When I decided to move to El Paso I amassed as much knowledge about the border city as I could. I learned that El Paso has 300 days of sunshine a year, cool music festivals like Neon Desert, and lots of places for yummy Mexican food. In addition to being big on festivals, I’m also a little bit of a fitness nut who only goes to the gym as a last resort. I would much rather spend my time doing yoga, and running and recently I could not help but notice the multitude of mountain bikers I was seeing. How does one get started mountain biking in El Paso, I wondered? I guess my first logical question would be where to get a bike? Luckily I found locally owned reputable bike shops like Crazy Cat Cyclery and The Bicycle Company that offer daily bike rentals for only $30 with a complimentary helmet and repair kit.
After chatting with numerous mountain biking enthusiasts, I realized I might need a few more essentials.
What do I absolutely need to have before I hit the road?
• Map (Free, keep reading)
• Gloves (ranges from $20 to $60)
• Helmet (included in my rental)
• Repair Kit (included in my rental)
• Eye Protection (ranges from $15 to $200)
• Sunscreen • Lots of water
• Snacks (yummy)
Now that I had a bike and all my other necessities, I had to find a place to ride it. Where can I find some local mountain biking trails in El Paso? Apparently I did not have to look very far. El Paso is home to the largest urban park in the country. Since it opened to the public in 1987, Franklin Mountains State Park has offered almost 27,000 acres of outdoor adventure with hiking and biking trails in excess of a 100 miles.
Franklin Mountains State Park has a great trail map with a very detailed legend including everything from restrooms to scenic overlook sites.
Franklin Mountains State Park also offers monthly “Guided Beginner’s Mountain Bike Rides” – these programs are designed just for beginners and serve as an introduction to riding on our desert trails and include instruction on body position, maneuvering techniques and basic bike repair. You can follow the park’s facebook page to see the monthly calendar of events.
Another great resource is GeoBetty which offers a multitude of trail maps with detailed descriptions to match your skill level. You can find print versions of these maps in any local bike shop.Now comes the question I have probably asked myself all too often, what do I wear? In the winter I was instructed to wear layers, which I can take off during my ride. When riding during the winter its important to dress so that you still feel a little cold when you start your ride as your body temperature is sure to rise.
El Paso summers can get very hot. The best time for cycling in the summer is before 9 am and after 6 pm. If you do decide to ride when the sun is shining bright consider wearing clothing that allows your skin to breathe but still offers sun protection. Think long sleeves and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Now that I have my mountain biking outfit picked out, what are some safety tips I need to be aware of when I’m looking fabulous on my mountain bike?
• Helmet Not optional, enough said.
• Heat Keep in mind that summer temperatures in El Paso can soar to more then 100 degrees Farenheit and heat stroke is a very real possibility. That means drink lots of water, and to drink it even if you’re not thirsty. Take frequent rest breaks and get out of the sun if you over do it.
• Drivers Keep a look out for drivers and give them enough time before making any signaled changes.
• Avoid Distractions I love the new Beyoncé’s album just as much as the next girl, but headphones essentially take away your ability to hear any oncoming dangers.
• Tell a Friend It’s always a good idea to tell someone where you are heading and when they should expect you back.
• Don’t Forget Your Phone Although you might not be planning to order a pizza in the middle of Franklin Mountains State Park, its always a good idea to keep a fully charged cell phone with you in case you have a non food craving related emergency.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack your sense of adventure and have a great time.