Summer Guide

Howls of the Nightriders

Loops bicycling community explores our own backyard

“Come join us! It’s time to ride!” Alex McDonough shouted as he circled the Plaza on his bike, Irish tunes blasting from a portable speaker. McDonough’s boisterous howl resonated through the air and signified to the nearby crew of bicyclists that the ride was about to start.

It was a Monday night; 7:30 pm and dusky; the meeting point and time for local bicycling happening Loops, a group ride/party concept that was initially developed in 2011 by artist, bike enthusiast and former Santa Fean Vanessa Bowen. The idea was simple: Gather bicyclists under rotating leaders on a weekly basis; add art when possible—like an early session that included a showcase of old bikes at the Center for Contemporary Arts. By all accounts, Loops was a hit early on due to the energetic Santa Fe biking community. That first summer earned Loops 60 regular riders, including McDonough, who has served as a de facto organizer since Bowen left for Albuquerque some years ago, though Loops has carried on with a rather loose structure.

“It’s about building community,” McDonough said as we headed out to ride. “I think it’s because there is no official leader. We’re always in the process of learning together and learning about how communities deal with problems.”

After a few warm-up laps around the Plaza, the group decided to make for Fort Marcy. Like a flock of birds, we cruised up Lincoln Avenue, cut through the exterior of the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and then crossed over Paseo De Peralta. All the while, McDonough hung in the back and Loops veteran Jamie Cobb, minding the flock.

“We always have two cabooses,” Cobb explained. “That’s one of the only rules…for safety.”

The main unspoken law seemed to be “follow the leader.”

“RIGHT!” McDonough bellowed as the group veered off-road and onto a gravel path leading to a narrow bridge connecting one section of Fort Marcy Park to another.

The destination was a hidden lookout point above the park from which the group paused to look out to the setting sun. It was an ideal spot join in on some good conversation.

“It’s a social ride,” Cobb continued, “a chance to get together, move your legs and see parts of the town that we might not know about—so you can know your town better.”

Other riders wandered over to join in on the convo.

“If you like community and you like exercise and you want to see the city, you’re totally welcome here,” regular Loops rider Jesse Kidd noted.

“It’s a no-drop ride,” McDonough added. “If someone’s bike breaks on the ride, we stop and fix it, and everyone waits.”

There it was—genuine kindness and community care. Loops’ sense of freedom runs parallel to its sense of discovery, and the exercise component doesn’t hurt; nor does its ample opportunities for developing social bonds with new people. It’s a time for fellow bikers of all levels to come together and celebrate their love of riding while exploring the lesser-known corners of Santa Fe. For newcomers or longtime locals looking for a group of kind-hearted people this summer, it might just be worth dropping in for a Monday night ride. Just listen for the hoots and howls near the Plaza, and don’t be afraid to join them.

Follow @loopssantafe on Instagram for current info.

Biking Trails Around Santa Fe

Night-centric, social bike rides might not be for everyone, so for those looking to steer away from the urban sprawl and/or social rides, the Santa Fe Mountains and surrounding areas are rife with epic biking trails ranging from mellow rides to those fit for thrill-seekers. Here are a few of Santa Fe’s best biking trails to put on your list for this summer’s riding. As bike trails don’t often have set addresses, be sure to visit for maps and directions.

Dorothy Stewart Trail • Easy • Length: 1.9 miles Elevation gain: 394 ft. Route type: Loop

Considered to be one of the most popular areas for hiking and biking, this 1.9-mile loop tucked behind a residential area is a peaceful way to get on your bike and roll. The loop takes around 55 minutes to complete.

Dale Ball Trails Loop ­• Easy • Length: 3.1 miles Elevation gain: 393 ft. Route type: Loop

The Dale Ball Trails is a 3.1-mile loop just below the Randall Davey Audubon Center that takes around 80 minutes to complete. There’s a reason this trail has remained popular for hikers and bikers as far back as anyone can remember.

Dale Ball Trails North • Moderate • Length: 4.2 miles Elevation gain: 541 ft. Route type: Loop

Things get a little more advanced along the 4.2-mile iteration of the Dale Ball loop. Expect this ride to take about 105 minutes to complete. Make sure to bring some focus, too. This is a great trail to hit when looking for a next level type of adventure while enjoying some epic views.

La Tierra Loop via Cucaracha Trail Head • Moderate • Length: 5.8 miles Elevation gain: 492 ft. Route type: Loop

La Tierra Loop is pure open high-desert riding bliss with great views of the mountains. The 5.8-mile loop takes around two hours to complete and is also a popular destination for horseback riders, runners and bikers—so be open to sharing the trail.

Atalaya Mountain Trail • Difficult • Length: 6.2 miles Elevation gain: 1,797 ft. Route type: Out & back

The Atalaya Mountain trail takes mountain biking to literal new heights. The 1,797 ft elevation gain is no joke, and the 6.2-mile out and back trail takes around three hours and 40 minutes to complete. Yes, this one will require some experience, but the views are worth it.

Cairn Me Up and Jagged Axe Loop • Difficult • Length: 7.0 miles Elevation gain:1,105 ft Route type: Loop

Cruise down I-25 North for 20-ish minutes and you’ll end up in Glorieta, which happens to be home to some of the best mountain biking in the country. Cairn Me Up and Jagged Axe Loop isn’t just a mouthful trail name—it’s a paradise for the adrenaline faithful. With epic rock formations surrounded by beautiful forests, this trail is one to put on the summer riding list, for sure.

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