All Women’s Cycling Trips

Recently we had Sheri Rosenbaum join us on the first annual all-women’s Arizona gravel trip. See what Sheri had to say, we are super excited to host more all women’s adventures!

By Sheri Rosenbaum

I have this running joke with my cycling friends. They always say, “If Sheri plans the route, it will be hilly.” Now, let me be clear: I am not a fan of hills. In fact, I hate them. But I’ve realized that if I embrace the things I hate, I may learn to tolerate or even conquer them.

In the past, I’ve traveled to Tucson, Arizona, three times to ride and always shied away from climbing Mt Lemmon. I would imagine myself failing before even attempting the climb. But a couple of months ago, something caught my eye ― a women’s mixed terrain cycling camp with The Cycling House (TCH) that included Mt. Lemmon on the itinerary. Suddenly, I was intrigued.

Reading the information in greater detail, I let the idea marinate for a few days. TCH ads continued to pop up in my Facebook feed during that time. It was like the bike goddesses were sending me a sign ― this was the trip to tackle Mt. Lemmon. The thought of also riding unfamiliar gravel routes excited me and also gave me a bit of anxiety. I love gravel riding, but technical descents and loose gravel can be intimidating.

One of the things that drew me to this camp was the fact that it was women-only. There’s something special about being in a group of badass ladies who share the same passion. I knew I could go on this trip alone and still feel comfortable because I assumed most of the ladies would be traveling solo, too. Plus, I’ve been to both co-ed and women’s camps before, and let me tell you, the vibe is entirely different when it’s just women.

Women, especially in cycling and triathlon communities, have the incredible ability to lift each other up. You’re not necessarily competing with everyone else; rather, we’re competing with ourselves, always striving to improve. We push each other to do more because we know that a woman is stronger than she thinks. And let me tell you, we love celebrating each other’s successes.

With seven weeks before camp, I pulled the trigger, reserved my spot, booked a flight, and got serious about training. I’m going to tackle Mt. Lemmon and conquer that mountain. And I know I’ll meet some amazing women along the way.

Pre-trip training

I needed to get my legs and butt ready for almost 200 miles of riding, with lots of climbing at altitude. Using my Wahoo SYSTM app, I added yoga and strength to the mix. I rode indoors during the week and, weather permitting, outside on weekends. I also included several long hikes and Pilates in the rotation.

The bike gear

The camp included a mix of gravel and road rides. Since I don’t have a bike with two wheel sets (knobby and slicks), I opted to rent from TCH. Also, they’d have the parts to fix the rental if anything broke.

I rented a Cervelo Aspero GRX RX810, 58cm carbon frame, disc brakes, and Shimano components (31-48 front chainring and 11-34 rear cassette). Because of the mixed terrain, the bike also came with two sets of wheels set up tubeless, with 38 knobby tires mounted on Hed Ardennes wheels and 32 slick on carbon Reserve wheels. Both provide a nice, comfortable ride.

If you’ve never rented a bike, I highly recommend, at a minimum, that you bring your pedals and saddle. As the saying goes, if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen, so I also brought my Garmin Edge 1040 solar computer and mount. The Garmin was also perfect for navigating the GPS routes provided by TCH. For added safety on the road, I had my Garmin Varia rear radar and a Trek front daytime running light.

Itinerary at a glance

Day 1 – Shakeout ride, mixed-terrain

Day 2 – Saguaro East National Park plus gravel backroads

Day 3 – Patagonia Lollipop, all gravel

Day 4 – Loop Bike Path and Gates Pass, all paved

Day 5 – Mt. Lemmon, all paved

A diverse group gathered from various parts of the United States, consisting of mostly married women, some on a girls’ trip, and spanning ages from their 30s to late 60s. They represented a range of body types and athletic abilities but shared a common passion for cycling. While only a few brought their bikes, most opted to rent from TCH. Interestingly, three women decided to ride eBikes, which equalized the riding experience and enabled them to cover greater distances than traditional pedal bikes. Additionally, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone displayed excellent group riding skills within the peloton.

You never had to ride alone with 15 guests and five dedicated staff members. The staff’s enthusiasm for cycling, unwavering passion, and commitment to providing an exceptional experience were outstanding. Hannah Siler, the trip leader, was leading the team, accompanied by Chloe Rice, who served as chef extraordinaire and guide. Assisting them were Ellen Campbell, Linsey Corbin, and Michael Loomis, all of whom were exceptional guides.

Day 1 – Travel day and a little squeeze of the Lemmon (13 miles, 1,152 ft of climb)

Before my flight to Tucson, I received a group message from TCH instructing me to text them once I had my luggage. When I arrived at Tucson International Airport, Owen Gue, the Founder and President of TCH, picked me up along with two other clients. He drove us about twenty minutes to the house that would be our home for the next six days.

The house was not too far from the base of Mt. Lemmon and located down a private gravel road. You could feel a strong sense of community when you stepped inside the house. The heart of this stunning home was a massive kitchen and dining room, complete with a table that could accommodate over 15 people. Every meal was family-style, bringing everyone closer together as we swapped stories about our day in the saddle and plenty of laughter.

The house boasted eight bedrooms, most of which had on-suite bathrooms. For those seeking a glamping experience, there were two yurts in the side yard. The back patio stretched the length of the house, offering ample seating for relaxation and socializing. The backyard was a haven, featuring a pergola, swimming pool, hot tub, ping pong table, porch swings, hammocks, and a bags game – perfect for unwinding after a bike ride.

I could have traveled a lot lighter than I did. The bathrooms were stocked with various shower products and lotions. Also included was Zealios Sun Barrier sunscreen, Betwixt chamois cream, and Race Relief muscle ointment ― precisely what’s in my medicine cabinet at home. They also had washers and dryers if you needed to do laundry.

Most of the women arrived earlier in the day and were already out riding when we arrived. Owen got the three of us settled in our rooms, gave us a grand tour, and introduced us to Chef Chloe, who fed us the first in a line of excellent meals. While we ate, the TCH team installed my saddle, pedals, and Garmin on the rental bike. Then Owen took us out for a “shakeout” ride. This was an excellent ride to dial-in the fit.

From the house, our ride took us on gravel backroads and paved streets. The previous week, the area had a lot of rain, so the water sometimes ran deep in the normally dry washes. Some of the washes we were able to navigate through, while others required a detour. We went to the mountain’s base to get a “taste of the Lemmon,” climbing about 2.5 miles and 1,100 ft of elevation to an overlook. The two women with us had eBikes, so we sent them up ahead while Owen and I rode together. Between getting acclimated to the elevation (Tucson is about 2500 ft) and the grade, I told him to do the majority of talking. This “baby” climb was a prequel to the “full Monty” I’d experience in a few days. I realized I’d have to get into a rhythm and pedal away.

It was time to head back to the house, shower, and meet the other women in the group. Over appetizers and drinks on the patio, the staff led us in an icebreaker exercise. We introduced ourselves, stated where we were from, and named the women who influenced us the most. Mother, grandmother, and daughter were the typical responses, but the stories about “why” were unique to each person and incredibly inspiring.

Chef Chloe prepared a fabulous, healthy dinner served in the dining room. A loud, excited conversation ensued as we learned more about our group members. After dinner, the routine would be the same ― TCH staff would review the next day’s schedule of events, route, and what to anticipate. Using a whiteboard to summarize the information aided in our short-term memory since we were on vacation as well as our brains.

Tired from traveling, lights out at 9 pm.

Day 2 – Saguaro East National Park, plus a side of gravel (40 miles, 2,700 ft of climb)

Coffee was ready at 630 am, followed by breakfast at 730 am. Chef Chloe is a wizard in the kitchen, preparing yet another fantastic meal considering all the different dietary restrictions ―vegetarian, nut-free, gluten-free, lactose-free. Her culinary skills, expert use of spices, fresh ingredients, and a generous dash of love resulted in a week filled with extraordinary meals. After breakfast, Stephanie led a short yoga session on the patio to wake up our muscles before heading out for the day’s ride.

By 9 am, the garage was buzzing as everyone grabbed their gear from personal storage crates and selected nutrition from a potpourri of brands stacked on the wall. We rolled out from the house and used gravel backroads and some paved to get to the park. I’ve ridden Saguaro East during previous visits to Tucson but was excited to try it with better gearing. Once inside the park, we found the TCH van with a crazy variety of hydration and nutrition options. Oh, and being Valentine’s Day, Chef Chloe prepared brownies with red hearts.

The park is a one-way 8-mile loop that is a blast to ride, with many ups and downs and twists and turns. It is sometimes hard to stay focused on the road with an unbeatable backdrop of saguaro cacti and mountains. We had the option of staying on the paved road or taking a detour up the middle to enjoy some gravel singletrack. Then, on the ride back to the house, we encountered a couple of flooded washes, one that required a hike-a-bike. Before dinner, there was an optional sunset hike up Agua Caliente Hill. The 1.5 miles out and back trail included numerous stairs that were even high for my long legs. The view at the top was breathtaking.

Day 3 – Patagonia (54 miles, 3000 ft of climb)

Patagonia gravel ride elevation profile.

Today was an epic gravel day that would take us out of our comfort zones. With our bikes loaded onto two vans, we took off for a 1.5-hour drive to Patagonia. Before signing up for camp, I wasn’t familiar with Patagonia or how difficult the gravel roads would be until GCN dropped a video about the ride. View it here.

The route followed a lollipop shape, consisting of a 20-mile stretch out, a 10-mile loop, and returning the exact 20 miles. The initial 10 miles presented a challenging uphill climb, with massive sycamore trees lining the road, their white bark creating an image I had never before seen. Upon reaching the summit at approximately 5,000 feet, the landscape transformed into a vast high desert adorned with cattle ranches and devoid of the iconic saguaros typically found at lower elevations. We traversed the high desert for the next 10 miles, biking near the Mexican border. During the ride, a message from my cellular carrier appeared on my Garmin device, notifying me that my plan covered calls in Mexico. Good to know.

I assumed that the 10-mile loop would be pretty flat. WRONG! There were a few double-digit climbs and sketchy, steep downhills. Oh, and a water crossing thrown in for good measure. Approximately 10 miles from the finish line, it was a sight to behold, our van stocked with leftover breakfast pancakes transformed into delectable Nutella sandwiches. Thank you, Chef Chloe! The standard nutrition items, water and soda, were also available.

The final 10 miles downhill sometimes tested me — the washboard gravel roads, chunky rocks, and loose gravel required 100% concentration. By then, my brain was fried, and my arms and legs were exhausted from constantly standing in an MTB-ready position over the washboard gravel. Three times on the descent, I started to lose control of the backend of the bike but saved it somehow and stayed upright. I was so happy to ride into town and see the TCH van.

For this ride, I wore Rab Cinder Cargo bibs with Zealios Betwixt chamois cream, and the only part of my body that didn’t hurt was my lady parts ― a testament to the chamois quality. I also used a CamelBak filled with INFINIT Endurance custom blended for my needs. I could drink frequently, even on the bumpy roads, staying hydrated and consuming calories. I also tested XACT energy fruit bars, Zealios Sun Barrier SPF45 sunscreen on my face, Dermatone Sport SPF50 sunscreen on my body, and Dermatone Grean Tea SPF30 lip balm. Some of the products I’ve reviewed for RBR, some I tested on the ride. All the products worked great, and I’ll review the XACT and Dermatone products later.

Back at the house, I used the foam roller, muscle guns, Zealios Race Relief, and the Normatec recovery compression boots to soothe my aching legs, arms, and shoulders. 

After dinner, the TCH team invited amateur astronomers to the house for star gazing. Every night, the sky was clear with beautiful desert sunsets. Having these astronomers share information about the moon, stars, and planets was a treat.

Day 4 – The Loop Bike Path with optional Gates Pass (35 miles, 653 ft of climb – without Gates Pass)

I viewed today as a recovery day from Patagonia and preparation for tomorrow’s Mt Lemmon climb. After breakfast and a quick yoga session, we rode from the house to pick up the famous Loop Bike Path. With 131 miles of car-free trails, it’s a wonderful multi-use path. I’ve been on the Loop during visits to Tucson and up Gates Pass. Saving my legs for tomorrow’s climb, I opted to skip Gates Pass.

Along with two other women from camp, we headed to LaChaiteria to meet with the rest of the group for lunch. Being woman-owned, this Mexican restaurant was the perfect choice. My friend Mary, who lives in Tucson, rode her bike to join us for lunch. It was great to see her, but unfortunately, it was too short of a visit. After lunch, the team loaded the bikes onto the two vans, and we returned to the house.

We had a short yoga session at the house, and the TCH team invited Evelyn, a professional MTB racer, to conduct a basic bike mechanics class. In this non-threatening environment, hearing all the questions about tubeless tires, fixing a flat or repairing a broken chain was great. Knowledge is power, and they could all feel more confident the next time they were out riding.

On this night, dinner was a variety of 16 pizzas made in the outdoor brick pizza oven. One was more delicious than the next—carbo-loading for the next day’s big climb.

Day 5 – Mt. Lemmon (48 miles, 5,791 ft of climb)

Mt. Lemmon elevation profile.

Today is the Queen’s stage or crescendo of the week. The vibe in the house was a combination of excitement and nervous energy. Here’s where having a group of women together makes a difference. Everyone had encouraging words for their fellow riders and all positive vibes. We rode from the house with instructions on where the vans would be parked along the climb, stocked with nutrition and hydration. Traffic was extremely heavy today, primarily because it had snowed earlier in the week, and people wanted to play in it. It seems some locals fill buckets with snow and take it home. Coming from Chicago, I forget the fascination of seeing snow for the first time.

I won’t lie. It was a long day. The total climb was 21 miles, 5,791 ft, to an elevation of 8,209 ft. The air starts to get thin up there. About halfway up the mountain, I hear a voice giggling and yelling, “Excuse me, sorry, don’t hate me, really sorry.” It was one of the women in our group riding an eBike on TURBO. I think she passed me at 20 mph, having a blast. Yes, I was slightly jealous as I continued to slog my way to the top.

I did well spinning my legs until the last 4 miles, when I had to stop a few times to catch my breath. Ellen, a TCH guide and professional MTB racer, caught up with me and entertained me by telling me stories about the last few miles. Texts from friends who were LiveTracking me started to pop up on my Garmin and phone. It was a truly emotional experience, and I did a bit of an ugly cry of happiness at the top.

With the sound of music filling the air, the TCH staff handed me a slice of lemon and a summit sign, instructing me to strike a pose for photographs. Then I indulged in a delectable cookie from Le Buzz! I convinced Ellen to join me in a spontaneous 60-second dance party to commemorate my successful climb. Regrettably, there is video evidence of our impromptu celebration.

For the entire climb, I never had negative chatter in my head. I closely monitored my Garmin, which displayed the climb’s profile, including the distance to the summit and the elevation. It was totally a mental game for me. I didn’t linger at the top long as I was getting cold. Retrieving my bag from the van, I quickly layered on some warm clothing before embarking on the descent down the same road I had just ascended.

Thanks to my Garmin Varia rear radar, I received alerts whenever cars approached, allowing me to determine when to claim my lane and when to stay towards the right. Although the descent wasn’t overly technical, I remained focused, attentively scanning for cracks in the road, passing vehicles, and crosswinds.

Nutrition for the climb included an XACT black currant energy fruit bar with 50mg of caffeine and an orange flavored one with no caffeine, two bags of Bonk Breaker energy chews, INFINT Endurance custom blend, and a peanut butter with Nutella sandwich.

GCN recently released a video about the Mt Lemmon climb, which you can view here on YouTube.

Following a relaxing session in the hot tub, where we reminisced about the day and celebrated our successful ride, we partook in a lively fiesta dinner. We raised our margaritas and toasted ourselves,  commemorating an incredible week. The dedicated TCH team put together a multimedia presentation showcasing the pictures and video captured throughout the week, which filled the room with joyous laughter and enthusiastic cheers.

Day 6 – Goodbye to new friends, but just for now

With later flights, several of us had a leisurely breakfast, yoga, and a short hike before being transported to the airport. We are already discussing a reunion next year, maybe Montana Women’s Gravel Week, in conjunction with The Dusty Bandita race. Some of us hope to connect in April at Sea Otter Classic, and we all stay in touch via Strava, email, and WhatsApp.


I’m still basking in the glow of a fabulous trip. TCH orchestrated a remarkable week of women embracing the thrill of biking, and I sincerely hope they continue with this mixed terrain format. Witnessing a community of resilient women spanning all ages and abilities unite from across the United States to uplift, inspire, and celebrate one another is an extraordinary experience. I am genuinely grateful for the chance to join this camp. These ladies are absolutely amazing, and they ROCK!