November in our home town of Vancouver, Canada can be downright depressing. Imagine days upon days of rain and little day light. We wanted to go somewhere to avoid the soggiest month of the year and ride our bikes in warm weather. Colombia was on the top of our list. Matt did the Heroica bike tour with Cyclota the year before and was super keen to return to the bike friendly roads of Colombia.
We decided to ride in the coffee region which is nestled in the mountains between Bogota and Medellin. Four days of road riding seemed like an appropriate amount of time in the saddle. We started the trip in Pereira which is the heart of the region. What really struck Christa on the first day of riding was the sheer number of cyclists on the roads. Farmers slowly pedaling relic one speed bikes, pro tour riders tearing up the roads in their brightly coloured kits, and groups of older group of men lumbering up back road hills. After soccer, cycling is the most popular sport in the country and it shows. Everybody knows about the current top Colombian riders and will always have time to inspect your bike or encourage you along the way. This passion also translates to a high level of respect for cyclists on the road. Cars and trucks alike patiently waited for a safe place to pass us and gave plenty of berth when doing so.
From the beginning, Tomas from Cyclota made sure our trip was going to be a great adventure. Christa was recovering from a knee injury and wanted to make sure that even if she could not bike the entire day, that she would still enjoy the trip. At the beginning of each day Tomas showed us the ride profiles and patiently answered our questions.
We spent on average five to six hours riding each day, covering somewhere between 60 and 100 kilometres. The landscape was simply magical. We traced quiet back roads that undulated through rolling hills of coffee plantations. Brightly painted wooden houses peppered the green landscape. The temperature was perfect for riding averaging 25 degrees Celsius. The valley bottoms were hot and humid but when we reached the top of ridge lines we were greeted by a pleasant breezes and cooler temperatures.
Each day of riding was quite varied. There were a number of sections where we rode flat roads of valley bottoms surrounded by sugar cane fields. And each day there were on average a couple of sizeable climbs ranging from five to twenty kilometres. With a grade between 4 and 8 percent these efforts were completely manageable. If you are super keen you could hammer up the hills to test your endurance. Don’t be surprised if you are passed by a 65 year old man. Colombian endurance is legendary. We chose to take it easy and stopped to take in the views and snap photos. The support vehicle is never too far and there are always opportunities to fill up your water bottle or get some snacks. Our favourite boost was the “bocadillo” – guava dried fruit snack dusted with sugar – which will give you the energy you need to climb the last kilometres of any hill.
If you rent bikes you will be pleased with your steed. Cyclota’s lineup of Argon bikes are perfectly set up for Colombian road riding. Wide bars will give you the confidence on curvy descents and appropriate gearing will ensure that your knees are happy at the top of every hill.
The best part about riding in Colombia is moving slowly through the countryside. The highlight of each day was the welcomed lunchtime rest stop. Lunch each day was located at a restaurant in a small town plaza where we could watch people going about their day. Colombian food is simple, fresh and tasty. As we were not in touristy areas, people often took a genuine interest in our passion for cycling which made for some great conversations translated by Tomas.
These interactions with locals enrichened each day. Tomas was able to supplement our curiosity with an in-depth knowledge of the history and politics of each area. These conversations deepened our knowledge of Colombia and we were heartened to see people honestly uplifted by the prospect of a future without war. Speaking of danger, not once did we feel unsafe about where we were biking. The parts of the country that are still struggling with sporadic conflict are far removed from the areas we visited.
At the end of each day you will find sweet relief in a small hotel located on the outskirts of a town. Each accommodation has a unique Colombian flavour. We took advantage of the pool and the quiet location to rest our feet and prepare ourselves for the following day. Our favourite dinners were when we went to the small towns and discovered an intimate, unique location to try out new dishes and enjoy some drinks.
“Ride your bike in Colombia. You won’t be disappointed”
If you find yourself in a miserable state during the cold and wet fall/winter months, we highly recommend riding with Cyclota in Colombia. Some of the best riding is from November to March when the days are warm and pleasant. Your riding and fitness skills will grow in a supportive environment surrounded by fellow adventure seekers. Bring your sunscreen, climbing legs and enthusiasm. You will need them. For many avid cyclists, spending time tracing the famous routes of Europe is a pinnacle experience. For others, exploring less known, but as equally satisfying cycling areas of the world is more appealing. If you are one of those types of adventurers, ride your bike in Colombia. You won’t be disappointed.