Guatemala Mountain Biking: Part One - Antigua Trails

Feb 28, 2017 at 13:05
by Lee Lau  

GUATEMALA

While the mountain biking in Canada’s Sea to Sky corridor is diverse and amazing, there are times in the year when it's nice to leave the wet coast. For us, fall shoulder season is from Mid October to Mid November, when the rains come and before the snow falls. It's 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 as well as other luminaries like Steve Storey, Justa Jeskova and Mike Gamble raves about the country you know that a place might be worth visiting for both the experience and for riding.

Based on this knowledge and input from trusted sources we arranged to ride 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. Juan saw the potential for guided mountain biking in Guatemala and started Backshop Bikes to cater to people who want to come to ride Guatemala's trails and experience what the region has to offer.

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.

Juan of BackShop Bikes getting comfortable on our way to another ride

Volcan Agua looms over the beautiful town on Antigua

Volcan riding

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 where connections are made from North to Central America. We rented Kona Precepts from Old Town Outfitters (OTO) so we wouldn’t have to bring our own bikes down. If you're travelling through Mexico airport not having bikes is a good thing since you have to pick up your baggage on your connecting flight and go through security again so be warned about luggage logistics. We found that not being bogged down with bikes made it a lot easier to do other trips including to Tikal, Rio Dulce on the Caribbean coast, and to neighbouring volcanos; as recounted here. Having said that it's possible to leave bikes with some hotels or outfitters or, of course, a friend.

To give an example of costs (not including airfare), your all inclusive costs for a week of guided riding, comfy accommodations and great food is around $2250 pp USD. A bike rental will run you more and there will be more options so an email to Backshop for quotes is recommended.

Here is a general overview map of some of the places we visited in Guatemala over the course of three weeks.



Antigua backyard rides

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 it's 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 a 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 a time (also from the USA) and two local Guatemalans. Humber is 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.

Antigua s colonial architecture

Evening light on Antigua



SANTO TOMAS AND SANTO LUCIA

Our first ride centred around the villages of Sta Tomas and Sta Lucia just 15 minutes drive from Antigua. Our ride was on the Lecheria, La Pinada, and the Labyrinth zones, all areas being scoped out by Pablo Jose. Our last ride via the Labyrinth allowed us to finish up by cruising back into Antigua. PJ and Humber form the core of a group called Team Mountain Raptors 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.

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Ride starts at Hobbitenango after a vehicle shuttle assist

PJ rocking Team Raptors colours to set the tone on the trail. Note the reddish dirt characteristic of volcanic soil deposits from neighbouring active historical flows

Sharon rocking some tunnel riding

Humber dropping in

Juan in the tunnels

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. Juan and PJ also knew how to link rides so that they would end up close to local food stalls and eating places. Consequently, any wait time for the truck was well-spent. The trails have reddish dirt characteristic of volcanic soil deposits from neighbouring active historical flows and are mixed with clay so can be a handful when wet - you have been warned.

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 and a good introduction to Guatemala trails.

Up for another lap past friendly local women hauling wood for fires- Photo Wes Butler

Wes carving more tunnels

More gravity for PJ and Humber

Another assist

Just because there s an assist doesn t negate the need for more climbing

The lushest darkest jungle towards the end of the day

Barely made it out barely without headlamps. This crew really wants to ride a ton

Elevation profile and map of our ride



VOLCAN AGUA TRAILS

Day two of our trip with BackShop Bikes had us ride on trails on the flanks of Volcan Agua. Keep in mind that Antigua itself is at an elevation of 1530m. Volcan Agua is almost 2 vertical kms above Antigua at an elevation of 3760m but we didn't start from its peak. Instead, our rides started in the village of Santa Maria de Jesus about 20 minutes drive south of Antigua on a steep paved road and ended in the village of San Juan del Obispo, riding through agricultural areas, farmers fields, and jungle. The villages are not in a region quite as densely populated as the previous days ride closer to Antigua and consequently these trails were not as old and trenched. There are a high proportion of ethnic Mayans in this area many of whom live in areas without power or electricity especially at higher elevations.

Due to the nature of its location on a volcano's flank, the soil on the trails and countryside is extraordinarily fertile and vegetation fecund. The sheer amount of tropical jungle flowers and colours in the area is very distracting and the views are exceptional. Combined with the street life and business of Sta Maria (it is a regional trading hub), the rides today were a cultural and bio-geo-climatic sensory experience as well as really fun high-quality mountain biking.

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Just chilling before the rides - the big kids and the little kids

Grabbed some baked goods at the Market in town. What s a ride without some food and some culture

Commuting through town to trailhead

We go up remember what I said about the vehicle assist not negating the climb

Views towards Agua and also towards Acatenango in the clouds

PJ in the flowers

With the exception of the last trail these were all fast flowy mostly downhill trails. Humber practising earthbased kickouts

With the exception of the last trail these were all fast flowy mostly downhill trails. Humber practising earthbased kickouts

Tropical flowers sure are something else

Wes in the flowers

Each of these rides was 5-6km long with an elevation drop of 500m and with about 100 to 150m of climbIng so yet again the moderate comfortable "eternal spring-like" temperatures were welcome. The shuttle retrieval was about as fast as the ride, with only a 10 minute or so wait. You can certainly bang out an impressive number of very fast laps here and we did. Cultural distractions could include the regional market, coffee plantations, ice-cream shops, lots and lots of bakeries and again; lots of good inexpensive food.

The last trail was technical rock crawling and where I ate it hard - almost destroying a camera and getting a beauty of a hip pointer. Volcanic rock is not forgiving. It did showcase the diversity of the riding in a very upfront and personal way.

Following PJ - Photo Wes Butler

Humber leading me out - Photo Wes Butler

Wes styling the rocks


Basic map of our rides on Volcan Agua



AN ABORTIVE RIDE TO STA CATARINA AND A CULTURAL INTERLUDE WITH MAYA PEDAL

One of our rides was a case-study in route finding and a good lesson in the importance of scouting routes beforehand. It turns out that Guatemala (and the Antigua area in particular) is under tremendous population pressure. Deforestation is an endemic problem in many tropical/equatorial countries but moreso in a Guatemala, a country where the population is expanding so greatly. Especially in the surrounding cities of Sta Catarina de Baharona, San Lorenzo del Cubo and Ciudad Vieja what were once singletrack trails can become impassable clear cuts and/or jungles as trails are taken out by deliberately set burns, by gates set up by communities or simply by nature taking back the forest.

What was supposed to be a massive descent from the highland town of Parramos to Sta Catarina de Baharona turned out to be an ignominious retreat and then a road ride back to Antigua. Fortunately the day was not wasted as the road ride itself was through interesting country.

Jungle trail from Parramos started out strong with intense saturated greens through narrow tracks

Cool plantation riding

Unfortunately a long climb towards the downhill reveals that the trail to the valley is gone

We had started the day out strong by visiting and experiencing a fairly unique not-for-profit. Poverty is widespread in Guatemala and non-renewable power can be out of reach for many people. As such many NGO’s exist to help them out. Maya Pedal is one that started in 1997 with the Canadian group PEDAL. They recycle old bikes and give them to needy people, as well they repurpose bikes and parts to do other human powered mechanical jobs like husk peanuts, make smoothies and perform other tasks.

Maya Pedal is situated in the town of San Andres Itzapa and well worth checking out. Of note - they accept volunteers to come and work in the shop to help build and create new human powered machines providing lodging and food. Perhaps another way to check the country out for yourself.

A bit more on what Maya Pedal does

This machine drives a peanut grinder

Your old U-brakes rigid forks and Y-bike frames become water pumps motors and sundry machines.



Where to Stay

Stay at Casa Del Sol if you are more on budget and like communal hostel-style living. 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. Antigua is small but even so it's fair to say that Casa Del Sol's location is very convenient. Just down the street are all mod cons and it's just a short 10-minute walk to the Central Square.

Note that it's possible to book long-term stays at this location but you should reserve beforehand as Casa Del Sol is popular with many parties and there is a good chance that it will fill up - particularly during busy seasons.

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Hotel San Jorge is another location which has the upside of a HUGE terrace. It is in a bit of quieter part of Antigua yet still just 10 minutes from the Central Square. The rooms are very private, the breakfasts there are massive and included with the room rate. Also included is a lunch that they will pack for you. Of note for bike travellers, there is actually a courtyard for parking (rare in Antigua where parking is at a premium) with lots of places to stash bikes, bike boxes or random stuff you won't need if you are travelling elsewhere where you won't need a bike. There is no extra charge for such storage.

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Guatemala Mountain Biking

El Carmen Suites is another worthy alternative with a very close to central plaza location. Perfect if you really want to be just 1-minute walk from where it all happens. Potentially there can be a tad more noise but that comes with the location. El Carmen also had exceptional breakfasts (HUGE BURRITOS the size of one's head) which is a plus for anyone who is a gourmand for tasty filling food.

Guatemala Mountain Biking



Where to Eat

Antigua is more expensive than most other Guatemalan towns. Budget 30Qpp for each of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Having said that there is simply too much good food in Antigua to describe. The map above might give you a start but even so the choices are overwhelming. If you want to see some of our personal favourites read this (about comida tipica and panaderia/bakeries) and this (about Antiguan food).

A Google map of places to eat in Antigua is below. If a 20Q breakfast is too much for your taste (that's Cad$4, USD$3) there's always the option to cook for yourself. The hostels and some hotels have means for you to prep your own food and make coffee (or coffee is included). Food is cheap to buy at the La Bodegona grocery store and local groceries at the Antiguan mercado are dirt-cheap (veges for 3 dinners for 20Q; the ubiquitous Pollo for 3 dinners the same). Coffee is insanely good and also well priced.

Guatemala Mountain Biking

With all that said here's a small selection of what stood out. Rony's Tacos is a value special. Sure you get three tacos for 35Q but YOU CAN LOAD THEM UP AS MUCH AS YOU WANT!!! Voila.

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Le Cuevita has the same MO as Rony's. Pick what you want and load it up.

General - lifestyle food kids more food etc

Breakfast at Cafe Condesa looks Gucci but is insanely good and inexpensive for being so good. Plus you get to buy baked goods for afterward at reasonable prices.

General - lifestyle food kids more food etc

La Gelateria is the only gelato place in Antigua. Three scoops for 15Q and it's half off if you buy before 12noon. WIN! Unfortunately, I did not have the presence of mind to take a picture while scarfing gelato.

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Hector's Bistro is NOT cheap but omnonnom it is soooo good. Gringo prices for sure

General - lifestyle food kids more food etc

General - lifestyle food kids more food etc

Make up for splurging on gringo food by buying 3 pan chocolate the size of your freaking head for 10Q at Panaderia Se Llama Betty. You'll have to hunt for it at this link. Just ONE of these puppies takes care of lunch.

Pan Chocolate from Panaderia Se Llama Betty

Save also on libations by picking up some beer at the La Bodegona Grocery store. Hot tip is to see if other competing beer vendors try to crash the party and break the Gallo quasi beer monopoly because Gallo will immediately drop prices to crush competition. I walked in one day to see this 15 pack of Gallo selling for 55Q. Can't beat that. Bought two flats and killed the back bringing them back to the hotel (it was worth it)

Guatemala Mountain Biking

Last but not least save a pile of money by buying fresh vegetables, meat, and other groceries at the local markets whether Antigua or Ciudad. If your hotel allows you to prepare even some basic sandwiches or breakfast you can probably make better food for yourself given how good Guatemalans are at growing agriproduce in such remarkably fertile soil.

Guatemala Mountain Biking



Tips and tricks for Guatemala

1. The currency in Guatemala is the Quetzal. When we were there the exchange was 7.5Q to $1.00US. Bring USD if you want to have cash and change to Qs. Many cambios (exchange houses) will change from CAD or EUR to Q but the USD is still the easiest currency to change. But see caveat below.

2. The exchange houses give pretty poor exchange rates. The first cambio you’ll see as enter Guatemala International Airport is actually the worst rate. The cambio in the lower floor as you get to the exits is the best rate. You will get a way better rate at ATM’s.

3. Card skimming is a problem at ATMs. Use an ATM at a place with a security guard in front. Pharmacies tend to have ATMs and security guards.

4. Tourism is so big in Antigua that ATMs tend to run out of cash on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you need Qs get it early on Friday.

Antigua views are stereotypically beautiful. This is Antojitos Salvadoreanas which also was another win for food

5. Theft is overhyped in Guatemala City. We didn’t have a problem with thefts, just be normally cautious as you would in any big city. But whatever you do DO NOT use the red buses. Those are renowned for muggings and pickpocketing

The red buses are according to locals run by drug gangs. Don t take them unless you want to run a high risk of getting mugged and or beaten and or sho

6. The temps were 15 deg C to 25 deg C so you don’t need a lot of warm clothes. The exception are the high volcanos which can get chilly with temps approaching freezing at night

Volcan Fuego may erupt every 15 minutes but it s heat won t help you when night -time temps drop to freezing

7. Drink bottled or filtered water. The major cities have better water but even so filtered water is advisable.

8. Guatemala City gets a bad rap. Street life and people watching in “Ciudad” is pretty fun. However, traffic sucks ass in Ciudad and you will hate life if you’re stuck in one of their interminable traffic jams. If you have to get in or out of Ciudad leave lots of time. For example, if you have to catch a flight you’d be best off to either get there the day before or make sure you leave hours and hours to make your flights. Read more about Ciudad here If you get a chance to go to Mercado Central do not pass that up

Mercado Central in Ciudad is a rabbit warren of cool stuff

9. Everyone seems to have a cell or smartphone in Guatemala. If you need a phone you can get one from Tigo, Movistar or Claro. Tigo seems to have the best rural coverage. Claro has the best urban coverage and Movistar is a solid meh all around. Air time is cheap and you easily get more minutes at many locations. If you have unlocked phones from your local carrier you can get a SIM card, plug it in and away you go. Check that your handset works with the providers here

These wonderfully well-dressed women in the main square in Ciudad She just took a selfie for Instagram NTIAWT

El Zur jungle rides


MENTIONS: @leelau

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52 Comments

  • + 10
 Awesome trip report, thanks Lee! My wife stayed at Hotel San Jorge many years ago...Which makes a biking trip down there a much easier sell! And you are correct, it's about more than just the biking!
  • + 10
 That last picture riding through the jungle brings so many memories. I love that area. Glad to see you guys get to ride that trail as well Smile
  • + 5
 Rony's Tacos and El Zur, take me back! Brings back great memories of our trip there, @leelau. And that last photo, El Estadio. One of the most beautiful stretches of trail I've seen or ridden. Looking forward to seeing where else you guys went.
  • + 8
 Great read but I am here for the food pics!! I need to bucket list this one! Thanks for sharing!!
  • + 8
 That's what a lot of people miss. These trips are about culture, food AND biking!!
  • + 4
 I keep busting on PB to make a food section in there photo section but I get no love! What a rip!! Keep up the great work! And hit me up next time! I need a vacay something fierce!!!
  • + 5
 @whattheheel: I just stuck up a Food picture as a screengrab from Google Maps in the writeup. Unfortunately there's no functionality to share my starred places to the public generally. I would have to use Google MyMaps to create a new custom map but that would be a lot of work as it would mean a manual import of all places (there's way to automate the export with JSON files but that's way too much work). Too bad as Google Map works without internet as it can be saved on a device then batch updated once there's Internet connectitvity. MyMaps requires an always on connection.

Anyhow TL;dr - there;s now a screengrab of some selected Antiguan places to eat. Lots to pick from there.
  • + 2
 Gracias Senor!
  • + 3
 @leelau: Nice work! I especially appreciate the travel tips you have contributed with some pricing references involved! As someone who has little air travel biking experience, I'd love to see more PB content that includes tips on transport, commuting, places to stay, people, food, guiding, and travel gear and packing etc. for aspiring bike adventurers. Biking and eating are my favorite sports!
  • + 2
 If you make it down to Guatemala, be sure to use this food/restaurant site. It can be translated from Spanish of course! mister-menu.com
  • + 1
 Awesome!! Thank you!!
  • + 4
 Wow, looks incredible riding! Me and my wife are currently travelling the world and Guatemala was truly one of our favourite places and one of the few places we really want to return to. Having read this, I am now thinking we need to take the bikes. One of the best moments of our entire trip was actually hiking up a Volcano to watch it erupt all night, absolutely incredible experience even if I did get altitude sickness. The whole hike down though, I kept thinking how awesome a trail it would be to ride. We wrote a blog about our adventure, maybe look it up as a riding option for next time...
Hiking Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala - adventureofalifetime.co.uk/acatenango-volcano-hike-fuego
  • + 4
 Stunning pictures. What a mindblowing experience
  • + 4
 I hiked Acatanengo five years ago and was treated to a perfect sunset and perfect sunrise from the top. I agree - it would make for an awesome bike ride down.
  • + 3
 Yes, riding bikes on the next trip would be a great way to revisit Guatemala. As you know, there are so many places to explore in the country, and two wheels make more accessible in and around Antigua. Feel free to reach out anytime if you have any questions!
  • + 5
 Have not been to Antigua in 29 years now. Makes me want to go back. Gorgeous country for someone from desert area. People were beautiful there, hospitable,etc.
  • + 4
 So much has changed, including cost of living. It is not as inexpensive as it once was, but the charm and appeal of the place has not. Hopefully you get a chance to make it back down again!
  • + 4
 RAD article @leelau !! I had an amazing time last summer with all those guys and cannot wait to get back! So much left untouched, un-ridden, and not eaten :-) Thanks for reminding me to get plans in order!
  • + 3
 My wife and I took our honeymoon in Guatemala (Antigua) to help with non profit work and I have to say it is such an amazing place. Thanks for sharing your trip details with us, the region has some amazing places for biking, and great coffee to be found. This article has pulled me back in and I know we will be visiting there again soon, this time for some bike-related adventures.

Great job on the article, awesome photos, vids and overall excellent guide. Love this kind of post on Pinkbike.
  • + 2
 My girlfriend and I were just in Antigua at the end of February into early march. We went on a guided tour through Old town Outfitters which went through many of the surrounding communities allowing us to see much of the country side and culture of the area. We plan to go again and find some more trail oriented mountain biking, so we'll definitely be hitting Backshop Bikes up to see what they have to offer. Awesome write up!
  • + 2
 Here is a quick vid of our ride going through the towns outside Antigua:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wCxUJ3OIvo

Also wanted to mention that Hectors Bistro has some very good food. I recommend going there at least once during your stay if you ever find yourself near Antigua
  • + 3
 @Lyndo: Gotcha- Went to Hector's Bistro. Pricey but worth it to splurge
  • + 3
 Great to hear you enjoyed your time in Antigua and Old Town Outfitters! There really is so much to explore and no lack of trail options. Every time you pedal out of time its hard to keep your head focused ahead, because you want to keep eye out for new trail ideas!
  • + 4
 $2250 per person per week, not including bike rental!!
You're doing something very wrong with your money. Guatemala is much cheaper than that.
  • + 4
 Aye valid observation. There was a good suggestion about modelling cost per trip for a DIY in a PB travel article. I'll do some back of envelope calculations and write something. Some more numbers are in Part 2 but if you all are sufficiently curious I'll drop the numbers in here now. The difficulty is in getting to the trails where frankly I'd be guessing
  • + 5
 @leelau: You cheapest option, which might feel risky, would be to find local bikers to hang with. All of the local bike shops host rides and know of riders who have time to show you around. You could look up Pinkbike members who live in Guatemala and make contact beforehand. Many will speak English, and everyone is happy to show off Guatemala. You wouldn't want to limit yourself to the Antigua area either. Sololá and the lake Atitlán region has some great trails, as does Quetzaltenango (Xela) and also Huehuetenango, to mention a few.
  • + 4
 @GuateRick: That's a good idea and I'm glad you brought that up. It means a bunch of work for the Pinkbike readers but that would work. One of the things I should have mentioned is that there aren't a lot of trails mapped and a bunch of the trails go through private property too so there's some sensitivity there so am a bit reluctant to just unleash trail info on the Internet publicly. Trailforks has very little info. Rutas MTB has some.

But then there's stuff like Atitlan "Slickrock'" which is sensitive and a bunch of the highlands around Xela which is also sensitive. So its' probably better to have locals (or hired) guides show people around.
  • + 1
 @GuateRick: Where is a good place to get more info about the Atitlan area? I'm going to be living with a family there for a month and will want to rent a bike and ride.
  • + 2
 @chuckd71: There is a group who get together every Sunday to ride out of Panajachel. I sent a message to a bike shop in Pana about rental possibilities, as I think they are more geared for the day--and not sure how decent the bike options are. Send me a message with what town and rough dates and I can get back to you with more info.
  • + 4
 @leelau: I agree that it's better not to have tourists off on their own. You really need to hook up with locals or a touring company as they know the local conditions—where to go, and where not to go; how to interact with the farmers who use those trails daily, etc.
  • + 4
 @chuckd71: There's actually an American who lives in Atitlan area who was featured in an Outside article. Good place to start maybe.https://www.outsideonline.com/2071096/balancing-independence-and-teamwork-duos-racing-survival-guide

Panajachel is growing, some good and some bad of course. Bike shops have not really made their way. Plenty to explore in that area, you can utilize lanchas, but keep in mind some of the villages are more accustomed to seeing tourists, especially on bikes, than others.
  • + 4
 IMO you pay with time or money... If you have the time you can look at maps, chat with locals, hope the trails you choose go and are worth it, then you also need to spend the time shopping for food, cooking or going out to eat. or you go with a guide and support and get up in the morning, eat, load into a vehicle, ride, ride again, eat, ride, get back home, eat sleep repeat.
  • + 2
 @Sharonb: Totally right. Going with the locals only works if your wanting to do other things and add biking to the mix. It isn't that easy to get off the tourist trail.
  • + 1
 @GuateRick: there's some Ciudad local riding groups but the guys I know in it are weekend only 9-5ers and family men so could only ride 1 - 2 days/week. It was a bit out of scope of this article to start getting into hooking up with locals! We were pretty fortunate to ride with Pablo Jose and Humber out of Antigua
  • + 5
 Man I love these destination stories. Thank PB. Come visit us in Korea some time.
  • + 3
 So many places to go and see on a bike right? How is the ridding in Korea?
  • + 2
 I've only ever heard fantastic things about Korea from my friends who are Korean, or those who have lived their. I've only been to the airport, so that does not count!
  • + 2
 @backshopbikes: Trails are raw and rowdy. The riding scene here is small but growing all the time. There are some people really pushing the development of bike parks, trails, teams, racing etc. Trails here make me a better bike handler when I am back in the U.S. during the summer time. Once the idea of the switchback trail makes it here, this place has the potential to be world class. Mountains everywhere.
  • + 1
 @timrippeth: I've had friends from So Korea visit who are excellent bike handlers because of the technical trails - surprised me. I was told that, while there aren't many people who mtb in So Korea, the ones who do are very keen.

It's good to hear that confirmed from your perspective
  • + 1
 @timrippeth: Awesome! Thanks for the feedback. Small riding scenes are truly the best. Be a part of a raw scene means creativity and unique characters. The kinds of things that make for a special travel experience. Only a matter of time before it gets to world class status!
  • + 4
 Killer writeup. Thanks for sharing! Can't wait to go back and ride!
  • + 3
 I just followed your link and saw you hiked Acatenango too... such an awesome experience. Love you blog, some great trips!
  • + 1
 That was an excellent , well rounded trip report. Especially the local tips. $2250 a week seems really out of line with that whole area though. That might be the gringo price though.
  • + 4
 Yah that's gringo prices for sure. And also Antigua prices. You'd be saving a lot staying in Joco just for example. But a budget trip description is kind of out of scope of the article.
  • + 4
 The reality is that Guatemala is no longer a cheap travel destination, especially Antigua. And yes that can be directly attributed to the gringo. Take a look at the real estate prices in Antigua and you'll see things have changed. If you leave, Antigua, things go down in price. However, the notion that Central America in general is the cheap travel destination of the 90s is long over. Costa Rica set the tone and now the rest of the region is adopting.

Of note, Lee and Sharon were on a slightly different itinerary. The $2250 price point includes everything, lodging, meals, all in country transportation, and guides.
  • + 4
 Dang straight CAFE CONDESSSA! Great article y'all.
  • + 4
 Great article and coverage!!
  • + 3
 This is what it's all about. Amazing!
  • + 1
 Crime is not overhyped, specially in the city, trust me I know!
  • + 3
 Bummer to hear you had problems in the city. Crime is still a problem in Guatemala. But ask yourself where in the world are you exactly safe, including the United States? It all comes back to risk management. Keeping aware of your surroundings, who you with, and what you carry. Basic travel stuff. The crime in Guatemala is no joke, but its also not a reason to miss out on sweet riding!
  • + 1
 Who picked to the music?
  • - 1
 Is this a 'throwback monday' article from 2004?

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