Road Cycling and Mountain Biking in South America

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The Cuchilla de Guasca (1hr from Bogotá)

I have been back on the bike recently and had the opportunity yesterday to climb the Cuchilla de Guasca.

The climb is stunning and high(!), topping out at around 3,400m/11,150ft. About 12km at around 5.5% (680 m of climbing in total), getting up takes around an hour at a steady pace, and the incline is enough to keep you working throughout without making you overheat, so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and quiet roads (see ride profile and power data below). The highway itself is generally in very good shape and wide enough for passing traffic to give you plenty of space. Watch out for the occasional pothole on the descent, but otherwise enjoy!

GETTING THERE. The city of Guasca is about an hour drive from Bogotá heading north via la Calera (map below). The drive is lovely and very scenic, so this is time not wasted. Also, it can be reached on bike via the same road….highly recommended if you have the fitness to do several hours and several climbs on the bike in one day.

SAFETY TIPS. As with most of these rural rides around Bogotá, it is best to go in a larger group or with a friend/driver following in a support vehicle. While not necessary, this is the best way to prevent unfortunate run-ins with bike thieves on some of the quiet roads around Bogotá. In general, it is also just really nice to have the car in case of mechanical problems or if the hilly countryside around Bogotá just wears you out. ALSO, it is not necessarily advisable to ride down the other side of la Cuchilla.

MAP CLIMB UP LA CUCHILLA DE GUASCA

CUCHILLA DE GUASCA CLIMB PROFILE (NOTE that this profile also includes an 11-12km approach to Guasca from Sopó). Compliments of Altimetrías de Colombia

CUCHILLA DE GUASCA vert. Guasca

EXAMPLE POWER DATA FOR CUCHILLA DE GUASCA CLIMB

CUCHILLA GUASCA

MAP (DRIVING or CYCLING) BOGOTÁ to GUASCA

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PREVIEW: Next Cycling Adventures in and around Bogotá

Ever since arriving in Colombia I have been amazed by the courage of the cyclists who pursue their passion on the busy highways around Bogotá.

To be honest, I thought they were nuts until I tried it myself. The video above shows how the roads can transform on Saturdays and Sundays. Groups of die-hard roadies get out en masse and consume entire lanes of major highways. It is quite an inspiring sight.

That is all well and good, but nobody wants to spend a Saturday on the bike battling highway traffic. The good news is that the countryside around Bogotá is rather stunning (watch the video below), and most of these highway treks lead to quieter country roads that are much more pleasant for weekend warriors.

In the coming weeks, I will do another round of videos showing the area north of Bogotá, around Sopó, Guasca and Guatavita (again, in the above video). The area is gorgeous and the roads make for great cycling.

Later will come another wild adventure – one which I have yet to experience – to Salto del Tequendama. The falls outside of Bogotá look world-class and groups of riders make their pilgrimage with some regularity. I will be joining one of these rides and will post videos immediately after. I can’t wait!

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Climbing Bogotá’s Los Patios with the GoPro (Power Profiles Included)

As promised in a previous post, albeit a bit later than expected, here is GoPro video footage of the climb to Los Patios on the edge of Bogotá.

A couple things worth noting…

1. The Traffic. I went up much later than I would recommend to a first-timer, simply because I got off to a late start (birthday party last night went late!). The positive side is that this is about as bad as it gets in terms of traffic – just before noon on a beautiful Sunday. You can expect a much calmer climb leaving earlier in the morning.

2. The Cyclists! Tons of people on both road and MTBs make this Sunday climb part of their weekly workout routine, so don’t be afraid to try it yourself. There is strength in numbers.

3. The Obstacles. In addition to the traffic, you will encounter a number of speed bumps of all shapes and sizes, in addition to other obstacles. Stay alert, especially on the way down. This is not a descent to hot-dog unless you are VERY familiar with it or simply like to flirt with death.

The power profiles below give an idea of the effort required. The climb is about 6.5km (4 miles) in total, and goes about 400 meters up (1315 ft). Average grade is 6%.

For a map and climb profile, as well as more tips, check out my original post here.

Patios ascent power profile

Los Patios power profile

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Urban Cycling in Mexico’s D.F.

Urban Cycling in Mexico's D.F.

I am making my first-ever trip to Mexico’s D.F. this week. Though the trip is admittedly work-related and has nothing to do with cycling, I have been struck by the extent to which this city, like so many others in Latam, has embraced the cycling vibe.

Every Sunday since 2007, D.F. has reserved its main boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma, for cyclists, joggers, and walkers (photo below). (D.F.’s Paseo Dominical is another example of what is commonly known as Ciclovia or Ciclopaseo in other Latin American cities.) More recently, in 2010, the city also launched a bike share program called Ecobici. The program has over 30,000 subscribers (friends here say people love it!) and its network of stations is expanding rapidly.

This last year, the city also extended efforts to build dedicated bike lanes for its growing population of bike commuters. Beautiful bike lanes already line la Reforma and several other main thoroughfares, for example. Also, efforts to build a network of shared bus-bike lanes (named Bicibus) have been problematic (I experienced the Parisian equivalent while living there and found it somewhat awkward to manage as a cyclist) but nonetheless pay witness to the city’s earnest efforts to make D.F. more bike friendly.

Here is to hoping that D.F. will continue to provide an example of urban transformation via bike transport! Certaintly the city’s terrible traffic makes it a great candidate for bike commuting. Ándale Cuate!

Paseo de la Reforma

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Epic Colombian Urban Downhill

Given the country’s severe terrain and love for extreme sports, it comes as no surprise that Colombia has such an active downhill culture. These two videos pay tribute to the brave (or psychotic) competitors who make the rest of us look like a bunch of nancies.

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Uran and Pajón Win Silver and Gold for Colombia in London – 2012

My Luis Herrera post provided a great excuse to share two more brilliant cycling wins for Colombia and Latin America as a whole.

Uran’s heroic attack after Cancellara’s crash in the 2012 games in London set up a silver medal for the Colombian in the Men’s Road Race.

Meanwhile, local superstar Mariana Pajón blew away the competition in the Women’s BMX final. 2012 was a great year for Colombian cycling, the country’s second favorite sport, and the wins are just more evidence that the country is an emerging cycling powerhouse.

NOTE: Carlos Oquendo also took the bronze in the Men’s BMX, making it three medals for Colombian cyclists in 2012!

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Luis Herrera Puts Colombia on the Cycling Map – 1984 Tour de France

As the UCI moved to engage the Americas in professional cycling in the 1970s and 1980s, the country in Latin America that most quickly responded was Colombia. Heroically, in 1984 Luis Herrera became the first Colombian – and the first man from Latin America – as well as the first amateur to win a stage of the Tour de France.

Lesser known is that Colombia has a long cycling tradition, starting long before the 1984 Tour. The guys who continued riding here throughout the country’s toughest times, and those who continue to ride habitually despite the death of friends who have been victims of cycling accidents, are true heroes of the sport.