Canyon Trail and up north to Sunrise Ski Resort, for a total heat escape. Bike rentals also are available for those who want to indulge in the torment of South Mountain but are in need of wheels.

Outside magazine recently named it the number-one bike town in America. Bicycling Magazine tabbed it number nine. The Old Pueblo may be regarded as Phoenix's little sibling in terms of Arizona's urban centers, but when it comes to cycling, Tucson has the Valley outclassed across the board. The fact that many pro cyclists and triathletes either live or train there in the off-season is proof positive that Tucson is among the very best cycling destinations in the United States, and it's a mere 90 minutes south of Phoenix. Tucson is home to two full-fledged hors categorie mountains (that's the hardest of the hard) in Mount Lemmon and Kitt Peak. The rolling landscape in and around the Tucson Mountains, including the always leg-straining Gates Pass, beckons roadies for miles of top-level riding.

For those craving the dirt, Starr Pass, Fantasy Island, and Bug Springs rank among the best mountain bike trails in the state. Throw in races such as El Tour de Tucson and 24 Hours in El Pueblo, not to mention one of the biggest and fastest group rides in the country in the Saturday Morning Shootout, and it's easy to see why cyclists such as Lance Armstrong, Greg Lemond, Clara Hughes, Tinker Juarez, and Chrissy Wellington have set up shop in Tucson over the years. Multitudes of spas and resorts make high-end off-the-bike recovery very easy, and the town is littered with good, healthy restaurants to keep the fuel levels optimized. Looking for a more official, organized bike retreat? Carmichael Training Systems, one of the leading cycling and endurance-sport coaching and training centers in the world, has an office at the base of the Catalina Mountains and offers an assortment of weeklong camps.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of