Top 6 Annual AZ Cycling Events

From the rolling hills around Mormon Lake to the 20-plus-mile ascent up Mt. Lemmon, from the 50 miles of scenic desert trails through the McDowell Mountains to the hard-core National Trail on South Mountain, Arizona is a cyclist's dream destination. Add in an average of 299 sunny days per year and a widely varied topography, and it's easy to see why so many bicycle enthusiasts rave about Arizona.

Whether you're a casual beginning biker or a seasoned roadie, the Grand Canyon State is a great place to bike. Here are the top 6 annual AZ cycling events that you won't want to miss.

Bike MS: Arizona

For more than three decades, the Bike MS: Arizona ride has been helping raise funds to fight multiple sclerosis. Appropriate for many levels of cyclist, this fun ride starts at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Choose from several route options on this two-day ride, ranging from 30 to 100 miles per day. In between rides, you'll camp out under the stars in the stunning Sonoran Desert.

Bike MS is sponsored by the National MS Society; over the years, this nation-wide event has raised more than $1 billion. Casual to experienced cyclists are welcome; riders must be at least 12 years old to participate. Bike MS: Arizona takes place each year in April.

Houlualoa El Tour de Mesa

El Tour de Mesa

Each April, the Houlualoa El Tour de Mesa welcomes bikers of all abilities and ages. Cyclists ride around the perimeter of Mesa and Red Mountain at their own pace. Participants can choose from several routes, ranging from 28 to 72 miles, or simply take a "fun ride" of six to 11 miles that's perfect for families or beginning riders.

El Tour de Mesa is part of a three-day annual biking festival known as CycloMesa. Each April, this event draws more than 2,000 riders (and about 10,000 spectators) to enjoy food trucks, bike races, a beer garden, live music, and prizes. The ride starts in downtown Mesa.

Skull Valley Loop Challenge

Skull Valley Loop Challenge cycling race az

Calling all road cyclists! Since 2007, riders can test their skill in the Skull Valley Loop Challenge. This 54-mile loop starts in downtown Prescott and winds past historic buildings, cool pines forests, verdant valleys, and the Prescott National Forest. Hundreds of road cyclists participate each year.

The Skull Valley Loop Challenge takes place in September. It's sponsored by  Prescott Alternative Transportation, a non-profit organization that advocates for cyclists and pedestrians.

Man vs. Machine

Man vs Machine cycling race az

If you've ever wanted to race against the Grand Canyon Railway steam train, here's your chance! The Man vs. Machine race runs for more than 50 miles near the south rim of the Grand Canyon; as if that's not compelling enough, the 53-mile, one-way route pits riders head-to-head against a 300-ton steam engine from the 1920s. The race got its start in 1991; any type of bike is allowed, as long as it's safe to ride in a group.

About 300 road cyclists participate each September. The race starts in Tusayan and ends in Williams, with the last three miles traversing historic Route 66.

BluePrint for Athletes Barn Burner

Barn Burner cycling race az

Put your endurance to the test in the annual BluePrint for Athletes Barn Burner. Each fall, this endurance mountain biking event welcomes cyclists at a range of levels, from "beginner-ish" to expert. Ride along mountain roads through the lovely Coconino Forest, with plenty of climbs to get your heart pumping. Choose to ride one, two, or four 25-mile loops, depending on your ability and experience.

The Barn Burner takes place in September. Racers meet at Crowley Tank, just north of Flagstaff.

Pedal the Petrified

Pedal the Petrified cycling event az

Take a bike tour of eastern Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park on the fun Pedal the Petrified ride. Cyclists of all ages and abilities are welcomed; the event is limited to 250 riders and includes stops for water and snacks every five miles. Riders choose from a 63-mile round trip through the park or a 31-mile trip with transportation back to the start included.

Pedal the Petrified is held in September. Proceeds from the event are used to fund scholarships for students at Northland Pioneer College. The race starts at the entrance gate of the Petrified National Forest near Holbrook.

Avid cyclists and casual riders alike — as well as those who just want to see some great biking — will find an annual biking event that spins their wheels in Arizona. Don't forget your helmet!