Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Leah Davis.
When it comes to adventure sports, I’m usually up for a good challenge.
A 6-day trek to the top of Venezuela’s largest table mountain? Check.
Jumping out of an airplane? Check.
Ziplining high above the jungles of Costa Rica? Check.
But when I was invited to come on a day-long mountain biking tour near Medellín with Colombian Bike Junkies, I hesitated. I’d NEVER been mountain biking before–would I be able to keep up? Would I wipe out and end up in the hospital?
No, one of the guides assured me, the tour was designed for bikers of all levels. And the majority of the trail–86 percent to be exact–was downhill.
Before my voice of reason could chime in, I agreed. Traveling is all about trying new things, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and generally pushing the envelope, I reminded myself.
This would be a good experience for me. I was nervous, but that was part of the adventure.
About Colombian Bike Junkies
Colombian Bike Junkies are best known for their rafting and biking tours in and around San Gil, the “adventure sports capital of Colombia.”
The company has recently expanded their operations to Medellín where they now offer single-day biking and rafting tours as well as several-day tours (ranging from four to seven days) covering a wide array of activities, allowing guests to soak in all the cultural delights Colombia has to offer as well as plenty of adrenaline-pumping adventures.
The guides have over 20 years of combined adventure travel experience in countries all over the world. They are friendly, knowledgeable, and bi-lingual. Their gear is excellent (brand new, in our case) and plenty of attention is given to safety.
The Full Day Santa Fe de Antioquia Biking Tour
The tour van left Medellín just after 9 a.m. with five guests and three guides; we chatted and got to know one another on the drive through some of Colombia’s lush green countryside as we made our way to the small town of Belmira.
Once we arrived at our starting point, bikes were unloaded and safety gear distributed. Despite being the smallest size available, I ended up not wearing my elbow pads as they were too loose on my small frame and likely to be more of a nuisance than anything.
Our sweet rides, Trek Remedy 7 Dual Suspension trail bikes, were shiny and new–we were the first group to ever ride them.
When reserving a trip online, you’re asked to provide your height and weight so that the right size bike can be provided.
I’m a meager five feet tall, and my bike was just slightly too high; I didn’t quite feel comfortable on it and was hit squarely in the crotch if I dismounted too suddenly.
The seat was already as low as it could go, I was told. I sensed it would be a day of riding “slow and steady.”
We were instructed on how to properly use the gears and not to pull too hard on the brakes, as they are highly sensitive.
We took turns riding up the road and back a few times to get a feel for the bikes and were on our way shortly after.
What comforted me in the initial part of the ride when I still felt uneasy on my slightly oversized bike was that the van was always just behind the group carrying water, snacks, and of course medical supplies, or to offer a ride if it all became too much to handle.
The first downhill portion flew by quickly and we were soon in the charming mountain town of Horizontes where we would eat lunch.
We ate fresh fruit and sandwiches during our tour, though typically a meal is provided at a local restaurant.
I loved wandering and snapping photos of town and taking in the beautiful view of the Cauca River valley.
We were in Horizontes for about half an hour.
The second part of the day was when the real biking began.
My companions zipped off down the hill ahead of me (I was easily the slowest rider on the downhill sections) over sometimes rocky, sometimes gravelly, sometimes muddy terrain.
We were on an official road and were reminded of this fact on a handful of occasions as we hugged the hillside to make way for speeding buses.
The group stopped periodically for photos and to take in the stunning view of the river valley below us, though admittedly not as much as I would have liked.
It’s difficult to admire the views when even a moment of poor concentration can mean eating dirt.
The uphill sections were killer. Though they made up a total of five kilometers of the 35-kilometer ride, they were steep and challenging for everyone in the group, including the serious bikers.
We took a much-needed snack and water break after we finally summited the last of the hills.
The last downhill section was brutal–did I mention the trail was rocky?
My hands, wrists and forearms took a serious beating, and I was thankful when I finally reached the finish (last, of course).
We finished a bit later than planned, but the group still opted to head into Santa Fe de Antioquia for our celebratory beer; after all, we’d earned it.
Things to Consider
This tour is challenging. If you are not a confident biker or at least in somewhat decent physical condition, it’s probably not for you.
This is not a sightseeing tour. Downhill mountain biking, I learned, is all about speed. Taking time to snap photos of the views (outside of the group photo stops) will leave you in the dust.
The weather can change suddenly and drastically when you’re high up in the mountains. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and plenty of layers.
You will get dirty. Be sure to wear clothes that you don’t care about.
There are insects, and they will bite. Wearing insect repellent is a good idea as well.
It’s a great idea to bring a change of clothes for the ride back to Medellín. I brought a dry set as well as a pair of sandals and was so much more comfortable as a result. Bring a little bit of spending money in case you want to buy anything in Santa Fe.
The guides carry cameras and snap action shots throughout the day; the photos are made available to guests after the tour via their Flickr account. If you must bring your own camera, store it somewhere it will stay dry.
I’d love it if Colombian Bike Junkies expanded their fleet of bikes to include smaller frames in the future.
For the shorter-than-average woman like me, the right size bike would make a world of difference.
We didn’t have water on our bikes during the ride, so we had to wait for the van if we needed a drink. I know this is something the guides are aware of and hoping to remedy soon.
Overall, I had an awesome first mountain biking experience with Colombian Bike Junkies.
The landscapes are beautiful, the ride is challenging, and the guides are supportive, helpful, and prepared for any situation. The free t-shirt at the end was icing on the cake.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure activity to do while visiting Medellín, a mountain biking day tour would be an excellent choice.
The cost of this tour is $110. For detailed itineraries and booking information, visit www.colombianbikejunkies.com or inquire within your hostel.
This story was written in partnership with Colombian Bike Junkies. All words and opinions expressed are my own.