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postheadericon Ride Rating System

Ride Ratings System

Before I started riding scooters, I was somewhat of a bicyclist. I was a member of the greater AZ Bicycling Association (GABA) and on a number of organized rides with them. They also kept a list of good rides with maps and descriptions (sound familiar?) as well as a rating system for their rides that gave you an idea of what to expect before you got there. When I first started posting ride maps, I wanted some kind of way to rate the rides but couldn’t come up with anything I liked……. until now.

I think I have devised a decent, although somewhat subjecting, system for assigning a difficulty level to the rides which is better than what I have been using. Not only will I be going back and assigning scores to those rides already listed in the “Ride Maps” tab, I will also assign a score to each ride we do in the future to give newcomers an idea of whether or not a ride is appropriate for their current skill level.

Creating this system required that I look at a number of things besides just the ride. For example, if I say a ride is appropriate for advanced riders only, what does that mean? I need to create “levels” of rider skill and then definitions or descriptions of what, in my opinion, constitutes each level. This is a work in progress and is not meant to offend or malign anyone’s riding ability. I welcome suggestions regarding improvement of anything in this post.

Skill Levels

Becoming skilled at riding is something that takes time, effort, education and most of all, miles, miles, miles. Therefore, I am basing my skill levels primarily on miles ridden. I have created 5 skills levels. One thousand miles, IMHO, is what is necessary to go any one level to the next. We, at SIR’s, highly recommend attending the MSF course and recognize it’s value. Accordingly, successful completion allows you to add five hundred (500) miles to your actual number ridden. e.g. if you ridden 621 miles since you got your scooter and then complete the MSF, you can now make your total 1121 which moves you from “Newbie” to “Advanced Beginner.”

By the way, this system is just to assist people in SELF DETERMINING their own readiness for any given ride. No one will be asking for anyone’s mileage numbers to prove their readiness for a ride.

  1. Newbie                                – 0 to 1000 miles

  2. Advanced Beginner  – 1001 to 2000 miles

  3. Competent                       – 2001 to 3000 miles

  4. Proficient                          – 3001 to 4000 miles

  5. Adventure Ready        – 4001 miles and up

Rating Criteria

I came up with a point system where the total number of points determines the overall score, Score is based on points scores assigned in each of 3 criteria. Generally each is given a score between 1 and 5, with 1 being the easiest. Exception: An extreme score in any one of the criteria can push the ride to the highest level regardless of it’s scores in the other areas.

Ride Distance – The longer (time and/or distance) you are in the saddle, the more tired you become. A tired rider has slowed reaction times. However, the more long rides one does, the more accustomed you are to it, therefore, higher level riders are not as affected (up to a point) by distance as less experienced riders. After a bit of thought, I chose 75 miles (roughly 90 minutes) as my unit of measure. Therefore:

  • < 75 miles              = 1 point

  • 76 to 150 miles    = 2 points

  • 151 to 225 miles   = 3 points

  • 226 to 300 miles  = 4 points

  • 301+ miles              = 5 points (add 1 pt for each additional 75 miles)

Road Quality – This is a very subjective category. While the distance between two or more points doesn’t change, road quality can, and does, change. I will assign a score to a given road. However, it may get re-paved and upgraded at some point, or it may get damaged in a storm and down-graded. Any significant stretch of dirt/sand/gravel (I have no idea, yet, how I will determine when it is “significant.”) will result in a score of “5.” This number will be further adjusted by the speed limits of the roads on which the ride takes place. In other words, a rough road in a 25 mph residential street may only get a score of “3” where the same degree of roughness on a 50 mph street would get a score of “5.”

Twists, Hills and Grades – Another subjective category. I think the definition is self explanatory. Like “Road Quality” raw score will be adjusted by the prevailing speed of the road being ridden.

Using the above system will render scores from 3 to 15+.  Following the name of a ride, I will post its score in the following format:

Ride to XYZ: Score RD-2, RQ-1, THG-3 Total = 6

This lets people see why it’s score was given and if they aren’t proficient in a certain, they can avoid rides with high score in that criteria.

 Now to break the points down to match our skill levels:

Ride Score

Minimum Suggested Skill Level

3 or 4

Newbie

5 or 6

Advanced Beginner

7 to 9

Competent

10 to 12

Proficient

13 or more

Adventure Ready

The ride score is determined by the ride leader of that ride. I encourage anyone posting any future rides to use this scale and prominently post the score somewhere in your description of the ride.

If you have constructive criticism of this system, place send me an email, phone call, text or set up a time to meet with me. As I mentioned before, this is not aimed at anyone and is something I’ve wanted to do since I created the first ride map. Your input is appreciated.

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postheadericon The Eight (8) Best Ways to Cross Tucson

I’ve been asked multiple times about how best to get across Tucson. I’ve been meaning to write a piece about it and it looks like I am finally getting around to doing so.

 

The first things we have to do is establish what we mean by “best.” For the purposes of this article here are the criteria (in no particular order) I will be using to decide what “best” means when it comes to roadways in Tucson.

  1. Road Quality – A road where you have to dodge potholes or that is so rough you have to hang on with a death grip will not make the list.
  2. Length – There are some very nice road that only run for a couple of miles. For this article, roads considered must cross a significant portion of the city. As you will see, it is okay for the road to merge with another and change names, as long as it continues in the same direction.
  3. Amount of traffic – a good quality road that has extremely heavy traffic is going to be less safe, especially as far as scooters are concerned.
  4. Intersections – I checked some some Pima County and City of Tucson sources which listed the most dangerous intersections in the city based on numbers of cars and numbers of accidents. This was factored into my choices. The ideal route will not pass through any of the most dangerous interstions.
  5. Personal Opinion – After riding around most of the city for the past 4 and a half years, I have my own opinions on which roads are good or bad for scooters and their riders. Feel free to add a comments and vote for your favorite.
  6. Construction – I realize that construction comes and goes. For this piece, I considered major construction work that will continue for months. This article will, therefor, be accurate only until another major construction project comes along and either spoils one of the “best” roads, or converts one of the bad ones into a “best” one. Maybe I’ll review this and update it every year or so.

 

One thing I DID NOT take into consideration is scenery. I plan on writing a piece in the near future about Tucson’s most scenic rides. Stay tuned for that. I also plan on adding a “Worst Roads” piece soon as well.

I had originally planned on calling this the “10 Best Roads,” however, after doing a little bit of research and applying my criteria, only eight roads made the cut. I have chosen four roads running north/south and four running east/west. I will finish with a couple of honorable mentions.

 

NORTH/SOUTH

Silverbell/Mission – I am aware that these are separate roads and that have to travel about 3 blocks on Congress to fuse them together, but, hey, I claim writers’ prerogative. This is the only road on our list on the west side of I-10. Combined, Silverbell/Mission runs more than 20 miles, from Twin Peaks Road, in Continental Ranch, to Valencia where the road leaves Tucson and enters the reservation. With the exception of about 4 miles, from Ina to Camino del Carro, road quality is pretty good. Traffic can be heavy around St Mary’s at times. There are some “speed tables” and a couple of small traffic circles on Mission between Congress and 22nd St. as well. Silverbell/Mission also gets special dispensation because it’s really the only road that runs for any significant distance on the far west side. We have used this route on a number of different club rides. There are a fewer than average number of stoplights as well.

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Stone/6th Ave/Nogales Highway – Stone is one of the few streets that pass all the way through downtown and are 2-way. On the down side, Stone will only get you as far north as River Rd, however, it makes it up on the south side where it merges with 6th Ave at 5-points. Further south it becomes Old Nogales Highway and will take you as far as Green Valley. Yes, traffic will be heavy as you pass through downtown, but I have found it to less congested than some of the other downtown streets. Road quality is pretty good along most of the way.

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Craycroft – 5.5 miles to the east is Craycroft. Most of the streets between Stone and Craycroft suffer from congestion, construction of roughness. On the north end, Craycroft actually goes up into the foothills then does a big U-turn near Ventana Canyon Resort and comes back down as Kolb Rd. On the south end, it goes into the main gate of Davis-Monthan AFB. Immediately after Golf Links Rd. Road quality is good to very good along most of this road, with the exception of the short section just north of Sunrise which is just fair.

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Harrison – The eastern most road on my list is Harrison. The southern section of Harrison (It stops at Wrightstown then resumes again at Catalina Highway and runs north for 2 miles to Snyder.) is only 5.5 miles long, but crosses the east side from Wrightstown to Irvington. Road quality is good and, because it doesn’t run all the through, traffic is much less than Houghton, which also has poorer quality.

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EAST/WEST

Irvington – The southernmost road on this list is Irvington. Truth be told, I almost forgot about this road. Irvington runs for more than 15 miles across the southern part of the city and that is minus the 3 miles that are occupied by Davis-Monthan. The western section runs more than 11 miles between Sunset Blvd and Swan. Road quality is good and except for the section immediately around I-19, traffic isn’t too bad. The 4 mile long eastern section only has fair road quality, but is an excellent alternative route between Kolb and Houghton.

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Glenn – We have to go almost 6 miles north before we come to the next road on our list. I think Glenn is my favorite way to cross town east to west. It runs almost 8 miles from Sahuara Ave, east of Craycroft, to Flowing Wells, which is right at I-10. Glenn has a 35 mph speed limit, which keeps those people in a big hurry off of it. There are also as many 4-way stops as there are stoplights. It is my opinion that 4-way stops are considerably safer for those of us on 2 wheels. Road quality is good and traffic is generally light.

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El Camino del Cerro/Ruthrauff/Wetmore – I know, another one of those combination streets. Well, Ruthrauff and Camino de Cerro are the same road, but separated by I-10. Thanks to some creative roadwork, Ruthrauff and Wetmore merge at Romero and Wetmore continues all the way to 1st Ave. Other than the intersection with Oracle,which gets congested at rush hours, I have found this to be a pretty decent road to travel. Road quality just east of I-10 is only fair, but otherwise it’s pretty good.

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Orange Grove – If you have to travel east/west a little further north, I recommend Orange Grove over Ina. Orange Grove runs almost 7 miles from I-10 to Skyline. I was tempted to add Skyline and Sunrise as part of this but traffic is just too heavy to give that part “best” status. Road quality is good and traffic is moderate. Except around La Cholla and Northwest Medical Center at change of shift times.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

North/South – The Park/Euclid/1st Ave combo runs almost 15 miles across mid-town. The southern terminus is at Valencia and the northern end is at Ina. It doesn’t make “best” status because road quality between Broadway and Speedway is abysmal. Also, the intersection with Grant can be difficult. Road quality from River to Ina is very good, but it has a 45mph speed limit and is uphill, so this can be a little dicey for small displacement scooters to stay with traffic.

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East/West – It is probably because I ride it almost everyday or because it is where Scoot Over can be found, but I really like Broadway. It is very wide and has that wonderful bus lane and bus pullouts that keep traffic from suddenly jumping in your lane to get away from a slowing bus. Other than the section from Camino Seco to Houghton, road quality is good. Of the “Big Three (Speedway, Broadway and 22nd St) Broadway is probably the safest. It does, however, have one of the most dangerous intersections, which is at Wilmot. I recommend avoiding it if you can.

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I will follow this entry with one about the “Worst Roads in Tucson” soon. Do you have a road youy think should have made this list, please make a comment.

 

Safe Riding Everyone

 

Howard

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postheadericon SIR’s to NM and Back Again – Route 78 Twisties and Sweepers

Why Ride?

I decided to make the best out of having several days off combined with days that still have quite a few hours of day light. After my enjoyable 550 mile ride the previous week, I was looking at some websites featuring roads for great motorcycle rides.

One site mentioned Route 78 which spans the AZ/NM border, connecting US-180 to US-191. The eastern end starts about 45 miles northwest of Silver City, NM. The western end can be found at Three Way, AZ, which is about 35 north east of Safford. Route 78 is approximately 35 miles in length. So, one week I rode 550 miles in order to ride 30, this particular week, I rode 515 miles, to ride 35. It sounds kind of crazy to me as I write this now, but it made a lot of sense at the time.

Nearing Texas Canyon on I-10

Once I read about this scenic road, I had to find a way to get there. I did my usual Google Map review. I looked for the shortest, but most scenic, loop possible. I came up with this: 463 miles and I figured it could be done in a shade less than 12 hours. That allowed time for food, rest and some photos.

Here’s Lori

This time, I rode with a friend, Lori P, who is another Sky Island Rider. After hearing about my previous 500 miler, she said, I wouldn’t mind doing something like that” and since I already had this ride planned, I invited her and her black RV-250, along for a long ride.

If you looked the link of the ride map above, you may be saying something like. “Hey, I thought Howard didn’t ride on interstate highways.” I mentioned many times, that I don’t care for interstate, however, sometimes it is necessary. I-10, from Vail to Lordsburg, NM, is about 135 miles and a little over two hours. I would have loved to have taken a nice back road to Lordsburg. However, here is what it would have looked like if I would have done so: MAP. Now it’s just over 200 miles and over 4 hours. If I were making this a two day trip, I would have done this, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t. Arizona just doesn’t have that many ways to get from Point A to Point B.

30 Percent Chance of Rain

The weather forecast called for temps around 105 on the desert floor and a 30% chance of rain in the late afternoon. In an effort to avoid possibly getting caught in one of the afternoon rain squalls as well as to get off of I-10 before the traffic picked up, we left early, about 5:30am. It was dark and east bound traffic was very light as we left from our meet-up location at I-10 and Houghton Road.

The worst part of leaving this early were the bugs, mostly gnats. I pulled us off the road at The Thing! for a much needed cleaning of our face shields. We learned another thing (other than the fact that bugs are heavy around dawn) by the time we reached Willcox. I had been keeping our speed around 75mph, indicated, on my speedometer. When we fueled in Willcox, our usual 65mpg mileage, had plummeted to about 45mpg! our range was now closer to 120 miles on a tank, rather than the 200 miles I was accustomed to. Good thing we never had more than about 100 miles between towns.

Be advised, road quality on I-10 is less than ideal. I suppose it is because of the large number of tractor-trailers on it. Whatever the reason, the worst road we traveled on this day was I-10. The section between Willcox and the NM state line was the worst.

A Surprisingly Interesting Place.

To my relief, we reached Lordsburg and were able to leave I-10 until, I thought, the return leg. We grabbed some fuel at the Love’s Travel Stop right off of Exit 20A and B. (For some reason, there are two exits here that both go to the same place: Motel Drive.) We then cruised to Main St then south to Kranberry’s Restaurant for some breakfast. The food and coffee were good and there was a pair of ladies who had a lot of questions about our scooters.

According to My Tracks, we did the following on this first leg:

  • Total Dist –  154 mi
  • Max speed-  74 mph
  • Elev gain-   4528 ft

Unbeknownst to me, I had a phone issue, so I have no My Track data from Lordsburg to Silver City.

Silver City’s downtown area is nostalgia filled

With full tank and full bellies, we turned, made our way to Route 90 toward Silver City. There was very little traffic on 90. We steadily climbed as we left Lordsburg. Route 90 gets a little more than 6000 feet on the way to Silver City. We drove around Silver City a bit and took in some of the sites from the scoots. The old downtown is especially picturesque, however, I didn’t get any pics myself. You should, though.

We had a nice visit with another scooterist in Cliff, NM

After our little tour, we found Route 180 and turned toward the town of Cliff. we hadn’t stopped in Silver City, so we stopped for a butt break and some liquid refreshment in Cliff’s only operating retail establishment that we could see: the “Mini Mart.” While we were there, a scooter pulled up and we talked for a while with a local resident named Walter Roth. It was a great little break. he had bought his scooter at Copper Country ATV & Cycle and was very pleased with the service he got there.

17 miles after leaving the mini-Mart, we reached “The Road,” Route 78. As mentioned on the Motorcycle Roads website, it starts as undulating road through some beautiful grassland, steadily climbing as we headed west. High speed sweepers start about the time we reached the pine forest.

Any Place trucker shouldn’t go sounds like good riding to me!

The Arizona State line is, apparently, the signal to start downhill and into some serious twisties. These went on for 6-8 miles. gradually, we saw amazing views of the desert valley where Three-Way and Clifton are located. About the time I thought the curves were finished, we hit these incredible 180 degree, downhill sweepers! There several in combination and they were an absolute blast to ride.

If you look closely, you can see the line where the pine trees start.

It was a thrilling ride. If we didn’t have so far to go to get home, I would have turned around, gone back to the top, and ridden it again. Route 78 ends at Three Way, AZ. Three Way is so, I suppose, because of it’s four-way intersection of three roads, Route 78, US-191 and Route 75. There is a general store and a gas station at said intersection. I wasn’t sure if I could make it the rest of the way into Safford, so we gassed up in Three Way, got onto US-191 and headed toward Safford.

There is a significant climb as you leave Three Way. The road is in great shape and it is now divided highway. It was in Safford that my internal compass let me down. I hadn’t written down a bunch of directions like I did for the previous long ride. I failed to see the sign indicating the left turn near downtown to stay on 191. I didn’t recall needing to turn and was sure we were heading south. We had an enjoyable lunch at Jerry’s and headed out of town. We did need a bit of time to cool off as it was 111 degrees as we hit town.

Looking east down US-70

It was my plan to head south on 191 then turn west onto Route 266 and ride to Fort Grant then hit I-10 in Willcox then ride back to Tucson. I was riding and having a grand time but started to feel a bit uneasy at not having seen the 266 intersection. We finally stopped at a nice rest area in the little town of Bylas. It was there that I asked directions and was told tat we were actually 35 miles west of Safford on US-70 headed toward Globe! The take home lesson here is that there are very few road signs out here. Make sure you’re on the right one.

I felt we were too far out of our way to turn around. Since US-70 would take us to Globe and from there we could take Route 77 back to Tucson, I decided to continue the way were going. We gassed up again in Peridot, on the reservation and climbed up to Globe. One remarkable thing we both noticed at we rode near Peridot was the unique odor of whatever was growing along the road. It smelled exactly like a fine pipe tobacco. It was quite pleasant, but I’ve never smelled it before.

We could see huge thunderheads to the south, as we approached Globe. As with my last ride, we stopped in Winkleman for a little rest. It was obvious we were going to get wet. I did discover in my last ride, that the RV-250 handles wet road quite well.

It started raining as we passed through Dudleyville.We hit severe weather at Mammoth but kept on going. It was late afternoon by this time and we had been in the saddles for more than 12 hours. Again, the RV-250 performed well. By the time we hit Catalina, precipitation was down to a sprinkle.

We rode together until we had to part ways to go to our respective homes. It was another awesome ride. I got the following ride data from My Tracks for the ride from Silver City to Tucson:

  • Total Dist –  265 mi
  • Max Speed –  66 mph
  • Min Elev –   1945 ft
  • Max Elev –  6219 ft
  • Elev Gain – 10100 ft
  • Max Grade –  11.8%
  • min grade    -9.3%

Our total distance covered was a tad over 500 miles. The RV-250 performed better on this ride than the last one. Mostly because elevation was mostly below 6000 feet.

It was a great ride and I thank Lori for coming along. It was my first long ride with a ride buddy. It’s fun to have someone to share a ride with.

This post has gotten way out of hand. Take care and ride safe.

Howard

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