The natural beauty of Colombia blew me away along with any trepidations I may have had about cycling in this spectacular country. My experiences included cycling around Armenia (part of the coffee triangle) and outlying areas of Medellin, a city of high rises jutting up from the sides of a deep (10km) bowl.
- What strikes me first is that cycling is innately integrated into every part of life in Colombia. The bicycle has never been an « after thought ». The first gift a child receives is a bicycle. Cycling comes second only to soccer. Local cyclists of all varieties dot the landscape.
- This picture was taken at a stop in a tiny town near Rionegro. Within 30 seconds of standing still I witnessed two groups of mountain bikers emerge from a trail, and then, a group of ten girl cyclists ages 8-10 pull up beside me after what appeared to be a pretty good ride. Seeing a group of young girls in road bike spandex brought me such joy – a sight I have yet to see in Montreal (its time to start up more youth cycling teams). I am not even joking when I say that Rigoberto Uran and his training team zoomed past a moment later. Mountain bikers with massive thighs, brightly clad kids to seniors – all shouting encouraging words in my direction.
- Embrace the hills! Every person in Colombia accepts that hills are part of every single ride. Watching bike commuters in Medellin tackle their way up to work (10 – 20 km with high gradients) alongside the wondrously willow professional cyclists in training, leaves one humbled. Montreal’s steeps are but a bump in the road by Colombia’s standards. The country offers every kind of climb you could ever want, along with fragrant, high octane oxygen and plenty of visuals to distract you from your screaming thighs and lungs.
- Colombians love to cycle. Unlike places like Mallorca, Spain – where most cyclists on the road are from elsewhere (there to enjoy the perfect cycling/training conditions), in Colombia, Colombians dominate the roads. As the secret of Colombia being a near PERFECT training ground for cyclists gets out, more and more ‘visitors’ dot the landscape. In Colombia, the pavement varies and yes, there are potholes that will reach up and grab you if you’re not paying attention. But more often than not, there is often a generous shoulder and good pavement. Overall, I found the drivers in Colombia very respectful of cyclists – offering up a wide berth. There is no shortage of quiet back country roads and plenty of tiny towns offering up great snacks or meals to help keep you fuelled. There are good bike shops around the country, which offer bike rentals, quality bicycle parts, bicycle apparel & bicycle accessories.
Colombia has everything to offer: great climate, delicious food, good accommodations, appreciative & friendly locals, great cycling, incredible biodiversity (10% of the worlds biodiversity)…its well worth the trip. For more reading on Colombia, here’s a great article from Outside Magazine.
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