Mountain Biking in Ecuador
Ecuador offers the cyclist seemingly endless back roads and trails to explore.
The Incas, who were legendary road builders, and their living descendants, have been carving scenic paths for centuries. Today, in many areas mountain bikes are used by indigenous people and campesinos as a major form of transportation.

For most people, the extreme cycling environment of the Andes is best enjoyed going downhill.

The Andes create a playground of huge vertical descents and gut-wrenching climbs at altitudes where the snow line and the equator meet. Descents of 10,000 ft (3,000 m) in a single day can be obtained in several areas of the country. The world-class descent directly down the slopes of Cotopaxi Volcano, the technical descent down Pichincha Volcano from the teleferiQo, and the Baños to Puyo paved road that take riders from the heights of the Andes to the Amazon Basin are all highly recommended.

Several tour operators based out of Quito and now provide these primarily downhill mountain biking tours, and most travelers experience cycling in Ecuador by contracting one of these tours.

Mountain Biking in Cotopaxi
Mountain biking in the shadow of Cotopaxi.
Photo by Biking Dutchman.
Tough but fun mountain biking through the snowy Andes.
Photo by Arie’s Bike Company.

Self Supported Rides

Biker-friendly buses and pickup truck taxis, plus readily available lodging and food in most rural areas, make cross country self-supported bicycle travel in Ecuador extremely appealing. Road Cycling is now an attractive endeavor in Ecuador due to many new roads.

The lesser-traveled back roads make the best routes. Dirt roads (de tierra) and gravel (lastre) are the best. Traditional cobblestone roads (enpedrado) will rattle your bones loose. Also, it’s better to go in the dry season, as rains can get frigid in the Andes.

Unfortunately, truck and bus drivers aren’t  used to seeing bicycles on the road and don’t tend to be respectful to cyclists.

MTB.ec has numerous mountain biking routes and maps published by local enthusiasts. Maps of varying scales can be found at the Instituto Geografico Militar (IGM) behind the Casa de Cultura.

The South American Explorer’s Club will be happy to give you loads of useful information to help you plan your biking adventures in Ecuador.

Mountain Biking in Quito

Quito is blessed with one of the world’s best city parks for mountain biking: Parque Metropolitano. Parque Metropolitano has hundreds of criss-crossing trails and roads of varying technical abilities, and one could ride there every day for a lifetime and never take exactly the same route twice, so it’s best just to go and explore rather than trying to plan a route. For technically advanced riders, there are numerous challenging trails, including downhill tracks and circuits where locals hold cross country races.

Most parts of Quito are extremely biker unfriendly due to narrow streets, congested streets and aggressive drivers. There is a bike path along Amazonas Avenue and some interconnecting paths. There has been a movement to make  Quito more bicycle friendly, but it still has a long ways to go.

Cycling Equipment

There are excellent bike shops in Quito, Cumbaya, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ibarra, Manta, and Ambato, other cities may just have small shops with a very limited supply of parts. Tatoo tends to have the best selection of parts. Cikla (Specialized dealer) and My Bike (Trek dealer) also have decent inventories.

Bike rental is available in Quito and Baños, but quality varies widely, so check your bike carefully before heading out.

Packing up your bike up at home and bringing it with you on the plane is a simple alternative. Bring a strong lock and always leave your bike locked in a secure location.

Pack wisely and bring plenty of spare parts, including extra tubes and a tire, don’t forget a first-aid kit as you’ll probably be pedaling in remote areas.

Please see our biking tour operators page for a list of Ecuador’s best guides and tour operators.

Happy Trails…

By Jason Halberstadt

January 29, 2013