Editor’s Note: The Following is a guest post by Denise Nelson
Cycling in Medellín, Colombia is a beautiful experience. The city has a true value for the nature that surrounds it, as well as the immaculate architecture. This city holds an enormous amount of history, which is perfect for any cyclist to engage in the city.
When cycling in Medellín, you have to make sure you are safe and prepared, whether you are a beginner or a pro cyclist. There are a few common things to do as well as a few expert tips we recommend.
1. Inspect Your Bike
The roads in Medellín are gorgeous and well-paved. However, when you go off-road to enjoy the mountain biking that Medellin has to offer, you need to inspect your bike. Medellin has such a unique trail riding experience, between rocky trails, bumpy dirt paths, and tight curves; you need to be prepared for anything.
Before you ride, make sure to inspect your bike for any damage, leaks, and broken parts. Make sure your handlebars turn, your brakes work without squeaking, and your seat isn’t too loose or tight.
Check your bike frame, chain, and reflectors. Make sure your frame isn’t bent or damaged. The chain should be oiled or lubed, and the reflectors shouldn’t be cracked and should reflect light well.
Check your tires’ air pressure and examine for any leaks, holes, or wear on the tires. Also, make sure the grips are secured on your handlebars and do not slide against the metal. When picked up about two inches and dropped, your bike should not make any noise.
In Medellín, there are a few bike shops that you can visit to take care of your bike. The Bike House on Avenida El Poblado is open 9a.m.-7 p.m. every day but Sunday, and the Sabotage Bike Shop is open 11-7 everyday but Sunday. In Medellín, you are able to find bike shops just right around the corner, which makes it so easy to get a bike or bike repairs in Colombia.
2. Bike Size
Another thing to check is whether your mountain bike size is appropriate. Depending on your bikes frame determines how your feet should be placed on the ground.
If you have a standard bike, your feet should not be able to touch the ground from the seat, unless leaning or on extreme tip-toe.
If you have a diamond frame, you should be able to stand flat-footed over the top bar with a comfortable distance between yourself and the bar.
If your bike isn’t the appropriate size, then you’ll need to adjust your seat to either be higher or lower. Your toes should be able to reach the ground, but if your feet are flat, the bike is too small. You’ll need to make sure your bike is the right size so you don’t cause any injuries to your body while riding.
3. Carry Identification
In Medellín, it’s important to carry identification, even if you live there. When cycling through the city or on the mountain pathways, you should always bring identification and tuck it safely away in your jacket or backpack. Bring a license, id, passport, and/or a credit card/bank card.
While visiting Medellín, Colombia, I would recommend you bring your passport (or a copy of it, if that makes you more comfortable) everywhere you go. Your passport can help to identify you in an emergency, provide you with legal help if necessary, and could land you tax-free on tourism purchases (which could include bike tours)!
These items will ensure that if something happens along the way, perhaps you forget water and need to buy some, or you get into an accident and they need to find your records or your emergency contacts.
You never know what may happen, whether you live in the city or are visiting, so you should be prepared for anything. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry later.
4. Carry Water and Snacks
Water is an essential thing to bring on your ride. It will keep you hydrated and refreshed on hot days as well as cold days. Hydration is an important consideration when cycling. You can bring bottled water, or carry a hydration backpack which stores water and you can drink through straws.
Snacks are important for sugar and energy. Bring along some energy bars, protein bars, and fruit snacks. These will give you essential sugars that your body can turn into energy and will stave off the hunger until you are able to get home.
Medellín’s weather is usually beautiful year round, however the weather is unpredictable. It’s known as the “City of Eternal Spring”. For this reason, make sure to stay hydrated, even on cooler days, you can still lose a lot of water, so make sure to drink adequately.
5. Wear Your Helmet
A helmet is a crucial part of a cyclist’s gear. A helmet can be the difference between life and death for a rider. A good helmet that also offers a visor can be an added benefit to protect against the sun.
Make sure the helmet is tight against your head, but not squishing your chin. It shouldn’t slip or move off the top of your head. Breathable material that can allow air to pass through the holes in the helmet allow for less sweat and a softer, more comfortable fit.
The roadways are always pretty smooth, however traffic is a bit heavy in Medellin, so make sure to wear your helmet in case of any falls or accidents. A helmet will protect your head from sustaining any critical damage.
6. Bring Your Phone
Your phone is your lifeline for help. If you are in an accident and conscious, you are able to call the police and ambulance if needed. If you run into trouble, the phone can help get you out.
If something happens to your bike and you forget your tools, you are able to call someone you know for help. Your phone can be just the thing you need if you get into an unwarranted situation.
There are some apps for you phone you should get for being in Medellín. Make sure to use them so you can make sure to get around and have the information you need. Some apps you should definitely get are Tappsi, which ensures you get a safe and secure taxi ride, AllSubway, which allows you to access the subway system and plan your route even if you are offline, and you should also invest in MapMyRide which has routes preplanned, you can plan your own routes and you won’t have to worry about getting lost.
Always stay visible with bright colors, reflectors, and by riding safely. Keep a nice distance from cars when in the bike lane, and make sure to use your signals correctly.
Wear colors such as bright yellow, green, pink, and blue. Make sure the reflectors on your bike are bright and noticeable, and that you are not covering them or hiding them in any way.
Also bring sunglasses for your own visibility. Your visibility is also important and you don’t want the sun to obstruct your vision and cause you to injure yourself.
Since Medellín is a tropical climate, it can rain a lot here. Make sure to always wear reflective lights/belts/sashes to increase other’s visibility of you. You need to be seen when cycling, so these bright reflectors will help you be seen when it’s rainy and dark outside on the Medellín streets and paths.
8. Spare Tools
An allen key is the perfect tool for your bike. This tool is perfect to tighten any loose nuts and bolts. This should be kept on you in case of anything becoming loose on your bike that a quick tighten can help correct.
Checking your bikes nuts and bolts should be a daily ordeal, but the allen key will help with any trouble that shows up during a ride or trip.
9. Being Traffic Safe
Medellín, Colombia is such a bike-friendly place, however due to the lack of safety for bikes on roads, it’s a bit hard to maneuver safely on the high traffic streets. Being safe on your bike while on the roadways will take some time to learn, but it can be done.
Avoid rush hour traffic, bikers can face a lot of danger in these situations. Biking through traffic can be a bit of a challenge, however in Medellín, drivers are often more respectful towards bikers than in other countries.
Make sure that even if your hand signals are being used, they may not be read correctly or flat-out ignored. Make sure to always look at oncoming traffic, and traffic passing behind you. You want to always keep yourself safe.
You will be honked at, and some drivers are assertive, and they do drive fast, but overall, it won’t be too hard. Pay attention to the road and follow the laws and directions of traffic.
10. Don’t Bother With The Weather when Cycling in Medellín
Always keep in mind the weather, but don’t check it. The truth is, Medellín weather is on the unpredictable side. You should pack a rain jacket just in case, and bring whatever else you think would be necessary if it’s not raining but could or vice versa.
Pack extra clothes if you think it’s possible that you will need to change. Wear closed toed shoes, and make sure you don’t wear baggy clothing when riding; the material could get caught in the chain or on the pedals and cause injury.
Watch the roads and trails as they can become slick and muddy when it rains. When riding a bike, you are able to hydroplane and that could cause you to be injured or involved in an accident. On a trail, the path could become muddy, which could cause your bike to get stuck or slip and cause you injury.
Medellín has a lot of rainfall, and this can be critical if you do not pay attention and do not wear proper gear. Proper gear, such as rain coats, wind jackets, water resistant clothing, will keep you dry and warm. Make sure to be safe as roads can become slick and you could be more prone to falling from your bike.
I’m a mountain biker who enjoys cross-country biking all around the world. I worked as a trainer for 6 years before becoming a co-founder of a private biking lessons school to teach people how to properly train and ride bikes to prepare them for cross-country and any activities they want to indulge in. I’m also a co-founder of MountainBikeEZ.
I disagree with carry ones passport around , I make a photo copy of my passport before travel and carry that around for ID not wanting to risk my actual passport being stolen, only time I have my passport on me is when I arrive and leave, or need it is needed for offical bussiness. I also have an expired State drivers license in my wallet I use which is thinner in size than my US wallet as back up ID
The founder of medellin living can speak to what it’s like to have your passport stolen(on the way to immigration in a taxi). 150% size copy does the trick for everything, including getting your personalized metro civica card, and cashing money at the bank(last i checked). Only time my passport leaves the house is when I have a flight, or embassy/immigration/visa process requires it.
I agree that it is a bad recommendation to carry your passport around when cycling or elsewhere. Much safer to bring a copy. Even the founder of this Medellín Living site had his passport stolen while in a taxi. And it’s a hassle to get a replacement passport requiring a trip to the US embassy in Bogotá if you are a US citizen.
It’s also not a good idea to carry a credit card/bank card either. You never know who might stop you when you are out cycling. Better to just have some cash and a copy of your ID and not dar papaya.
Was this reviewed by someone more knowledgeable about Medellín? Hard to believe this site is recommending carrying your passport around everywhere including when cycling.
Holy Moly! In the instant I finished looking at this article seemed like about 2,000 bicycles just rode past my balcony. Was this story timed to play on something special? What’s going on?
Hi thanks for posting this. You may have seen I have written a couple of articles about road biking in Medellín and I’m keen to promote all forms of cycling in and around the city. It would be great to chat. I’ll be there for a month from the 22nd. Maybe a coffee?
‘Medellin is such a bike friendly place….however due to lack of safety on the roads’
How can somewhere be bike friendly and unsafe?
Has the writer really been here? I would have thought one big thing for any potential cyclists here are the hills. There’s not a lot of flat space in the city. One of the big things for experienced cyclists here are the hills – Las Palmas for example.