As you’ve likely read on this blog, I learned to ride a bike as a full grown human. So I’m pretty excited to use my new skills whenever I can.
Last summer I went to Iceland. My friend Trish and I rented bikes and spent a morning cruising around Reykjavik. I guess I never wrote a post about it, but it was a blast. My bike riding trophy case is still sparsely occupied, but next to the Duathlon and the epic ride to Coney Island, riding around Iceland ranks pretty high.
So when planning for last month’s trip to Colombia, I did a little digging. My copy of Lonely Planet Colombia had “Bogota Bike Tours” circled in it for months. The company had outstanding reviews (how good can a city bike tour even be?) I logged the bike tour in the back of my mind as a “must do.”
When we actually got to Bogota and sorted out our plans we weren’t able to join the larger group tour because of scheduling issues. Mike Caeser, the head of the operation offered to take just the two of us on a two-hour bike journey around the chaotic capital. We were stoked.
Mike himself is a worthy of a description. A displaced California native, he landed in Bogota after a years of hopping around South America as a journalist. He showed up for our ride in an outfit that it looked like he’d been wearing without reprieve for the last month. He had a boat hat under his untied helmet. I liked him, but I wanted to hose the dirt off of him.
Anyway, we mounted old Trek bikes and followed Mike without any explanation down the skinny roads of Candelaria (the touristy part of Bogota) and out into the main thoroughfare of the city.
Mike’s a smart, politically informed guy and English is his mother tongue. His insights were educational and well beyond what we already knew. We saw a bunch of suited men on the street holding pieces of paper and Mike explained they were actually trading emeralds right there on the corner. On top of the pieces of paper they held were unbuffed emeralds.
We checked out street art, the red light district (which after visiting red light districts in Thailand, seemed pretty quiet), the hotel where Pablo Escobar’s family as held after they were denied entry to Argentina , and some noteworthy parks and museums.
We biked on the sidewalk, through traffic and often without explanation. There wasn’t much direction and I basically just tried to keep Mike in my line of sight without getting hit by a car. There were some close calls since sometimes I was more focused on following him then the flow of traffic. Matt rode behind me allowing me to set the pace.
My bike was on the shitty side and it made me miss dear old Liv back home.
Most of the bike riding was physically easy (i.e.: flat) but mentally challenging (with traffic or on the sidewalk). My bike didn’t have a bell, I can’t whistle or speak much Spanish. So to alert upcoming cars and pedestrians to my presence I yelled, “BEEP BEEP!” I think it worked out well. I definitely enjoyed doing it. BEEEEEPPP.
There are bike lanes in Colombia, but we weren’t on any. You can actually bike all the way to the airport on a bike lane but on our touristic adventure we mostly zig zagged through town paving our own way. On the way back there were a few tough hills and I love it, because hills make me feel in control.
Biking around a city is a great way to quickly get the lay of the land. I’ll always love a long walk but I’m pretty stoked that I can add cycling to my travel fitness repertoire.
Have you ever biked as a way to sightsee?
PS. Want to read more travel adventures?
- Hiking a glacier in Iceland
- A high-altitude hike in the Andes
- Rappelling down waterfalls in Banos, Ecuador
- Taking a barre class in Panama City