When you hear New Mexico’s state motto, the “Land of Enchantment,” you’re probably envisioning a beautiful plate of Chile Chilaquiles on the square in downtown Santa Fe or a transformative spa treatment at Ten Thousand Waves Spa. What you probably aren't envisioning is the miles and miles and miles of delectable gravel roads and bicycle paths surrounding Albuquerque.
That’s right, Albuquerque.
We have friends who grew up in the little New Mexico hamlet of El Valle and whom invited us to come eat, sleep and ride with them in Albuquerque.
We jumped at the opportunity.
“I think Santa Fe gets a lot of love because it has a lot more tourism and therefore more energy focused on growing it,” said Sam Lutz of Buckhorn Bags. “However I really feel like the two cities are complimentary. Albuquerque offers riding year round for both mountain bikes and gravel, and Santa Fe offers some more high country exposure, elevation challenge and is great for riding in the heat of the summer.”
Coffee culture, artisanal brewing and the high-end baked goods scene have definitely found a foothold in Albuquerque and our tummies couldn’t be any happier for it.
Starting almost everyday with a oat milk latte (yes, you read that correctly) from Little Bear Coffee and then we ran over to Burque Bakehouse to get in line for something they have conjured up with rhubarb in it. “It’s in season, so we are trying to put it in everything,” said the nice man behind the counter. “It’s just amazing this time of year.” Finally, we ran back to the house, pumped up the tires, gave the bikes a once over, filled the water bottles and rolled out of the garage door. We could easily ride across town to the bike paths and gravel routes along the Rio Grande or roll out the other way in search of the vertical of “The Footies.”
The one thing we forgot to take into consideration before the start of our first ride was the fact that Albuquerque actually sits at over 5000 feet and with the elevation and added heat, the slight breeze didn’t do enough to stop us from feeling a tad shelled after a delightful 34 mile, mixed terrain loop around the city.
We run into Mark “BuenoLoco” Gallegos on the trails along the Rio Grande. It’s not hard to spot him since he’s wearing his signature fedora instead of a helmet and his almost complete sleeves give away the fact he is a local tattoo legend and artist. “I am almost completely covered,” said Gallegos. “I love riding out here. I’ve lost almost a 100 pounds and this addiction is so much more healthy than the last one.”
Whether you decide to ride along the Rio Grande, which runs the length of the city, the numerous open space in the city or head into the foothills of the Sandia Mountains for the panoramic views of the city, there is something here for everyone.
“One of the best ways to spend a weekend day is with a whole mess of friends exploring the trails along the Bosque and riding to Bike In Coffee or one of the many different breweries,” said Lutz, who made Buckhorn Bags official in December of last year. “The business growth so far has surpassed all of my expectations and I attribute it to my favorite part about ABQ and New Mexico in general, the community.”
We spent our last afternoon in town running errands on our gravel bikes which included an adventuresome rip through the public golf course. Turns out this golf course, like more most municipal courses, is one way in and one way out. Luckily for us there was an arroyo, or a concrete wash, running through our course, so after basking in the glory that was some of the best golf course gravel we have ever encountered, we snuck through a hole in fencing and off we went. For the final breaking of bread, we devoured a near perfect slice of pizza from Farina Pizza followed by the most amazing desert in all the land, a Butterscotch Budino.
Albuquerque may not exactly make your “Top Ten List” of places to visit with your bike, but if you find yourself in the “Land of Enchantment”, we highly recommend that you schedule an extra day on either end of your trip to explore this underdog of a destination.