Slow Cycling Through Jarales

Perhaps more so than is true for drivers, there are a great many types of cyclists. But you wouldn’t know that from looking at media/Internet. Everything from old print holdovers such as “Bicycling Magazine” (remember magazines) to the widely known but actually limitedly used Strava continue to paint pretty much only one picture of cycling and cyclists:

We are all still wear lycra, still try to go as fast as possible on the skinniest tires possible, except when we go to big tires and try to conquer mountains, and still argue about whether wearing a helmet is a sign of authoritarism.

You know, just like in 1992.

The continued disconnect between how cycling is portrayed via print/electrons and what is actually going on circa-2023 has many ramifications, including continued attempts by the ever-shrinking lycra crowd, almost never successful, to exert political influence on cycling infrastructure decisions and implementation. Anyone who has attended any public meetings on roadway projects has seen this small, tightly clothed set of cyclists often dominate any and all discussion when the subject, finally, gets around to “other” roadway users (pedestrians, cyclists, transit).

But let’s talk about another ramification, especially as poor attempts at exerting political influence is really boring and unfun, whereas cycling itself is fun and not boring. Or at least it should/can be. Instead, let’s talk about this:

Above, in blue, is a stretch of a bike ride I took this past weekend south of Belen through Jarales on NM 109. Many readers will discern that I’m taking this illustration from my Strava account, which I quite happily pay for despite the fact it invariably shows I am one of the slowest bike riders in all of Stravaland. In the case of this “segment” to use the parlance, Strava tells me I am now 37th out of 65 Strava member cyclist who have ridden this segment, this despite riding south with a pretty hefty tailwind. Another segment notes I am 70th out of 82 riders on that one.

I am so proud.

I’d never cycled Jarales, Las Nutrias, Casa Colarado, Veguita, or any of the other remarkably unpopulated hamlets south of Belen, and maybe you haven’t either. My sense from Strava, etc., is that almost all cyclists who have been down that way are making visits through such hamlets part of their going on 100-mile bike rides averaging 18 mph at an average heart rate of 150 bpm or more.

Well, I’m hear to tell you, and am putting it on the Internet to compete with the many, many sites catering to the 100/18/150 crowd, that riding through Jarales at 12 mph or so was a total blast. Tailwind or no tailwind.

Not being a 100-mile loop kind of cyclist (that would take me about two days of cycling, for one thing), I got to Belen on the Rail Runner from ABQ
Amid bucolic farms there was the Census Designated Place of Jarales, including the old school
When you’re talking “bucolic” you’re also talking traffic counts like this. 458, according to the MRCOG Traffic Count Interactive Map, a very handy thing when checking out new places to ride. Yes, the count about was back in 2018, but it also looked about right in 2023 based on my ride.
Crossing the River on NM 346 from NM 109. Think of this photo the next time you cross the River at Alameda, Paseo, Montano, Central, Cesar Chavez/Dolores Huerta, or Rio Bravo
I came back north to Belen (to catch the train) on NM 304 east of the River, designated as part of NM Bike Route #1 I discovered. Not quite as nice as NM 109, but still very low traffic and sights like this.

I haven’t cycled everywhere in New Mexico, not even close, but in my experience the NM 109 stretch through and south of Jarales is hard to beat. I mention it here today for two reasons: 1. Maybe you’d consider giving it a go yourself, particularly at a slower pace; 2. In the sea of lycra, speed, skinny tire, high heart rate cycling posts, now there’s gonna be at least one out there for us slow, wanna have fun folks. Happy crawling, folks.

3 thoughts on “Slow Cycling Through Jarales

  1. This was a particularly interesting, pleasant, and informative post; thanks. I must plan a ride South of Belen one day when the wind is from the North, and take the Railrunner back. Or, given the typical late Spring and Summer winds, perhaps ride down in the train and ride back with the usual afternoon Southerly.

    I’m a map and paper and pen type of ride planner. Google Maps is inadequate (for me, anyway) to visualize the route options and plan the route details. I signed up for free Strava but have not used it; recently signed up for MapMyRide. Do you have suggestions for the best route planning app for a spatially dyslexic late 60-something rider?



  2. Patrick: Thanks for reading and for your comments. Starting with your idea of taking advantage of the wind, I have been fortuante enough to do that with results that made for some of the easiest miles I’ve ever done coming back north with the southerlies mid-afternoon. Being darn close to fitting your spatially dyslexic 60-something rider in both age and learning style, I do find Strava and other ‘net sources work for me (along with nerdy help like the MRCOG traffic counts for areas I’ve never ridden). My other singular advantage is that I’m too lazy to really “plan” rides beyond “hey, let’s go over there” while riding half the time. That method has its foibles, but learning via “trail and error” means you’re riding a bike, which is the most important thing, imho. Specific to this ride through Jarelas, I’d suggest going NM 109 as much as possible and staying on the green/west of Rio Grande side coming back up NM 116, at least until the traffic picks up heading back up to Belen, with side trips to parallel north/south roads for lesser traffic back to the Rail Runner station. At least that’s my current plan for the next ride, having done NM 304 on the east side of the River this time (which was nice, but not as green and with slightly higher traffic counts). – Scot


  3. Scot: Thanks for this detail, and again, thanks for the blog post itself. I’ve enlisted the help of an experienced route planner, which is a good thing because Google Maps suggests that the best bike route is via Broadway, and I have strong doubts about that.

    Best, Patrick Moore


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