Guatemala City and General || Life, living and Tips || Second Antigua Ride with Backshop Bikes || El Zur with Old Town Outfitters || Tikal || Lake Atitlan with Old Town Outfitters || Rio Dulce with Old Town Outfitters || Acatenango with Old Town Outfitters
While the mountain biking in Canada’s Sea to Sky corridor is diverse and amazing, there are times in the year when its nice to leave the wet coast. Fall shoulder season is from Mid October to Mid November, when the rains come and before the snow falls, its a time when you want to hold onto summer before the colds of winter arrive.
Where to go? Guatemala has been mentioned a fair bit as a mountain biking destination. When people like Tom Pro of Gravity Logic raves about the country as well as other luminaries like Steve Storey, Justa Jeskova and Mike Gamble you know that a country might be worth visiting for the experience and riding.
Based on foreknowledge we arranged a few rides with Backshop Bikes which is run by Juan Alberto DelaRoca. Juan lives part time in Colorado, USA and part time in Guatemala and grew up in both countries.
Guatemala is an amazing country replete with variety. There are coastal lowlands, the Pacific, the Caribbean, the cities, the countryside and the highlands all in one small but diverse package. The country is densely populated – with 17M people living in an area of 108,000 square km. To compare that’s a little bigger than the state of Oregon where 4 million people live. However since most of the population live in cities in the rural areas where trails are located there wasn’t a huge amount of traffic.
We booked our flights through AeroMexico. If you do so don’t carry on bike tools or anything that can look like it can be used as a weapon as they’ll take it away in the Mexico airport. We rented Kona Processes from Old Town Outfitters so we wouldn’t have to bring our own down. This proved a wise move since in the Mexico airport you have to pick up your baggage on your connecting flight and go through security again. This also allowed us to do other trips with Old Town Outfitters we wouldn’t otherwise do with the burden of your own bike, such as a Trip to Tikal, a hike up Acatenango and a trip to Rio Dulce.
Once in Guatemala we spent one day in Guatemala City. This story includes some of the other colour and culture of Guatemala which is a reason in itself to visit. In Guatemala City. We stayed at Posado Belen where we were well taken care of, they picked us up at the airport and arranged a taxi ride to Antigua on our departure day. While you can book through Trip Advisor, it was easier to make arrangements by calling their toll free number directly.
Antigua is a small compact city surrounded by volcanoes and about an hour drive from Guatemala City (aka Ciudad) where your plane will land at Guatemala’s international airport. Many people will head right to Antigua from Ciudad but we found Ciudad (in particular its street life) interesting and entertaining enough for a couple of days stay. Transportation is easy from Ciudad to Antigua. If you have bikes its worthwhile to get a taxi to Antigua and if travelling light any of the many tourist buses from the Airport will serve you well.
Antigua has achieved UNESCO heritage designation and is renowned for its Spanish colonial buildings, many of them restored following a 1773 earthquake that ended Antigua’s 200-year reign as Guatemala’s colonial capital. There are a ton of foreign expats in Antigua many of whom are drawn there by weather (some refer to its mild climate as perpetual sunny spring), its diverse attractions and plentiful food/coffee/bakeries/bars. Yet there are also lot of local Antiguenos who stay in Antigua itself as well as people from Ciudad who come for the Antigua weekend. Bottom line is that Antigua deserves its reputation for a very people-centric, pedestrian and walking-friendly city that is exceptionally welcoming and relatively safe
Three of Juan’s friends joined us for our rides with Backshop Bikes. Wes, who is staying here for 6 months (also from the USA) and ,two local Guatemalans. Humber is a a young ripper while Pablo Jose is another obsessed skilled mountain biker who takes time away from growing Avocados and other vegetables through Good Life Guatemala, (as well as being a dad to two kids) to ride as much as he can.
Pablo Jose has a pretty cool little Kia Truck common in Guatemala that we used as our shuttle vehicle. While nice on short trips, it would be tough on a longer drive. Juan hires a large van and a dedicated driver for larger groups who come on Backshop Bikes trips..
Ride One with Backshop Bikes – Antigua Backyard Rides
Our first ride was on three locations in the villages of Sta Tomas and Sta Lucia just 15 minutes drive from Antigua. Our ride was on the Lecheria, La Pinada and another zone being scoped out by Pablo Jose called the Labyrinth where we were able to finish our ride by cruising back into Antigua and our hostel. PJ and Humber form the core of a group called [L=https://www.facebook.com/RaptorsTeamGt/]Team Mountain Raptors[/L] who do a lot of trail-clearing and maintenance in the area so consequently know the area exceptionally well.
Lecheria was a classic Latin American trail using old Mayan routes that connect the fields and towns. Characterized by deep trenches that have been bermed and dotted with jumps, these features are unique to ride! Pinada has had more work on it to make it more mountain bike specific including little hits, berms, bridges and lots and lots of clearing. While the trails are still shared by the locals, Pinada has a mountain biking feel to it. The Labyrinth is an area that is aptly named and had the most jungle-like feel to it being the area most apart from rural fields or trails and reclaimed by PJ from the jungle painstakingly by machete.
We sampled three trails all by vehicle assist where PJ’s uncle (who took the day off to drive us around) drove us up to the trailhead. Consequently, while all the trails had more descent than ascent there was still climbing involved. Daytime temps were very civilized hovering around the mid-20s so physical effort isn’t punished by massive heat stroke.
PJ tells us that he knows of over thirty trails in the area so the potential is fairly substantial! Particularly when riding with locals who know ever nook and cranny, all three trails were blasts to ride.
Our shuttle truck and start of the first trail
Wes railing the berms
Sharon berming it up
Humber not getting distracted by the views
Then we drive back up for Lap 2
Pablo on his classic Santa Cruz V10 hucking it up!
Humber, steeper then it looks!
Pablo, why ride roots when you can air them?
Yup, old trails, but fun to ride
Juan heading down
Lap three we’re joined by Pablo’s dog, Solly
First a push up through the corn fields
Then into the forest
Back down we go
Through the trails and back into Antigua
Where shuttling seems normal
Where to Stay
Casa Del Sol. If you like communal living this is the place to stay. It has a kitchen, open concept living area and is a great place to socialize and meet others who stay in Antigua. If Backshop Bikes has a big group, Juan will book the complete hostel which would be an awesome experience. As we were only two there were people from many different places staying here, a Venezuelan, Germans, Swiss, Americans etc.
Where to Eat
Breakfast at Cafe Condesa
Lunch between Shuttle runs at Churrascos Gaby San Lucas
Dinner at Pappy’s BBQ
Picking up some beer at the Grocery store
Elevation Profile and Map
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