Turning Cranks in Argentina: A Singletrack Adventure

Jan 27, 2015 at 8:04
by John Wellburn  
For the last seven Canadian winters I have been flying south from Canada to Argentina in search of sun and biking. 2014 proved to be one of my favourite seasons yet.

Argentina is an incredibly diverse country. The main mountain range, the Andes, runs the entire length of the country and changes dramatically from north to south. The south is much like British Columbia, Canada where I live, lush and covered with forests, lakes and rivers. The central and northern areas are much dryer and rockier and the mountains are much higher, mostly barren of trees. Argentina is home to the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, Aconcagua, ringing in at a massive 22 837 feet. With this mountainous geography it is no doubt that Argentina is a mountain biking mecca.

Earlier in the season, in late May, I had the opportunity to join a project called Girando, in english it translates to "Turning", which is exactly what our bike cranks would be doing on this trip. The idea of the project was to travel the length and the width of Argentina with our bikes. We would meet up with like minded riders, friends and friends of friends in each place and have them show us all their golden trails. Then, hopefully make it a regular thing and share what Argentina has to offer with the rest of the world.

Our trip started in the south of Argentina in Patagonia and we worked our way north to the famous Andes mountains of Mendoza, and then east to the Sierra mountains of Cordoba.

Here are some of my favourite shots from our journeys.


Our trip began in San Carlos De Bariloche in the Patagonia. The first ride of the day took us above the lake of Nahuel Huapi. We got up super early to catch first light.
  Our trip began in San Carlos De Bariloche in the beautiful Patagonia.

Little chrispy at the top.
  Little crispy at the top.

Lake views all the way down the perfect single track.
  Lake views all the way down the perfect single track.

Bariloche is one of the most beautiful towns on the planet.
  Bariloche is one of the most beautiful towns on the planet.

John Colthorpe Image

Dropping in.
  For the second lap of the day we went to the other side of the mountain where there was a whole other trail network equally as awesome!

Fresh burns at the top.
  Cepi cranking the berm.

Manu airs over Cepi kind of.
  Manu airs over Cepi, kind of.

A nice treat awaited us at the top of the climb cervezas and pie.
  A nice treat awaited us at the refugio halfway down the mountain, cervezas and pie.

Time to rip down to the lake below.
  Time to rip down to the lake below.

Heading across the short river ferry to the trails of the afternoon.
  To the east of Bariloche is a totally different geographical zone. When the weather is rainy closer to Bariloche, this place is always dry and rideable. It was raining on the second day so we loaded up the truck and headed out. A little river crossing on a make shift ferry and we were there.

Getting to the top.
   This zone also had some really fun rock slabs to ride, speckled throughout the mountain.

Cepi charging through the sagebrush
  Cepi, charging through the sagebrush.

To the East of Bariloche we found a totally different geographical zone. When the weather is rainy closer to Bariloche this place is always dry and rideable.
  A little freeriding was even found along the way!

A quartz rock slab smack dab in the middle of the mountain.
  A quartz rock slab smack dab in the middle of the mountain.

Last light in the trees.
  Last light in the trees.

Typical after ride feast of pollo al disco damn good way to finish the day.
  Typical "after ride feast" of pollo al disco, a damn good way to finish the day.

The trailside landscapes of the Patagonia are world class.
  The trailside landscapes of the Patagonia are world class.


The next leg of our journey bumped us about 1200 kilometers north to the famous Andes mountains of Mendoza. The Andes are huge in Mendoza and the riding is also huge. It was a very extreme contrast from the Patagonia as there is not a tree in sight in the Mendoza desert mountains.


The Andes are so massive that pedalling from the flats of Mendoza to the trail head would mean a solid day of dirt road riding. We opted for the truck to get us up to the goods.
  The Andes are so massive that pedaling from the flats of Mendoza to the trail head would mean a solid day of dirt road riding. We opted for the truck to get us up to the goods.

Our trusty stead a 1967 Ford Mercury 4x4 with a diesel engine. From the era when Ford actually made tough trucks
  Our trusty stead, a 1967 Ford Mercury 4x4 with a diesel engine. From the era when Ford actually made tough trucks!

Kicking back in the box and watching the sun rise.
  Kicking back in the truck box and watching the sun rise.

Earning the descents one crank at a time.
  Let the riding begin, Cepi and Kittu peddling up and earning the descent, one crank at a time.

The train is off
  The train is off!

Dropping in hello Mendozaaaa
  Dropping in, hello Mendozaaaa!

Can you say layers...
  Can you say layers...

Big Landscapes make for unforgettable rides.
  Big Landscapes make for unforgettable rides.

The landscape in the Andes is breath taking. Nowhere I have been on this planet has made me feel so insignificant.
  The landscape in the Andes is breath taking. Nowhere I have been on this planet has made me feel so insignificant.

Sebastian taking in the view before the decent.
  Sebastian taking in the view before the decent.

Coming down to Pampa de Canota you can see the flat areas that were shaved down by glaciers thousands of years ago. This landscape hasn t changed since.
  Coming down to Pampa de Canota, you can see the flat areas that were shaved down by glaciers thousands of years ago. This landscape hasn't changed since.

Rafa coming in hot for the corner.
  Rafa coming in hot for the corner.

Pristine singletrack.
  Pristine singletrack.

John Colthorpe Image

The shadows in the Andes are part of what makes them so unique.
  The shadows in the Andes are part of what makes them so unique.

In and out of the shadows all the way down.
  In and out of the shadows all the way down.


It was hard to leave the massive descents of the Andes behind but we had some friends in Cordoba that were planning some rides for us and we had to move along. The next stop was the Sierras de Cordoba, much smaller mountains than the Andes but they proved to be equally as technical.


Our refugio for the night
  We made it to our refugio for the night. The outback of Argentina is speckled with refugios. Refugios are shelters that people can sleep in and escape the elements. They are usually taken care of by a Guacho (Argentine cowboy) that has animals grazing in the area. They are similar to back country cabins in British Columbia.

The inside of the refugios are pretty simple everything you need and nothing you don t.
  The inside of Argentine refugios are pretty simple, everything you need and nothing you don't.

The Gaucho s herd of sheep watching the sunrise
  The Gaucho's herd of sheep watching the sunrise.

The crew
  The crew.

Quartz everywhere.
  Right off the bat we realized we were in a different landscape once again. First ride of the morning we were climbing our way through super sharp white quartz.

Rock Garden.
  The Sierras are full of these rock gardens, super majestic to ride through.

John Colthorpe Image

Into the mist.
  Into the mist.

Railing through the rock garden in the mist.
  Railing through the rock garden in the mist.

Over decades bikers have slowly wore a smooth line down through the rocks
  Over decades, bikers have slowly wore a smooth line down through the rocks.

John Colthorpe Image

We made it to our refugio for the night The outback of Argentina is speckled with refugios. Refugios are shelters that people can sleep in and escape the elements. They are usually taken care of by a guacho Argentine cowboy that has animals grazing in the area. They are similar to back country cabins in British Columbia.
  And that's a wrap. Our last day of riding ended with an incredible Cordoba star show.


The Girando project will continue every year so if you want to come visit drop them a line, they are always riding!. https://www.facebook.com/girandomtb?ref=br_tf
Must Read This Week

55 Comments

  • + 30
 This is fine and all, but the real question here is: have you guys been chased by an angry Argentinian mob for making an obscure reference to Falklands War?
  • + 0
 Too much "Top Gear" my friend....even tough its quite possible
  • + 0
 They drive with their cars with the plate some offensive plate numbers (how many Argentinian die in the war, etc.). If you play hard, you should be ready to get the pay back
  • + 8
 For once Top Gear didn't actually mean any offence, the number 'coincidences' were far fetched at best and the production crew did change them as soon as someone pointed the problem out, the real problems started after that, even though they'd done their best at righting what wasn't really a wrong. Despite Clarkson being a self proclaimed conservative, he knows better than to poke at unhealed wounds - that's not his style.
  • + 7
 What got me thinking is how strong butt hurt still is in the nation, even after all those years. I'd just shrug and go meh, but out there you've seen people ready to kill. Over a f*cking licence plate.
  • + 0
 that looks like an amazing place to ride, I doubt I will ever go though if top gear was anything to go by
  • + 4
 I actually rode the first trail with Cepi last October. I contacted him through fbook, not only did he show me the trails he also picked my bike up from a shipping company and assembled it! I had a huge crash on a sand chute, but otherwise the whole experience was awesome. I was also in Ushuaia while the whole top gear thing was happening. They didn't gives 2 shits that I was British.
  • + 2
 that's really good to hear, glad you had a great time, its amazing what an impression you can get from the media, whether its good or bad one
  • + 10
 This is killer. Nice photos
  • + 6
 The kind of thing dreams are made of. Awesome stuff.
  • + 5
 Thanks So Much John for such a great post!!!!! www.facebook.com/girandomtb to follow us around here!!
  • + 1
 muchas gracias Cepi por ser tan excelente embajador y por derribar barreras y pre-conceptos!
  • + 1
 Congratulations for the excellent article. I´m thinking about make the trip to Argentina a some months and now, I have decided where i will go to ride in Argentina. I would to know how I can make contact to get informations about excursions in this rota.
  • + 3
 Hi Rodrigo contacto me ir you want. Im coordinador of the trip
  • + 1
 Ouch, this hurts a bit.. I was there a year ago on a bike that got stolen a few days ago (www.facebook.com/job.hendrickx). It is even more beautiful in real life! Hope to get back there one day!
  • + 1
 Incredible adventure amazing places Argentina maybe is the most beautiful country in south america if you like the moutain life
  • + 3
 Very nice write-up and pictures!
  • + 2
 Top Gear's Patagonia special really opened my eyes to what's down there. Awesome!
  • + 2
 I didn't know Jerry Seinfeld rode bikes and went on majestic trips with you guys?!!! ha
  • + 1
 Great photos John! Always good to open PB in the morning and start the day with an awesome photo story. See you in the Puddle!
  • + 1
 You can Check the videos of that trip here: www.pinkbike.com/u/cepidh/channel/Girando-MTB
  • + 2
 Wow. Insanely inspiring.
  • + 2
 love that last photo. also l need the recipe for pollo al disco
  • + 3
 Really easy to make, first you put some some oil into the disco, onions, Chicken, jam, cream, some condiments. And it´s done!
  • + 1
 ya. l need to rig up a disc and cook some up. looks delicious!
  • + 2
 Awesome shots John! Looks like a dream.
  • + 1
 AHHHH so nice there ,awesome pictures as usual John.
  • + 1
 I wanna move to bariloche, but I would need to be independently wealthy.
  • + 2
 Nice photos!
  • + 1
 Stunning. Just don't mention the war.
  • + 2
 Yeah whats the deal with us Brits going there?
  • + 2
 don't mention the war
  • + 4
 I won't mention the war if they don't mention the football...
  • + 4
 "Hand of God"
  • + 2
 oh you didnt
  • + 1
 I think he did you know.
  • + 1
 I did....
  • + 1
 ................................shit
  • + 5
 Impressive indeed, it's almost as beautiful as Chile.... (and we bear no grudges. cheers lads!)
  • + 2
 I love Chilean wine
  • + 2
 I love Argentinian Malbec
  • + 1
 who wants to go ride Chile then?
  • + 1
 not mtb, but I always wanted to do this:

www.southernexplorations.com/antarctica-tours-cruises
  • + 1
 Don't Visit Antarctica! m.youtube.com/watch?v=dH573B1bkHI
  • + 1
 well I wasn't going to trample on moss beds....just take a few pics of penguins and seals. maybe I'll go hug a tree instead
  • + 5
 Hi there! is really sad how skewed the things can get when a bunch of morons are taken like the real measure of the reality of a country and how people is manipulated, I guess is part of the results they are looking for...
I will use numbers to make this issue very graphic: currently there are more than 250,000 British and British descendants living happily in Argentina and enjoying the respect and friendship of all society. In the Argentinean Patagonia there is much cherished Welsh community of 70,000 people live.
I guess is more an UK problem since the amount of pressure the media is putting to increase xenophobia and migration criminalization is staggering, don't behave as lambs, behave as humans!
Regardless of the flag under we have been born, and more importantly, we are human beings that share this world and these times so why don't we start looking at the whole picture and start expanding our friendship circles and knocking down barriers and silly preconceptions.
Regarding the war we are open to talk. A war is a violent conflict where there's no winner regardless the military result, all the land and power conquered won't return any live lost...
And lastly, "talking" is a process that's endless and is valuable when there is a commitment of both sides to ensure that it will be an enrichment process for all parts
Thank you so much for you time!
  • + 0
 alright zaffi chill out, we're all tired, we've all had a long weekend
  • + 1
 Zaffi, good words
  • + 1
 Well said Zaffi. Such a amazing looking country with a equally intresting culture. I hope i get to visit Argentinea at some point.
  • + 2
 stunning
  • + 2
 Great photos!
  • + 2
 Magnifique!
  • + 1
 That truck is SWEET.
  • + 1
 Two words, Bucket List!
  • + 1
 Looks amazing

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