Let’s start this post at the end of the day. We had completed approximately 26 miles of downhill mountain biking and had another 8 miles of “cross country” riding ahead of us. We took off our heavy duty elbow and knee guards and set out for what I thought would be a rolling, easy finish. A few minutes in, I had arrived in the pain cave. Around nearly every corner was another deceptively steep and long hill. It felt like a cruel joke. I’d spent the majority of the day standing in the pedals, clamping the seat with my thighs, and cranking the brakes as we wove down the windy mountain dirt roads through the Suarez Canyon. My wrists and quads were gassed, and I struggled to finish the ride. This was not my idea of fun.
I consider myself a pretty solid athlete, but I acknowledge that my prowess does not include slow twitch activities like distance running or cycling. Don’t get me wrong, I can do them if goaded by friends—but I’m typically miserable by the end. So when Terra wanted to do a full-day downhill mountain biking tour, I agreed, but knew that the pain cave was a possibility.
A few times, Terra crept up behind me and placed his hand on my back, pushing me slightly up the hill. What a freaking gentleman; I wanted to kiss him, but I definitely would have fallen over. A few times he asked if I wanted to stop and hop in the 4×4 support vehicle, but I’d be damned if I let the 21-year-old Swiss girl on our tour finish ahead of me. I’m nothing if not competitive.
Just as I was ready to bite the dust (literally and figuratively), we rounded a final corner and met our guide, Mauricio, at a creek that ran across the road. We had completed 34 miles of riding, and a dip in the cool mountain water was our reward. YES.
As I sat in the 4×4 on our way back to town, I reflected on the day. Despite the finish, it had been a pretty incredible tour. Colombian Bike Junkies in San Gil offers two full-day tours, the more popular being through Suarez Canyon. We had snacked in Barichara, a town that many consider the most beautiful in Colombia, traversed both sides of the canyon, crossing the roaring Rio Suarez, eaten lunch overlooking a mountain range long known to be controlled by the FARC, a rebel group that manufactures cocaine along with other illegal activities, and crossed through the charming, tourist-free village of Galán. All the while we completed a killer workout (my Fitbit recorded nearly 30,000 “steps”) and experienced a serious adrenaline rush as I almost crashed at least a dozen times. Not surprisingly, Terra absolutely loved it, and as I sit here a few days later, I think that I did, too.
Want to have a similar experience? Here are the important details:
Booking – Contact Colombian Bike Junkies directly via email or phone a few days in advance. We were lucky that a tour was going out the next day, but they need at least four people to run a tour, so you may have to wait a day or two for a group. The tour costs between $60-$70 USD, depending on if you book directly or via an agent.
Photos – Your guide will take some photos and send them to you that night via email. I recommend also bringing your own camera as the scenery is spectacular. If you bring a GoPro, attach it to the center of the top of your helmet, so that it captures the scenery in addition to the road (if you place it too close to the front, it will show only the road, as you’re looking down the entire time).
What to wear and bring – Longer shorts, tennis shoes, t-shirt with sleeves, sports bra, change of clothes for the end of the day, and sunscreen. They supply everything else that you need including water bottles. I recommend bringing a tip for your two guides—they earn it!