As we approach winter in the northern hemisphere, we often start thinking about where we can keep the mountain bike mojo going through the cold, dark months. For some riders, the tropics beckon, and Colombia is one destination that offers both warm temps and epic singletrack.
Temperatures in much of Colombia remain quite constant throughout the year, although there are rainy seasons in the spring and autumn. But what really sweetens the pot are the moderating effects of altitude. With the mighty Andes Mountains running through the country, higher elevations keep things cool year-round, and you need not worry about sweating away your vacation like you would in other tropical locales.
For those who venture waaaaayyy south of the border, here are five Colombian classics:
Forests and grasslands, ruts and roots, and toward the bottom, rocks: Alegria throws a little of everything at the Colombian rider. The best thing is that the climb doesn’t seem too tough relative to the joy of the long descent.
“Very fun singletrack down — rugged, tough Colombian singletrack. Rooty forest singletrack, wide-open grasslands, deep trail, great Colombian riding experience. The bottom part of the trail gets rocky and technical… and awesome. The initial climb up the road isn’t terrible.” – kuala tahan
Choachi/Ubaque/Caqueza Loops (Choachi)
Tucked in the mountains southeast of Bogota is the small village of Choachi, home to a couple excellent singletrack loops. One of the trails extends south through the village of Ubaque, and one extends north around a stunning waterfall. For a huge day, link the two in an epic figure 8 with Choachi as the intersection point. The truly adventurous can extend their ride further south to the village of Caqueza and set up a finish with a truly hair-raising exposed ridgetop ride and a final plummet.
“Great trail and lots of adrenaline!” -Luis Fernando Matallana Reyes via YouTube
Santa Elena – Pan de Azucar (Medellin)
Anybody who has looked on YouTube for South American mountain biking will have seen crazy footage of people ripping urban downhill runs on mountain bikes between villas on the steep Andean hillsides. You can find that on this route. But it also has excellent riding through the mountains themselves before entering the city, making for great variety.
“Very fast downhill track and excellent for enduro biking. It has a short rock garden, rapid trails, forests, excellent landscapes, and an urban descent at the end.” -Translated from Martin Lara
Santa Fe de Antioquia (Sopetran)
This ride north of Medellin is big like the Andes themselves. Depending on where you start the route, you can get up to 8,000 feet of descending! Starting with rugged dirt roads, the fun is in checking out the scener, which ranges from untamed wilderness to coffee farms. Once on the singletrack, the fun changes to trying to stay upright on the very steep, water-funneling, fall line trails. This is a big one, and not always easy to follow, so a local guide service can be very helpful.
“The ride itself is as beautiful as it gets. I found myself stopping and smiling in the back of the train more often than I would have imagined. There are lots of dirt/gravel roads, but they are curvy and fun (and not too slippery either), as well as some amazing singletrack (though definitely more for advanced riders). To your left and right you will get a great insight into why Colombia is such a beautiful country.” -A.D. via TripAdvisor
Simon Bolivar Flow Trail (Salento)
12+ miles of mostly downhill, this trail offers fast and furious sections in some places and rocky, rugged sections in others. Named for Colombia’s national hero, the Simon Bolivar Flow Trail serves up tons o’ fun for the adventurous rider. For a massively-entertaining and epic ride–complete with challenging route finding–Simon Bolivar can be combined with Alegria.
“At the top, you rip singletrack down for a long time through alternating technical, farm trail, pine forest, roots, grassland, and massive views the whole time if it’s clear out. Very cool ride. I wouldn’t do it without [a guide], as it’s super tough to find the entry to the trail if you don’t know it.” -kuala_tahan