The Challenges of Desert Riding

November 01, 2017

Riding in the desert is very challenging. The heat is your worst enemy, especially during summer. Your ride must start early in the morning or late in the afternoon. To most of us locals, if you start your ride in the morning after 7 a.m. during summertime and planning to do a 20-mile mountain bike ride, it’s already late.

I moved to Las Vegas, NV more than three years ago from the coastal sunny Southern California. Ahhh, the great SoCal weather… but it didn’t take me long to adjust. The hottest months here are July and August, and the hottest time of the day is around 5pm. From a quick Google search, the average high is 106° F and the average low is 74° F but I’ve seen it go as high as 117° F.

I ride all year round even during the oven-like temperatures. I love riding bikes. Period. My rides are both in the mornings and late afternoons. I get this question a lot, especially from my non-Las Vegas friends: “How do you ride in the heat?” If you haven’t experienced riding in the desert during summertime and would like to find out how, here are my suggestions:


When riding in the Las Vegas Valley, anytime after 7 a.m. is already late. Or you can do a night ride. Not all of Las Vegas area is hot though. Mt. Charleston is a local favorite during summertime, thanks to its high altitude (about 7,000 ft.) and about 20° F cooler than the Valley so it is okay even if you start your ride (or hike) late in the morning. It is about an hour drive northwest of Las Vegas Strip. Watch out for hikers – there are lots of them there.


Stay well hydrated, even the day before you plan to ride. If you plan to do a 15-mile mountain bike ride, fill up your hydration pack to at least 2 liters of water mixed with your favorite powdered electrolyte drink and some energy bars. It’s better to pack more than what you need than having a shortage in the middle of your ride. For a road bike ride, carry at least two water bottles, your ID, and some cash or debit card. You may need it when you stop by at a gas station to buy an iced cold drink. Pro tip: Fill your hydration bladder or water bottle with water leaving some room and put it in the freezer the day before you ride. Then fill it up completely full the day when you go riding – you’ll have an iced cold drink throughout your ride.


I found this the hard way and had to walk my bike few miles to my car one time. It was meant to be an easy ride. I came unprepared. Few miles out of the trailhead later, I got a flat… and it was getting hot.
Keep in mind that the desert trails are different from your normal trails at home. The rocks are sharper – at least that’s what I’ve learned so far compared to the trails that I used to ride in SoCal. Assuming your bike is already in great condition and ready to rock n’ roll, don’t forget to carry multi-tools, chain master link/chain connector, spare derailleur hanger, pump/CO2, and spare tube. It doesn’t matter if your tire is set-up tubeless, the desert rocks are unforgiving.


Your skills and abilities are important, and so is your health. The heat and poor health condition are a bad combo. It’s also important to research the trails you’ll be riding before you go riding. Expect technical sections of trail – loose rocks, and much fewer smooth flow trails.


In Nevada, the desert tortoise is listed as a threatened species. Don’t be surprised if you see one or two when you’re out riding in the LV valley, they’re out there. But if you see one, please do not touch them and just let them be them. Move out of their way if you must. And if you see a snake, well, you’d be stupid if you try to pet it. Most are poisonous out here.


I’m a member of Southern Nevada Mountain Biking Association, a local IMBA chapter. We have a group ride every Tuesday night. There is also a night ride every Thursday with the Meetup/LV MTB group. Some local bike shops like Pro Cyclery have a shop ride (road bike) every Saturday morning starting at 6:30 a.m. Show up with a great attitude and I can guarantee you that you will have a great time.

There is nothing better to share than good vibes. A simple hello can go a long way, that sometimes lead to sharing iced cold beers after the ride to building long-lasting friendships.

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