Mountain Biking Ecuador’s Highest Mountain

Elbow pads, check. Knee pads, check. Shin pads, check. Helmet, check. Gloves, check. Balaclava, check. Breaks work. Gears works. Seat’s my height. 

And we’re off, flying down Chimborazo!!

Actually no, we weren’t flying.

I was squeezing the breaks on my bike as hard as I possibly could without actually stopping the bike. My legs were shaking, my heart was pounding. I’d never mountain biked before.

And I was afraid I was going to rip down the mountain, slide on gravel or loose dirt, and go straight over the side.

Sure, it’d be the most direct way down, but that’s not exactly what I was going for.

For the first 5 minutes, I desperately wanted flat pavement. Then I kind of got into a groove. 

 

It was a blast! My favourite part was going through the rural villages but I enjoyed all of it. On the mountain, I felt so connected to the earth.

At one point, I was going along a dirt track, doing a great job of dodging giant tuffs of mountain grass that I thought might throw me off the bike. It was so peaceful – not a sound except the crunching of the earth beneath my tires.

I let my mind drift away from the ground in front of me for a second. I wanted to fully enjoy the peace that I was experiencing. 

I felt so free.

And then my front tire hit a huge tuff and the brakes escaped my hands and I lost my footing and came crashing down on the seat.

Ouch!

Inner peace time was over. Back to concentrating.

That was the last time I let my mind drift from the ground immediately I front of me.   

Why Chimborazo 

Truthfully, neither Riobamba or this mountain were on our radar. I really had my heart set on hiking up to the glacier on Cotopaxi but I was really sick in Quito so we had to cancel our Cotopaxi trip.

Matt knew how bummed out I was about Cotopaxi, and he discovered that we could mountain bike down Ecuador’s biggest mountain. I was sold!

Chimborazo isn’t just a massive mountain to be climbed up or biked down. It’s also home to adorable vicuñas!
  
They used to be extinct in Ecuador. But in an effort to bring the vicuñas back, Peru and Chile gave Ecuador around 150 of the animals in the 1980s. Today, their population has increased and Ecuador is home to about 6,000 of those cute little guys.

But First, Let Me Hike To 5,100 Meters

Neither Matt nor I had ever mountain biked before Chimborazo. And with zero seconds of experience between us, we naturally chose the biggest mountain in Ecuador (and the highest mountain in the world if you count from the centre of the earth’s core) to give it a go.

We kicked off at 4,800 metres and hiked to 5,100 metres. Despite not summiting, this is waaaay higher than the highest mountain in Canada…and higher the tallest Rocky Mountain. 

I struggled with the altitude like crazy, having to stop ever 10 or so feet (probably didn’t help that 2 days earlier I’d been tossing the old cookies every 10 mins). It took us about an hour to reach 5,100 metres. Maybe even longer but whose counting at that altitude?


We spent a few seconds recovering and headed back down to 4,800 metres where we suited up and got on our bikes. 

Biking Spirit Review
The company we chose to tackle Chimborazo with was Biking Spirit. We did Route 2. This route is apparently a Biking Spirit exclusive:

We will ride primarily on dirt roads and single tracks through archaeological inka ruins, mineral springs and Indian communities; you will observe magnificent views of Chimborazo’s south face.

Level: Moderate

Distance: 37 km, 26 km on dirt route and 11 km on pavement

Uphill distance: 2 km approximated

Downhill distance: 32 km approximated
Highest altitude: Whymper shelter 5000 masl (16.405 feet)
Lowest altitude: San Juan 3200 masl (10.500 feet)

Total time: 6 to 8 hours

Edison was our guide for the day, and we couldn’t have asked for anyone better. He’s a great guide, super professional and experienced, and packs a mean picnic. 

  

Before each leg, he would prepare us for what was coming. Since this was our first time mountain biking, he prepared us for the first leg of the day by letting us know that it’s best not to fly down the mountain when you’ve never done this before because that’s how people get hurt. 

We never flew. And I never even had the urge to. Dodging rocks and trying to stay up right was exciting enough!

— Cyn and Matt

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