The San Francisco Peaks towering above Flagstaff are a big draw. We moved to Flagstaff in 2004 when Mai enrolled at Northern Arizona University. We spent ten years there. We were married at the Grand Canyon. Special place. I remember our first visit. Aspen groves and views of the Grand Canyon from Snowbowl Road impressed us, but the forest road around the back side of the Peaks sealed the deal. Flagstaff is a great place to raise a family on bicycling.
At 7,000 feet above sea level Flagstaff is a healthy and stunningly beautiful environment. The atmosphere shimmers with perfectly clear, distilled light. The sun’s press on the skin is intense. Mountain storms bring deep snows, heavy rains, crackling lightning. The milkyway swirls in luminous bands across dark night. The water is cold and clean and the air is delicious. I met so many people bicycling in Flagstaff. I met as many people through cycling as I did through working at NAU. Those communities, work and bike, changed my life. I met many quiet leaders in Flagstaff, remarkable people, who were not in high positions but lived extraordinary lives. Real leaders inspire by example through the conduct of their own affairs.
The three main road bike rides are hard to beat. The alpine climb up Snowbowl road is just seven miles out of town by Hwy 180. I could ride out of town and be up above 9,000’ and home again in about two hours. I liked that. The road by Lake Mary is one of the best rides anywhere. Take it as far as you want to go. I rode it on my lunch break or after work and every Saturday on the group ride. The long road north into the painted desert to Wupatki is world class and the slow undulating climb back on the Sunset Crater loop road is relaxing and beautiful. Rides and races through that cinder marked landscape etched indelible memories.
The mountain biking in Flagstaff will blow your mind, but winter limits it to six or seven months. The city is encircled by national forest public lands and you can bike out of town in any direction in literally a few minutes, a few city blocks. Some of the most accessible riding around. You get into the woods and realize right away there are probably more elk than people there.
During the winter months you can ride in Sedona and the Verde Valley. Or you could go to Phoenix or Tucson and experience shorts weather any month of the year. There’s no doubt about it, Arizona is a unique amalgamation of unmatched cycling and Flagstaff is about as good of a place to live and raise a family that I can think of. We are thankful to have spent ten years there. A secret place yet to be discovered, best revealed pedaling two wheels.