Words by Tito Tomasi
I live for travelling, adventures, and riding new places. The allure of riding new trails and expecting the unexpected has become a way of life for me. When I first began planning my trip to Ecuador, I thought back to my first visit there in 2012. I wanted to revisit some of my favourite places, but I was also ready to go further and sink my tires into something new.
This time around, I was lucky enough to be travelling with one of the best guides in the country, my friend Mateo. Mateo is a passionate rider that loves to explore (like me), and always comes up with crazy ideas for the next big ride. He rides super hard and isn’t afraid of taking on the big epics.
I’ve always loved sketching and painting, and my artwork has allowed me to keep the memories from my trips alive long after they’re over. From brightly colored paintings to simple pencil drawings, my art is a reflection of what I’ve seen and experienced along my adventures.
I started my trip from just south of Quito and was in awe of Ecuador’s beauty from the minute I stepped off of the plane. The first part of my journey would take me towards Laguna de Quilotoa, a stunning lake that shifts in color as the sun moves across the sky. Mateo and I were joined by our friend Dani, would join us for the first major ride around the Quilotoa crater rim. The Quilotoa rim trail is both technical and very physically demanding, making it an aggressive way to start off the trip.
Riding at 3900m elevation was slowly wearing us down, and the threatening rainclouds had us worried about overexhaustion and exposure. The clouds were moving quickly, so we dropped in from rim trail and headed towards the town of Chugchilán in the valley far below. Navigating through farm lands and sandy singletrack, it was an amazing experience passing through villages along old roads, and eventually being rewarded with food and shelter.
The terrain in Ecuador is incredible. After Quilotoa, we travelled north from Quito towards the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, an area which was very different than what I expected. As we approached the area it appeared like all the other dry mountains nearby, but the reality was it couldn’t have been more different. When we finally arrived and dropped into the crater, we were treated to a winding singletrack through an endlessly lush rainforest.
Everywhere we went seemed to hold some sort of historical significance. We were riding deep inside a volcanic crater on ancient trails and learned that we were actually riding through lands that belonged to a pre-Incan culture, the Yungos. The Yungos community used this fertile land as trade leverage during colonialism. In between the land they used for farming, they had developed an intricate network of trails and paths for moving through the area, which were now perfect for mountain biking!
The black sandy trail was surrounded by walls of vegetation, and we were navigating what was one of the most unique trails I’d ever ridden. From weaving through the dank humid rainforest to emerging into a dry dusty desert, the dirt under our tires turned from black to red. Ecuador switched it up on us once again. We had gone from rainforest jungle to a desolate crater-like area that was appropriately nicknamed, “the moon”.
From the Pululahua crater we drove south passed Quito and Machachi to the base of Cotopaxi, an active volcano in the Andes. We set up in a mountain hostel for the night hoping for good weather, but this was a story I’d seen unfold before.
Cotopaxi is a very special place to me. When I first came to Ecuador in 2012, I was on a 19-day bikepacking trip and I spent 4 days waiting for the clouds to clear but never actually saw it. I was always drawn to come back but would again strike out on this trip.
The snow was low, but we decided to make the most of it. The soil was incredibly soft, but still ran insanely slightly frozen ground and cold temperatures. The feeling of freedom and happiness from riding these lines surrounded by deep canyons and crazy colors is something I’ll never forget.
Mateo and I tried three separate times to approach and ride Chimborazo, and on the last attempt I had one of the best rides of my life. We descended from Condor Lake at 5100m into the low-lying jungle at 700m. From the volcanic rock field and sand slopes, to the high mountain ridge lines and impossibly thick jungle, we had proven once again that Ecuador has some of the most diverse riding on earth.
After two weeks of riding in Ecuador and visiting many of the places I’ve dreamed of, I once again feel incredibly lucky for getting to travel to ride my bike. Everything from the adventurous riding to the unique culture and passionate people, has made my experience in Ecuador unforgettable. I would like to thank Mateo and his company Ride Equador
for his help.
Whenever we travel we leave certain expectations in our mind and assume we know how things are going to go, but once your hands are on the bars it’s always a little bit different. Once you’re there, the only thing that matters is the trail in front of you. This is when you know you’re living 100% in the moment.
“Vive la Vie”