Medellín is putting some serious effort into being super bike-friendly!
To be honest, it’s quite a feat. It’s hard enough to drive a car in the city, now biking? But they’ve done a great job so far and they are really committed to improving. (The parks along the river are sure to give this concept an extra push).
As of this year, 300 bike parking spots have been built in the city, wih 300 more on the way, with 10 kilometers of bike routes, and 5,560 square meters of bike-friendly sidewalk!
In January of this year, Medellín hosted the International Bike Forum, a space in which we spoke about urban spaces that welcome bikes, citizens who push bike culture, and hosted a variety of activities.
When visiting or living temporarily in Medellín, it’s good to know your options when it comes to transportation, buses, taxis and metros are really practical, but bicycles are environmentally friendly, healthy, easy and free!
I am constantly asked where to buy bikes, rent bikes, ride bikes, (and everything bike-related you can imagine). Now, frankly I’m not the greatest or most coordinated bike rider, but I’m here to help you coordinated and cool people find the best bike option while you’re in the city.
Purchasing a Bicycle: Prices and Locations
Purchasing a bike is more for long-term visitors, seeing as that you’re investing a few hundred thousand pesos in your transportation. Evaluate the best routes for going to and from school/work, and places you visit frequently, think about whether you can use bike routes or if you’ll have to ride among traffic, these are all important factors and will determine if you’ll actually want to use the bike.
Depending on the area of Medellín where you’ll be staying during your visit, you’ll find a variety of bike shops. As with anything, get a second and third opinion before you drop money on one.
Since I live in Laureles, this is the neighborhood I know the most about. There are so many bike shops in this neighborhood it could make your head spin, so I’ll give you an idea of where to find quite a few. Along Carrera 73 and Circular 2 you will find Raul Mesa bike shop, which has a variety of new bikes you can purchase, as well as accessories.
On the same street, towards San Juan, you’ll find several more, with more urban, used, and customized varieties. Once you get to San Juan, look around the immediate vicinity of Carrera 73, there’s plenty more.
In Laureles you’ll find all kinds of prices and types, but they’ll probably start around 200,000 pesos ($60) and go up to 1 million ($300) or more.
Another row of bike shops is in Poblado, in front of the Aeroparque Juan Pablo II entrance, by the local airport. I don’t know prices for sure, but it’s worth a visit to check out differences, especially if you’re nearby.
I’ve heard great things about downtown bike shops. My roommate swears by Colbic, saying she’s gotten all her bikes there. (Carrera 52 #55-16). Like anything else downtown, and in many places in the city, you won’t be surprised to find two or three (or ten) more shops focused on bikes on the same street. Prices here will be around $200,000 more or less, depending on the bike.
You also have the option of looking up bikes online. There are websites for new and used items like Mercado Libre and Linio, there you can find a variety of bikes, just make sure to search within Medellín or Antioquia so you’re not paying a crazy amount of shipping and you can probably just pick it up.
Another option, for a higher price, is Smile Bike, customized urban bicycles that you can order on their website. These go for around 600,000 pesos ($180). You can contact them via their Whatsapp (318-437-2344) to determine color and measurements (according to which your bike will be built) and you pay 50% up front and 50% when you receive it. They are made in Bogotá but have experience sending plenty of bicycles to Medellín, all their bikes have a lifetime warranty. More info is on their site and on Facebook .
EnCicla: “Renting” a Bicycle for Free!
A few years back, Medellín started setting up a bike rental system called Encicla (cicla is short for bicycle and “en” the preposition “on” from the popular expression “vamos en cicla”. First, in Parque Arví, then in the streets between the National University and UPB. Now they’ve spread to a fair share of the city. (more on that later)
The process for signing up is super easy and free.
Also, check out the map, they have dozens of stations all over the city!
Encicla has grown so much since I first saw them around 2012. Now it’s even easier to sign up, especially for visitors. You simply follow the sign up link and fill in the requirements and click the visitor option (for either Colombians from other areas or foreigners).
All you need is a photo and a copy of your ID (passport, cédula, driver’s license, etc.) on both sides and confirm if you have health coverage, if you’ve read the terms and conditions, and thirdly if you’d like to receive news about Encicla via email. Then you move on to add your info and location at which point you have seven days to activate your cívica card and start using the system!
The only downside to the system is that there’s a time limit and scheduled hours when you can use it.
Bike Routes vs Riding in Traffic
Bike routes are spreading more and more in urban spaces of Medellín. You can recognize them on sidewalks along San Juan, Carrera 70, Avenida Las Vegas, and many other places in the city.
These spaces are supposed to be strictly for bicycles but don’t expect that to actually happen. You will constantly run into people walking along the route, fruit carts, people carrying crates of beer or soda across, so try not to speed through and always keep an eye out, maybe even add a little bell to your bike to kindly tell people to make way.
You can take a look at a map of the bike routes in the city here.
As for riding outside bike routes, it’s up to you! I spoke to my connoisseur friends about this, since I’m really not an expert, and they recommended riding through traffic on the right lane, always on the defense, knowing that you are a part of the traffic and respecting transit rules and other vehicles. Winding through cars isn’t recommended, keep to your right and follow the relative speed of traffic, signaling for turns, and you should be fine! But, wear a helmet.
Ciclo Vías are different than the bike routes in that they’re normal city streets that get closed down for biking several times a week. One of these streets is Avenida Poblado every Sunday and holiday morning. It goes from around Parque Poblado all the way to Envigado!
There is also another Ciclo Vía along Avenida Regional, the highway that goes along the Medellín river. This one is nocturnal and goes on from 8 to 10 p.m. for 9 kilometers between Jumbo on Avenida Las Vegas and the Barranquilla bridge near Universidad de Antioquia.
Both of these routes are used for bikes, walking, jogging, dog-walking, roller skating, you name it. (Also great fruit sales and bike repairs, etc.) Even Tea Market tends to hang out in the Poblado one with their tea truck.
Cicladas – Group City Rides
There is a serious bike culture in Medellín. People get together with the sole purpose of riding in a big group. You might have seen large groups riding together on Wednesday nights. These group rides are called Cicladas and their meeting point is Carlos E. Restrepo, near Suramericana Metro Station every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. They take different routes through the city, like a type of massive nocturnal city bike tour!
Hop on board! Everyone is welcome.
So, there you go, folks. You officially have no excuses left to skip out on biking through Medellín. Pick one up and take it through town!