Tucson’s Annual Cycle—El Tour de Tucson

Visitors to Tucson in November are often attracted by more than just the sunny and warm weather. People from around the world come to town each year to participate in El Tour de Tucson, America’s largest perimeter bicycling event.

El Tour de Tucson is held annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year, El Tour takes place on November 19. Founder Richard DeBernardis probably never envisioned that Tucson would become a world-class city for cyclists when he held the first event in 1983, with only 185 participants. Today, it attracts 9,000 cyclists of every skill level.

Thanks to the popularity of El Tour, the sunny climate, and the beautiful terrain, Tucson has been honored with a long list of cycling accolades, including appearing on the following Best Of lists:

  • Outside’s No. 1 ranking in “Top 10 Best Bike Towns” (2012)
  • Outside’s “Best Road-Biking City in the Country” (2010)
  • Atlantic’s top-rated overall city with the “Most Bikeable Neighborhoods” (2013)
  • Travel Channel’s “Top 10 Best Bike Cities” (2015)
  • Forbes.com’s “America’s Best Cities for Bikers” (2010)

For the cycling enthusiast, there’s the 106-mile ride. For those who may still have training wheels on their bikes, there’s a quarter-mile Fun Ride. For everyone in-between, there are six other routes of varying lengths to choose from.

If you don’t feel like participating, just go and watch. There’s the El Tour Fiesta in downtown’s Armory Park, where you can watch riders gather for the start of El Tour, and then spend a few hours exploring the various exhibitor booths, food vendors, and beer garden. The first of the 106-mile finishers usually arrive back at the park around 11 a.m., so it’s not a long wait.

Better still, you could volunteer and help raise money for the 50 non-profit organizations the race benefits. Last year, El Tour raised $16 million for a variety of worthwhile causes, including Easter Seals and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

There’s never a shortage of things to do when you’re visiting Tucson, and if you’re a cyclist, there are bike routes for every time of year. This month, however, if your stay happens to include November 19, check out the largest on-street bicycle race taking place in the country’s best city for cycling.

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