The Bikes of Las Vegas — or — Bikey Fun in the Desert

So, until last week, Las Vegas was probably the bottom of the list of places I ever thought I would visit. Gambling, excess, and debauchery is not really my thing, and that’s kind of what I figured Las Vegas was all about.

And then my bitty brother bought a house there, and extolled the virtues of all the amazing access to nature (plus, did I mention he bought a house?:) and thus I found myself in the middle of the desert for about a week, totally reconfiguring my preconceptions about the place.

First of all, if you don’t go to the strip, which I didn’t, Las Vegas feels basically like any sort of giant sprawling suburb. Which is to say, not super amazing, but at least not the explicit in-your-face consumerism and garish hedonism I was expecting.

Secondly, did anyone mention access to nature and mountain biking?


(aww, matchy-matchy bikes courtesy of my bro, posing in front of Red Rocks:)


Before this trip, I think I’d gone for-realz mountain biking approximately two times in my life, though I always think that it’s secretly totally my thing: biking, in nature, completely away from cars? Sign me up! What’s kept me away, other than a lack of mountain bike, is the fact that it seems like most people drive their bikes to the trailheads, which, with my lack of car, not only is an unavailable option but also an unappealing one.

But when in Vegas, do as the Vegans do? Heh. (Okay, bad pun about my dietary preference there;)

My brother and I went mountain biking twice, the first time right from the airport. How rad is it to be picked up from your flight and immediately whisked away to some super awesome mountain biking trails? Definitely a good way to wash off the airport/airplane grossness and grogginess I always feel when I travel by air. And though I definitely had some moments of frustration, mostly wrought of not being nearly as proficient as I wanted to believe I was, on the whole it was so fricken awesome. Mountain biking is amazing. Even when you launch yourself through the air and end up with a body full of road rash. Oops.


(and then there was the other bike)


Road biking in Vegas, on the other hand, I was a little nervous about. People there drive so fast, and the roads are so humongous, and it feels a little like take-your-life-into-your-own-hands anarchy. But feeling restless and housebound and done with cars one day, I was looking to get out on my own and explore — and my brother’s girlfriend offered her roadbike for the occasion.

I don’t know what it would be like to try to bike somewhere specific, using an efficient route. For my part, I just took the streets that looked appealing and didn’t care much where I ended up — that sort of biking in Vegas is totally chill, since my route was dictated by what looked nice. If I were actually trying to get somewhere and had to take specific roads, it might not be so awesome. Especially if those roads were your typical high-speed, no-bike-lane, 6-car-lanes Vegas-style throughways.

My biking there was also punctuated by a fair amount of biking on the sidewalk, which is fun when you’re just joyriding with no particular agenda but would definitely rankle my sense of efficiency if I were trying to get somewhere fast. But for what it’s worth, even road biking in Las Vegas seemed nicer than I expected, in part because even though the roads are humongous, most of them don’t have so much traffic that people can’t easily move over to give you room (that’s one advantage to giant roads, eh?). Though I’m pretty sure if I lived there I would get annoyed pretty quickly at how fast people drove and how callous, it seems to my judgemental self, their respect for other human life is.


(though outside the city, things were pretty serene — this is part of Red Rocks)


No matter what, though, it was pretty sweet to be able to get on some bicycles in this crazy, new-to-me city. It definitely made the place seem more familiar, more navigable, and more awesome than it would have had I driven absolutely everywhere (though we did do our fair share of driving).

It also reminded me, especially when I got on the roadbike to explore, how much my sense of freedom is tied up with biking. Driving through a city, at the whim of traffic, cramped in a seat and tied down by a belt and driven by destination does not feel like freedom. Pushing on pedals, using my muscles, feeling the wind, propelling myself where I want to go, turning on a whim and stopping on the side of the road when something catches my eye, delighting in the journey — that feels like freedom. It was fun to find that even in the midst of suburban sprawl-land.


  1. PDX unfortunately is probably one of the only medium/large cities in the US that has totally piss poor (and I am being polite) access to mountain bike trails. Boston, Minneapolis, Austin, Richmond, San Francisco (for crying out loud), all have bikeable access to mountain bike trails. Not that PDX doesn’t have a perfectly appropriate forested park that would be ideal to mountain biking. However some elitist snobs in control of a certain forested park think we’re all a bunch of yahoos out to film a mountain dew commercial………okay end rant! :-)

    • heh. I knew someone would say that! :) It does seem sort of silly that such a bikey place as Portland requires that you drive if you want to mountain bike legally. Or I guess go out to Stub Stewart, but even that is sort of a ridiculous place to ride your mountain bike out to, even if you do take the MAX most of the way. Someday?

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