Category Archives: Colombia

Skedaddle Twaddle about our holidays in Colombia

Customer Story: Cycling Colombia

What is great about cycling holidays, is that they are always accompanied by a sweet sense of achievement when you complete the journey. And this is especially true on our fantastic (but challenging) road cycling holiday in Colombia. Our Customer Competition winner, Aileen Jamieson, just had a chance to experience it all first hand! Read her full story to get a real sense of what it’s like to cycle in Colombia…

‘I had never heard of Saddle Skeddadle before, but suddenly an advert appeared on my Facebook after I had been searching for “warm winter cycling destinations”. Desperate to get away from the snow and icy conditions in Scotland, the Colombia Emerald Mountains trip in February seemed like the perfect getaway. I booked the trip 3 months in advance, giving myself plenty of time to get fit (or so I thought). Winter came early in Scotland, and so I reluctantly joined a gym and became best friends with a Wattbike. I convinced myself that there was no way that I would be the slowest cyclist on the trip…

Prior to flying to Colombia, I chatted a few times via email with tour leader David Hall which really helped me with my planning. I arrived in Bogota a few days early to acclimatise and hiked up the Montserrate mountain, smugly looking down on the others who had taken the cable car. I felt fit! The next day all the other Skeddadlers arrived, unpacking their bike boxes and talking about all the epic trips they had done and races they had won. I started to worry. These people looked serious!

The first day in the saddle soon arrived and we were all excited to get on our way. The sun shone, the arm warmers soon came off and the adventure began. Each day started and ended with a climb, and I have never experienced anything like it. I soon learned that everything is achievable if you ride at the right pace and take your time. There was no benefit in racing to the lunch stops as service in Colombia is very laid back, so the food never arrived until after the last person had appeared anyway! The back-to-back challenging rides soon took their toll on me and by day 5 I was worn out. I made the decision then that the support bus was there for a good reason and there was no shame in taking a boost for a few miles. That opportunity came on the morning of day 6, when there was a particularly steep climb (with 16% grade). Another rider and I hopped into the bus and took the opportunity to enjoy the view and take photos of our team as we drove past them. It was the brief respite I needed, and at the next coffee stop I got back on the bike and re-joined the group. It’s amazing how a small boost like that can improve your day considerably, and the drivers Tito and Oscar were so fantastic it would have been a shame not to have spent some time with them!

After a rest day in Medellin, we were all keen to get riding again, and once more the ride started with a long climb out of the city. I noticed the locals use a cable car and wondered if perhaps I was missing a trick somehow! The next day had a particularly steep descent, with rough surfaces and tight bends. I am not a confident descender in these conditions, so I decided it was time to take the magic bus again. Somehow it felt less of a cop-out taking a bus downhill than uphill, and again it gave me far more opportunity to view the beautiful countryside scenery than I would have managed had I been focussing on the road. It also gave me the chance to meet some of the local police who were happy to have their photo taken with me, a memorable moment for sure!

Once we had left the mountains the temperature started to soar to over 35degC. This is why I came to Colombia – to work on my tan lines! The roads were also much flatter and considerably easier. I finally felt like I was on holiday. When we arrived in Cartagena at the old city walls there was a mixed feeling of pride in completing the journey and sadness that it had come to an end. An epic adventure that I will never forget, with a group of amazing people who I intend to stay in touch with and meet again on the next Skedaddle adventure!’

Feeling inspired? Find out more about our Colombian road cycling holiday, our most ambitious and exciting road trip to date!

The lowdown on road cycling in Latin America

Our Road Cycling Product Manager and Tour Leader, David Hall has sampled many a road in his time and over the years he’s developed a strong passion for cycling further afield. He’ll regularly be found on his bike in Costa Rica and Colombia and is the envy of the Skedaddle office at Christmas when he’ll be off cycling tropical climes! Read on if you’re keen to discover more about Saddle Skedaddle’s road cycling opportunities in Latin America…

Long Haul VS Europe… How do they compare?
For me, and many other road cyclists for that matter, riding in the European mountains such as the Alps and Pyrenees is quite hard to beat. Here in Europe there is a huge cycling culture firmly engrained, as well as plenty of noteworthy, iconic mountains, made famous by the Tour de France and other famous races.

Whilst Europe might be considered by many to be the spiritual home of road cycling, it can’t claim exclusive rights on cycling culture. Many Central and South American countries also have long, rich histories in professional cycling and they also offer some superb riding opportunities including some enormous mountains, stunning scenery and seemingly endless miles of almost unexplored roads.

The professional riding scene is also very well-developed and Colombian and Costa Rican riders such as Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Uran and Andrey Amador are pretty much household names for many British cycling fans. One great thing about offering trips in far flung destinations is that it allows us to extend the cycling season because come December, when most European mountain roads are covered in snow, we’re almost guaranteed perfect riding conditions.

What makes Latin America so appealing, do you think?
Well apart from the fantastic riding, I just love the general sense of energy – there’s a certain buzz and vibrancy that’s impossible to ignore. Music and dance are such an important part of Latin culture and having a good time seems to be very important to Latin people – it’s hard not get drawn into the party atmosphere.

What’s your favourite long haul destination?
To be honest, each of our three Latin American cycling destinations have their own unique attractions, so it’s hard to pick a favourite.

If I’m pushed I would opt for Colombia. Cycling is as ingrained in the Colombian culture as it is in any European destination and we enjoy the company of local riders out on the roads every day. The scenery is very dramatic and the climbing is unrivalled. One of the highlights of our tour is the ascent of Alto De Letras, at around 52 miles it is reputed to be the longest climb in the world and it is certainly one of the more challenging rides in the Skedaddle portfolio. Colombia is the only place I know where you can spend an entire day tackling a single climb!

Then there’s Costa Rica – one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. It’s a tiny country accounting for 0.03% of the earth’s surface yet home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity. I just love the way that the nature comes to us as we ride through the country as we travel from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific. There aren’t many places on earth where you can cross a continent in less than 2 weeks.

Finally our Chile and Argentina tour provides a totally different experience and a unique landscape. The snow-capped volcanoes and towering monkey puzzle trees feel worlds away from the tropical climes of Costa Rica and Colombia. It isn’t without challenges but it is a slightly more gentle tour and as such it’s a great destination for anyone looking to cut their teeth in the region.

Have you got any advice for people looking to travel to Latin America?
I always think it’s a good idea, if you have the time, to try and arrive a day or two before the start of a trip to allow for a little recovery from the long journey and to adjust to the different climate – I’m not very keen on jumping on a bike when I’m still jet-lagged. Another consideration, specifically when travelling to Colombia, is that we spend quite a few days at high altitude – again arriving a day or so early to start the acclimatisation process is a great idea and we always encourage riders to listen to their bodies and take it easy during the first couple of stages.



 Are there any aspects of long haul travel that cyclists are often concerned about? 
We sometimes get questions about security and some folks express concerns that some countries might not be safe to explore. My response to this is simply that we wouldn’t ever offer a trip if we thought it was dangerous to do so – we have absolutely no interest in putting our customers or our staff at risk, it just doesn’t make sense. Of course we expect everyone who joins us to exercise common sense, as we have to in all the destinations that we visit but we’ve been leading tours in South and Central America for well over 20 years and our experiences have only ever been positive … that speaks volumes.

Any parting thoughts?
If you fancy something slightly different, give it a go! I’ve been putting trips together and leading tours in these destinations for years now and they still feel as fresh and exciting as they did the first time around. Even now these are still pioneering tours and on the occasions when we divert from our usual routes and visit new towns and villages, we still find that we are amongst the first, if not the only, foreign tourists to have passed through on two wheels – few destinations can make such a claim these days.

For those keen to sample Latin America on a road bike, we have three fantastic holidays to choose from: Colombia, Costa Rica or Chile and Argentina.

Customer Story: Colombia – El Resumen

Skedaddlers never stop surprising us with the ways they capture their holidays! Here’s quite a unique one and it’s from Karen who joined us to Colombia recently. Check out what a Skedaddle holiday to South America looks like in numbers…

Andrew-and-Karen-climbing-Letras

‘# of riders: 16 (7 from Canada, 4 from the UK, 2 from Trinidad, 2 from Holland and me, the lone American)
# of tour leaders: 1 (Andrew, British)
# of tour guides: 1 (Tomas, Colombian)
# of wives of tour guides who made sure we ate and had a place to sleep: 1 (Juana, Colombian)
# of drivers: 2 (Tito and Oscar, both Colombian)
# of incredible people on the trip: 21 (yes, I included myself!)
% of time I understood the Brits (in English): 80%
% of time I understood the Colombians (in Spanish): 85%
# of days of riding: 10
# of total miles ridden: 615 (approximately)
# of times I laughed nervously when Tomas described the ride for the next day: 17
# of days that I finished the entire ride (generally to my surprise): 10
% of time during the rides that Tito and Oscar offered amazing support (i.e., nutritional, mechanical, emotional and motivational): 100%
# of typical wardrobe changes each day (e.g., arm warmers, rain jacket, vest, etc.): 3
# of times the riders cheered the arrival of fellow riders after a long climb or difficult stage: 5
# of times I pumped my fist and yelled out loud while believing I was the toughest person alive because I had just finished a nearly 1 mile section of a very steep climb: 1
# of times I looked around and saw my fellow riders beaming: 32 (this typically happened after a particularly good descent)
# of times I looked around and saw breathtaking scenery (everything is so green!): 863
# of pictures taken by Christian, a fellow rider: 705 (I only took about 100)
# of miles of the longest climb (Alto de Letras): 52
# of meters climbed: 4,000
# of hours it took me to complete the climb: 10 total hours including lunch and multiple breaks; 8 hours actually riding my bike (very very slowly)
# of times Andrew told me that I was going to finish the climb after I expressed some doubts: 21
# of miles Andrew rode alongside me to make sure I’d finish: 14 (or roughly 3 hours)
# of demonstrations that closed down roads that thankfully we were allowed to ride through: 3 (2 regarding a teachers’ strike and 1 for a community that didn’t have water for 2 weeks)
# of said protests during which two non-Spanish speaking members of our group were given a mic and asked to say a few words: 1
# of impromptu police escorts: 1
# of fantastically unique road signs: 11
# of times people cheered us on as we passed by: 42
# of times I felt so incredibly fortunate to be part of this tour: too many to count

A big thank you to all the Skedaddle staff and my fellow riders. It truly was an incredible and unforgettable trip.’

On-the-way-to-Santa-Rosa-de-Osos

Feeling inspired? Now is the time to start thinking about visiting Colombia yourself. It’s a very popular destination, so don’t miss out!