El Zur – Guatemalas First Mountain Bike Park
Guatemala City and General || Life, living and Tips || First Antigua Ride with Backshop Bikes || Second Antigua Ride with Backshop Bikes || El Zur with Old Town Outfitters || Lake Atitlan with Old Town Outfitters || Rio Dulce with Old Town Outfitters || Tikal ||
On the western flank of Volcan Agua is a private development called El Zur. This exclusive residential area was envisioned by three American developers Rex Murphy, Richard Mueller and Bill Murphy in 2007. Their goal is to build a community with amenities centered around trails and nature on the flanks of Volcan Agua. They are taking their time to develop this area to ensure it is done with the right mix of agriculture (they grow coffee here), recreation and community living.
It’s rare to see developers with this kind of long term vision. The outcome is the beginning of an excellent trail system in Guatemala for mountain bikers, hikers, bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Two mountain bike trails have been built in El Zur. One is a 20km IMBA style cross country trail built by Todd Branham and Matt Hartell of Old Town Outfitters, this gives you a 1500m descent with a maximum grade of 20%, average grade of 9%. It starts at ~2500m ( you can also start lower depending on the road condition and weather), and ends at 1200m. The Downhill trail, built by Gravity Logic, is shorter at 5km with a maximum grade of 10% and is a much easier shuttle allowing you do ride 2-3+ times in a day.
OTO is the only way for members of the public at present to ride El Zur. Plans for the downhill trails here are still in flux but it’s contemplated that the trail network will be for residents and their guests. Although we pushed Rex Murphy pretty hard for a chairlift or a gondola his laughing reply was to the effect that the market might not be there yet. That certainly is a shame as the trails are of superb quality using benchcut construction to maximize distance and not to lose vert in a hurry. In many places you can see the handwork and tools that went into cutting out the jungle and the rock. Attention to quality also takes care of erosion issues from tropical rainstorms in Guatemala’s rainy season. According to Matt one of the main issues is not even erosion but how quickly the jungle grows back meaning that vegetation clearing is a frequent exercise. It was a full but fun day at El Zur – a flow fast rocket experience unique to the region.
As part of the tour with Old Town Outfitters your day ends with Burgers and Beers before the drive back to Antigua.
Shuttle from Antigua with Matt
Inside Old Town Outfitters Bike Shop.
Lower Shuttle area of El Zur
The roads were rough with the recent rains, we didn’t make it to the top of the cross country trail.
Push up to the closest entrance
Wes at the top surrounded by Bamboo
One of the creek crossing with SLICK rock, Pablo and Humber
Matt, one of the trail builders, in the bamboo section – Photo by Wes Butler of Backshop Bikes
Lots of turns on this trail
All the rock was brought in to complete this section
Very impressive, and apparently a good view with good vis! Photo by Wes Butler of Backshop Bikes.
Juan ripping the singletrack
Our tail gunner, Arnold.
Matt at the start of the Kudzu section of trail – a real cool lush section, nice find!
Matt, Sharon and Arnold
Sharon, Arnold, Pablo and Humber
Through the garden gates
El Zur – Photo by Wes Butler of Backshop Bikes
At the bottom they provided burgers and beers. Great way to end a ride! Or head up for a lap of the DH trail!
Rex, one of the visionaries and a couple of other DH rippers doing a promotional movie on the DH trail, Lee and Wes. Rex is not only a developer of this area, but his family lives in Antigua and he sees this as his backyard.
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Our ride started lower due to road conditions.