Mountain biking in the desert is as difficult as it is rewarding. 

In general, the actual difficulty of the trails isn’t much different, and it’s the environment and the exposure to rough terrain that starts weighing down on you over the miles. In return, you get the sweeping grand views of the desert landscape that the American Southwest is known for. You’ll get the chance to see the best sunrise and sunset of your life. You just need to be ready for the ride. 

These tips for mountain biking in the desert are centered around the experiences that we have had in the Sonoran Desert and other areas of Arizona. It can be brutal, and it can be beautiful. We’ve put this list together so that when you head out into the desert, you can come with the adequate preparation and gear necessary to pedal joyfully through the desert. 

4 tips for mountain biking in the desert

1. Get up early

Riding in the desert puts you right into the grip of high-temperature summer days. The best way to ensure that you don’t overheat and sweat yourself into an eternally miserable ride is to wake up early. You’re looking at a temperature difference of about 30 degrees or more throughout the day in the desert. 

So, when we say get up early, we don’t mean get up at 8 AM instead of 10:30. If you’re not on the trail by 6 or 6:30 in the morning, you’re looking at getting trapped by the insane summer heat. If you aren’t much of a morning person, you can always look into night riding. 

Luckily, it’s not always summer in Arizona. Winters are mild and surrounding seasons tend to be an excellent temperature for riding. Getting up early to ride at any time of the year will be essential to protect yourself from the sun and the potential heat that comes with it. Check out these beautiful rides for beginners to head out too early in the morning or late at night. 

2. Drink more water

One of the best and most essential tips for mountain biking in the desert is to remember to hydrate. 

The jury is still out on how much water you should drink a day, but most studies land between 2 and 4 liters of water. The biggest thing that’s agreed upon is that you need to drink more water when you’re exerting yourself in a hot climate. Whatever your current daily intake is, increase that by at least another liter if you are biking in Phoenix. 

Personally, I love the addition of a small hydration pack to my gear for riding in the summer. It gives quick and easy access to water without having to stop riding. Mixing in an electrolyte slurry will also be helpful for all the salt you lose while sweating.

3. Bring the right gear

On top of your typical gear for biking, you need to bring a little more for mountain biking in Phoenix. The exposed and rough terrain can be tough on you and your bike. Coming prepared with the right gear is essential to make sure you have both an enjoyable and safe ride. 

To get a quick glimpse into what to pack, we’ve put together an easy checklist to help you get ready to ride in the desert. 

  • Spare tubes
  • Tire pump
  • Tire lever
  • Chainring bolt
  • Multi-tool
  • Flashlight
  • GPS
  • Chain lube
  • First aid kit
  • Sun protection
  • Rain Jacket
  • Food

4. Know how to repair your bike

Great, you’ve packed up everything that you’ll need for a successful trip. Now, when a tire goes flat, or you lost a bolt riding through the rough and bumpy terrain, you’ll be on your own to fix it. We can give you all the tips for mountain biking, but they don’t do much good without the skills to apply them. 

Taking some quick classes, whether online or in person, is a great way to get to know your bike. If you’re going out on your own, we recommend always being ready with the know-how to fix a flat at the very least. The desert isn’t kind to your bike, so you’ll need to know how to take care of it.