Ecuador - Giant Descents and the Definition of Freeriding

Ancient Incan ruins, hot springs, jungle trekking, and massive smoking volcanoes, they’re all remarkable reasons to visit Ecuador - I came for the world class mountain biking. Warm weather, big mountains, friendly locals and easy access to an incredible trail network make this a prime international riding destination. The mountain biking scene here is big - It’s cheap to travel around the country (once the plane tickets are bought) and an array of opportunities await the adventurous rider. For an epic and logistic free bike vacation, or shuttle riding you can check out Big Mountain Bike Adventures (www.ridebig.com) and jump on the next locally guided tour.

The city of Quito, a UNESCO world heritage site, sits at 2800m packed in on the side of the Andes Mountain Range. it’s the perfect place too start an Ecuadorian bike trip.

These trails are in part of an inner city park (the Parque Metropolitano) and are a great warm up for high elevation riding, and to make sure the airline didn't break your bike.. to much.



After a day in the city and some acclimatization to the high elevation, it was off to explore the surrounding hillsides.

After ripping the trails outside of Quito it was time for a (or several) cold cervacas, a quick load up, and a shuttle over to the next spot.

Descending into the farmland inside the caldera of an eons extinct volcano

The open trails of the rim give way to a labyrinth of tunneled trails eroded from generations of horse, foot, and now bike travel.

The lower flanks of the extinct volcano still show hints of its past activity.  Orange rock and the strong smell of sulfur almost gave this place an otherworldly feel (Although I haven’t visited any other planets yet so I may not be the best authority on such sensations.)

Freeriding lives. Choose your own adventure.

The wide-open…. And the not so wide-open spaces.

After putting 100+km of gravity assisted riding onto our bikes over the first 3 days, it was time for a tune up.  The local bike techs (one to fix the bike, one to shine the light and three for the peanut gallery) generously gave up an evening to come work on a fleet of abused bikes.


Back to the wide open range.  Tubeless tires mandatory...  And good footwear.



 

A rollercoaster time in the high desert exploring the Chota trails northeast of the city of Ibarra. The possibilities seemed endless…



Endless...



I got mega sunburned on just the left side from riding the Chota 2500 trail north in the afternoon for fifteen wonderful kilometers.



The cutest baby goat in the world, just like trail dog it wanted to come riding with us. After a couple days north of 0' it was off to the southern hemisphere, and the highlands where volcanos, high elevation riding and massive descents await!

Let's go that way. No there! How 'bout this way? It didn't even matter what way you pointed.  It all went.

Freeriding the immense slopes of Cotopaxi below the glacier at just under 5000m

Wide open wanton freeriding leads to 1500 vertical meters through the volcanic lahar to reach the Ecuadorian high plains, and the waiting shuttle van.

We decided to do it twice. And then again. Ok just one more time? It feels like snowboarding, like tearing through an open powder slope, a true sensation of freeriding with the crevassed glacier of Cotapaxi looming just above.


Follow the leader through the lava fields...

Celebrating the best day of riding ever....
So far. Mama Rumi!!! Go on, say it out loud, it's fun! This ancient trade route has been transformed into just under 2000 vertical meters of fast flowy single track descent. Dropping into 2000m of awesomeness

Where a prehistoric race of people once carried fresh fish from the sea for the Incan King you can now bomb down past enormous cacti in the highlands, drift berms through villages surrounded by banana plantations and finish it all in dense leafy rainforest.



 Thousands of years of feet passing has worn the trail into a deep trench - almost a tunnel.

Dusty, dirty, big smiles passing through banana plantations.
Hopefully this is not their drinking water...



We consistently pass pickups with bikes stacked over their tailgates on their way to shuttle riding. As different as the Ecuadorian culture is, the biking culture here is strong and feels familiar.

Goodbye Cotopaxi and the high plains, after 10 days of epic riding its off to Guatemala