LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As tragedy after tragedy plays out on Southern Nevada’s roads, they are faithful to their passion. They are advocates, evangelists and lovers of all things cycling.
You’ve heard a lot of their names before as they played prominent roles — building new trails, beating the drum for safety and creating transportation programs around bikes. And they have been face to face with unbelievable horror as friends and strangers alike have died.
And through it all, they ride.
We contacted some of them to hear about what they love about cycling and where they love to ride. What did we find out? There’s a catalog of great rides out there to enjoy and to conquer, and they are all around us. North, south, east and west.
To be clear, they are just a few of the active cycling community. There are many more out there — and we hope to add more people to the group below with occasional updates. But Memorial Day weekend is here, and bike month is wrapping up, so we’re giving you what we have now.
Read their accounts of their favorite rides below, and ask yourself: Is there a ride out there that feeds your soul? If you are still looking, try some of the spots listed here. You don’t have to be a super athlete (but many of these riders are), and you don’t have to quit your day job. Just be smart about the summer heat and bring plenty of water, along with a few tools and a spare tube.
The Southern Nevada Bike Coalition’s president and founder is quoted in news stories as often as anyone in the cycling community, frequently at the front of safety campaigns.
Road bike: Her go-to ride is the Scenic Loop at Red Rock National Conservation Area. She’s there a couple of times a week, for the challenge and the beauty of the overlook. “I feel so grateful that we’ve got it in our backyard,” she said. But she quickly picked a second ride to add variety to the mix here: Valley of Fire. “It’s magical,” Brooks said, adding there’s a certain excitement every spring to going on a ride there. “It’s like a playground … red rocks all around you, not as much traffic and the rolling hills.” She said parking at the smoke shop along Interstate 15 is a good place to start. A good 10-mile climb brings you through the gate, followed by the descent into the park. That’s where you’re inundated with color, she said. “It’s always epic when we plan to go out with friends,” she said.
Mountain bike: Badger Pass gets another mention, and it’s all about the climb. Brooks takes SR160 west from Las Vegas and then up the switchbacks before dropping down into Red Valley. “It’s about … you challenge yourself and you’ve succeeded,” she said.
At the forefront of government’s actions to make biking safer in Southern Nevada, Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones says he is primarily a road bike guy, but friends have gotten him interested in mountain bikes since the pandemic began.
Road bike: “My jam has always been riding out 160 and 159 to the Red Rock Overlook,” Jones said. He likes to see the mix of cyclists, motorcycle riders and hikers who are drawn to the overlook, which he calls one of the most beautiful places in Southern Nevada. He also gets a good feeling — “a true joy,” in his words — whenever he rides Southern Highlands Parkway near Cactus Lane. The cushion that cyclists have now represents a vast improvement over years past.
Mountain bike: Mountain bikes are a different kind of experience for Jones — he struggles to keep up with his friends, and admits he’s “fairly timid.” But the chance to share the experience with his 11-year-old son makes it rewarding.
Co-owner of Las Vegas Cyclery with husband Jared Fisher, Heather Fisher is well known for her insane goal of 1 million feet in altitude in 2021. She is the driving force behind the Red Rock Legacy Trail, which someday will take cyclists off the road and onto a paved path of their own in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area. To find her favorite ride, use the Trailforks app for reference.
Mountain bike: With a starting point in Blue Diamond, she rides up to the Late Night trail head and continues west to the Upper Tunnel, where she crosses under 160 to Breakfast Hill and the Cottonwood Valley Dead Horse Loop. From there, she circles back to 3 Mile Smile, Badger Pass and Techno. Among the reasons the ride is her favorite: wildflowers. “It’s amazing. I can’t even ride because I’m stopping and taking pictures,” Fisher said. “Because of the altitude, the flowers come a couple of weeks after you see them in the valley. And from Techno, the view from the Mt. Potosi area is stunning. You can see the entire Red Rock Canyon escarpment and Seven Sisters.”
Another favorite she wants mountain bikers to know about is in Southern Utah: Powell Point, where you can see all of Bryce Canyon from the vista where John Wesley Powell surveyed.
Retired RTC Bike Coordinator Ron Floth was instrumental in putting together the bike share program.
Road bike: River Mountains Loop. He likes to ride it counter-clockwise, and at one time he was riding it once a week. It’s a challenging ride — more than 34 miles, with an altitude gain of 2,500 feet — but there are also opportunities to stop in Boulder City and get something to eat.
“It’s stress-free … the views are great. It’s definitely a lot of mileage,” he said.
Mountain bike: When he’s on a mountain bike, Floth likes to bike in the McCullough range, which features a trail that connects Mission Drive in Henderson with the Anthem neighborhood. “Those trails are really great,” he said. The main trail is well-known — Floth and other bikers call it “The Highway.” But there are a lot of offshoots that aren’t as well-traveled, and those are a big reason to explore the area, he said.
The former head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Fatal Unit saw the human toll of car crashes for years before he retired in 2016. He said cycling provided something he needed during those years. “For me, bicycling levels me — keeps me grounded,” he said. “It was the one thing that kept me sane and safe.”
Road bike: From his home in Henderson, Strader has access to all the trails he loves best, and he is off the streets as much as possible. He talks about the network of trails that includes the River Mountains Loop, the Harry Reid UPRR Trail, the 215 Beltway Trail, and his favorite: the Wetlands loop. “I love that ride,” he said. Among the attractions — the fact that you are off the street all the way from Lake Las Vegas to Sahara Avenue on a trail that provides a couple of hills and a lot of scenery you just don’t get anywhere else in the valley. Henderson is full of opportunities to explore. “You can start at Acacia Park in Henderson and do 40 miles and not even be on a road.
A newcomer to the biking community, Stephanie Forté is well known for her writing and public relations work on bicycle safety campaigns — and everything about Lee Canyon.
Road bike: “I moved to Las Vegas in 1998 for rock climbing but recently suffered a devastating nerve injury that makes rock climbing difficult. Last year, the Loop Road quickly became part of my weekly riding routine when I started road biking. Having spent so much time on the cliffs and trails at Red Rock, it’s a place I thought I knew intimately. Yet a road bike offered a different perspective,” Forte said. The physical challenge and the scenery compete for her attention when she’s on a bike. “The first four and a half miles of climbing on the Loop Road are challenging. However, even while pushing to beat my time, I get lost in how the morning light softens the limestone texture of Turtlehead Peak. I can appreciate the desert’s spring bloom and how the Rainbow Wall and Bridge Mountain press against a crisp winter sky across the way.” She describes the descent reaching the overlook as “terrifying” — which says a lot, given her experience climbing in the area. “I feel swept away by the magnificence and scale of peaks like Juniper, The Mescalito, and Rainbow Peak. And at first, I thought a road bike would be a more distant way to experience Red Rock. Yet, it’s just added another layer to my many-decade love affair with the park.”
Sgt. Michael Campbell
Clark County School District Police Department Sgt. Michael Campbell is known in law enforcement circles and the cycling community alike. He recently participated in the Police Unity Tour from northern New Jersey to Washington, D.C.
Road Bike: Campbell says his current go-to ride is at the north end of Decatur Boulevard — the road into the Clark County Shooting Complex. It’s a workout that draws people from all over the valley, and Campbell is a fan because there’s very little traffic in the area “and it offers a nice little climb.” Once you’ve been up that hill, it’s natural to want to go back to beat your time. “It allows me to get a good workout in a short amount of time,” Campbell said. “When it gets really hot out, I have gone up to the Mount Charleston area. Riding from the hotel up to the lodge area, and crossing over from Kyle to Lee Canyon offers some pretty good climbing but a reprieve from the brutal summer heat.”
Mountain Bike: “I don’t do much mountain bike riding but when I did, I often found myself on the cottonwood trails surrounding the community of Blue Diamond. The about 10 mile loop is pretty challenging for a novice mountain bike rider and mixes up some drops, climbs, and some descents all on some well maintained single track,” Campbell said.
U.S. Rep. Susie Lee
When she’s not a bike commuter in Washington D.C. — she takes pride in getting to the office faster than her staff can do it by car — Democratic Rep. Susie Lee is riding to Red Rock Canyon. “I’ve been riding that ride for 30 years, she says.”
Road bike: “My favorite trail is waking up in the morning, riding out Charleston and doing the Red Rock Loop. It’s a tough ride, so it’s a great workout. You’re out there, you don’t have to worry about traffic as much on that loop.” She’s looking forward to the Red Rock Legacy Trail, which will take riders off the road onto a paved path to share with pedestrians. She thinks it sounds corny but, “When I am at the top of Hill 4 at that parking lot, I always envision what the settlers of the West must have felt like when you look out over that vista and … could you imagine just having your wagon and your family and wondering where the heck you’re going?”
Mountain bike: The Blue Diamond area keeps Lee coming back for more. “I was really into … I call it the Cottonwood Canyon loop. … That’s my all-time favorite mountain bike downhill. You just climb up on the other side of the highway. Sometimes you get a chance to see wild horses while you’re out there. It’s just a real fun, not super-technical, downhill with the red rocks out in front of you, so it’s really pretty.” And she has just discovered another trail: Flower Power.
Lee’s lifelong love of biking grew from having to rely on a bike for transportation when she was one of eight kids in her family. She says she’s happy that electric bikes have opened up biking for a lot of people.
His stories and his rides are on an epic scale, and Rob Hutchinson knows the trails so well it’s hard to keep up even when he’s just talking about them. There’s nothing ordinary about his favorites.
Road bike: “The Burro Loop” is a favorite for Hutchinson — the man who knows everyone in the biking community. He’s the community liaison for many of the community’s biggest groups, including the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition and the Ghost Bikes organization. “I’m an endurance guy,” he said as he ticked off mileage and altitude gains for a short list of favorite rides — and the variations that make each of them just a little bit longer. From home base in the southwest valley, Burro Loop is simply a trip around SR 159 through Red Rock National Conservation Area without going on the scenic loop, and using Fort Apache Road for the north-south route in the valley. What makes it unique: Hutchinson prefers to start the ride at 3 a.m. You’ll see a lot more burros then — either by moonlight or as soon as daylight starts to break. The ride is 35 miles with a 2,500-foot elevation gain, Hutchinson says.
Mountain Bike: “The Big Wilson” is a ride nicknamed by Jared Fisher, among Hutchinson’s cycling partners. It’s a long haul on a mountain bike — 50 miles — and cuts through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Southern Nevada. Hutchinson says the ride is a New Year’s Day tradition, and he says there’s usually a new face every year. Starting at Blue Diamond, the trail includes segments from quite a few better-known routes. Follow Land Mine Loop and a connecting trail to Mountain Springs. From there, you’ll need to find the trail that leads to Rocky Gap Road and you’ll eventually end up behind White Rock Hills. That trail will spit you out at Upper White Rock Parking Lot. From there, go down the road to the Scenic Loop, cross it and pick up the Grand Circle Loop, which cuts across the center of Red Rock and down to the entrance. Head west down SR 159 to the Fossil Canyon Trailhead and jump on the Cowboy trails and head back toward Blue Diamond. “Everyone needs to do it once,” Hutchinson said. Not up for 50 on a mountain bike? Hutchinson says you can bike-pack the route and camp overnight for a new experience.
Maybe you bought a bike during the pandemic and it got lost in the day-to-day grind. Get it out, pump up the tires and get back into the action at your own pace.
Here’s a tip as you start again: Don’t get hung up on miles … start with a time goal and make it reasonable. Before you know it, the miles will be piling up.
There are fitness apps out there to make it easy to track your rides and make new friends in the community. Strava is one. You can do plenty with the apps for free, but they will pester you to upgrade for premium features.
Practice defensive riding — count on motorists to do the wrong thing, and realize that cyclists make plenty of mistakes, too. The difference is that cyclists pay the heaviest toll no matter who is at fault.