Road Biking in Ecuador
Road riding used to be a dangerous, bumpy proposition in Ecuador, but a recent boom in road building and improvement has created many roads with wide enough shoulder for cycling and even dedicated bike paths paralleling highways in a few cases. The coastal area now has excellent bike paths, for example most of the road between Canoa, Bahia de Caraquez and Puerto Lopez either has a separate bike path or is bicycle friendly.
The provinces of Imbabura, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Chimborazo and Azuay in the Andes have excellent new networks of roads.
In the Amazon region, the ride from Papallacta to Baeza to Tena (downhill), then from Tena to Puyo is exceptional. Most roads in the Oriente have low traffic volumes and rolling hills, though in the northern areas (especially around Lago Agrio) security becomes an issue.
Near Quito, Guayabamba to Cayambe and then on to Otavalo is a scenic ride of rolling hills. The Intervalles going from Tumbaco to Tingo (San Rafael) is a favorite, but best early in the morning due to traffic. Most other paved roads near Quito and Guayaquil are quite traffic congested.
In general, one should avoid the Inter-American highway just due to the sheer volume of traffic (with early morning being an exception). That said, recent construction has been creating wide shoulders that make it safer, but still a noisy exhaust breathing proposition.
For the experienced mountain biker or long-distance adventurer who can handle high altitudes and climbs, a thousand adventures await.
Finding your way around
Good road maps are available at most book stores and outdoor stores such as Tatoo. It’s not wise to bet your life on directions given by locals, as they’ll frequently send you off on a wild goose-chase rather than admit that they don’t know which way to go, so always get a second or third opinion and keep asking which way to go.
The lesser-traveled paved back roads make the best routes. Traditional cobblestone roads (enpedrado) will rattle your bones loose and bend your road bike wheels unless you have big touring tires and bomb proof rims. Also, it’s better to go in the dry season, as rains can get frigid in the Andes.
Unfortunately, truck and bus drivers, and motorists in general, aren’t used to seeing many bicycles on the road and don’t tend to be respectful to cyclists. Glancing over your left shoulder every time a car is to pass or getting a rear view mirror is recommended.
Bike Equipment and Supplies
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.
By Jason Halberstadt
Updated June 20, 2013