Monday, 21 November 2016

Road Cycling Routes around Medellin, Colombia

Road Cycling Routes around Medellin, Colombia

There are several good road routes mostly with substantial climbs to exit the city although leaving it can be intimidating during rush hour and you are best to do it with locals or wait until Sunday when the roads are considerably quieter.

One of the few routes that begin with a descent goes North West and gradually drops down about 23 miles toward Barbosa - from here there are several good climbs: One climb just before Barbosa heads left and North towards Donna Matias. If however you carry on beyond Barbosa towards Molino Viejo you can turn right and head up towards Santo Domingo with a good climb that has a kick in the tail. Otherwise, travelling past Molino Viejo there is a left turn to a climb towards Gomez Plata or instead you can stay on the road and finish on the climb that gives you a good view of Cisnero; by this time you will have more than 100 miles round trip from Medellin.These are 'out and back' rides although on the return you can make a diversion through Giradot. Sunday is a good day to do these rides because there are road closures on the main route out of town and the traffic is less busy.

The signature climb out of Medellin is Las Palmas and you can see people riding it from 5am to 11pm. It leaves from the San Diego Centro Comercial which is easily accessible from El Poblado the main tourist residence. The other side of the summit drops down about half a mile to a great ranch style cafe where you may well rest and have and have a great breakfast – many cyclists just turn around here for an exhilarating 40mph 9 mile descent among the buses and trucks but take care as there are green plastic lane dividers to be avoided. Otherwise you can descend with a right turn down the Escobero climb but beware as it is very steep and brings you back to Envigado where there is a busy ride back to Medellin. That said, the climb up Escobero from Envigado is a real test with some 14% ramps and achieving it will earn you respect from local cyclist. Also from Envigado there is an even steeper route, La Catedral, climbing a quiet road to Pablo Escobar's prison and a small pretty church. From Las Palmas you may also carry on either to El Retiro which is the home and workshop of “Tinno” who makes custom built steel frame cycles of the same brand. He is Colombia's only remaining steel bike maker and welcomes your interest. Otherwise aim for La Ceja or on to La Union or even Mesopotamia for longer rides with fantastic countryside.

Another climb, Santa Elena leaves from the Buenos Aires area of Medellin, roughly around the new tram terminal. Once on the climb it is much quieter than Las Palmas ascent but just as steep; it goes east from the city and can either link to Auotopista via Santa Elena pueblo and Parque Arvi or carry on further towards the airport returning again on Auotopista via Guarne or circling back to Las Palmas. The return via Guarne reaches Alto de la Virgen before descending to a short tunnel and back to Medellin. This is also a popular climb out of the city and is less steep than Las Palmas; from it you can continue towards the airport and there are 2 possible routes that loop back to las Palmas, both of them lumpy on good and scenic roads – these rides are known collectively as El Oriente. You may also carry on past Guarne to some further gradual climbs past El Sanctuario.

There is only one climb to the west of the city and it is relatively short exiting at the back of Itagui and by way of San Antonio de Prado. The road is a bit sketchy in places and unmade beyond the summit where there are some good cafes and great views.

Finally you can leave the city by the South towards Caldas – there are 2 parallel routes and they arrive at a junction which goes straight on to Alto de Minas, or right to Las Minitas where it drops down towards some other great climbs. Many people stop and return from Alto de Las Minas but you can go on and down towards La Pintada with some great other options to the left and right. Returning from La Pintada is a tough long climb especially in the afternoon heat. Taking the Las Minitas turning after Caldas most cyclists will drop to the bottom of a long descent and perhaps on to Bolombolo where the river crosses, or you can take an earlier right on a shortish climb to Titiribi. From Bolombolo there there is a great climb to Concordia with great views of its white church across the hills. The ride home from here is long and hard so come prepared.

Within the city there are good training tracks; at the velodrome where they will usually let you on the track with a road bike or El Aeroparque located near the City airport is where there are early birds can be found training from 6am. There is another track at el Parque de los Voledores which is harder to locate and slightly longer and more lumpy circuit than el Aeroparque but generallywith fewer cyclists. Also some cyclists do training reps up Pueblito Paisa which is a tough short climb.

Otherwise there are weekly road closures on one of the main North South highways but you'll find a wide variation in cyclists as well as walkers and people on skates. Once a week there is a city friendly cycle event, 'Ciclovia' usually starting from Estadio and with a nice friendly vibe.

As you can see Medellin has much to offer road cyclists and there is also plenty to for mountain bike and BMX enthusiasts. Don't hesitate to ask me further questions and enjoy the ride.

Alan Malarkey

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