MEDIAN HOME price $151,900
HOMETOWN HERO Michael McKisson, who in January founded the cycling-community site TucsonVelo.com
THE LIVING: Unemployment is low: nearly 2 percent below the national average. Living costs are even lower: 35 percent cheaper than San Diego. Air pollution: almost nonexistent. The American Lung Association ranked the Old Pueblo as the country's sixth-cleanest city for air particulates. And pretension? Fuggedaboutit. As evidenced by the Teva-and-jeans workplace attire, Tucson residents are as easygoing as they are open-minded. (In 2008, they voted against banning gay marriage.) The University of Arizona, Tucson's second-largest local employer, keeps the intellectual capital high, while the town's vibrant arts scene (there's a ballet, symphony, and opera) keeps locals entertained.
THE CYCLING: Situated at 2,397 feet, this desert community boasts more than 800 miles of roll-around-town bike paths. It's also surrounded by five mountain ranges reaching up to 9,150 feet (think awesome climbing), a national park, a state park, and national forest. But the big sell for Tucson is as a cyclist's paradise: You can pedal through serene desertscapes on any number of the 300 miles of well-maintained loops within 45 minutes of town—virtually all year long. Which is why pro squads like Lance Armstrong's Team RadioShack train here in winter, when daytime temps hover in the sixties. Sure, it gets scorching hot in summer (expect highs in the hundreds in July and August), but that doesn't faze the city's diehards.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Small and quaint, the Sam Hughes section is home to adobe homes, university profs, and a palm-tree-lined section of the 3rd Street bike boulevard—Tucson's first of 40 proposed cyclist-friendly routes throughout the city.