Ecuador, 5-day Mountain Bike Tour with Biking Dutchman

I'd thoroughly recommend this trip, provided you understand what it truly is.  That's the point of writing this blog and making the videos.

Biking Dutchman had no editorial input and I made the videos for myself, not their business.  We paid full price and have received no benefit from the shoot.  OK, let's go.

We were in Ecuador for a week-long swimming holiday in the Galapagos Islands.  I wrote and made a video about that here.

After travelling all the way to South America from Scotland we didn't want to rush back, wanted to see some of Ecuador and felt we could spare an extra ten days.

We'd take a few of those days in Quito before and after the Galapagos, so we were looking to travel around for five days.  We bought the Lonely Planet, an excellent guidebook to the country.

Many of the 'must-see' places were in cities, and neither of us particularly enjoy the urban environment.  We are drawn to wilder places; the huge volcanoes, the Quechua Indian towns, the Amazon jungle.

I stumbled online across the business called Biking Dutchman.  I thought riding a mountain bike down one of the volcanoes would be fun for a day or two.  But as I explored their site, I realised their multi-day tours visited many of the places we'd read about in the Lonely Planet.

"Cotopaxi is our bread and honey", explained Jan when we first met.  Day trips to the mountain from Quito are very popular and the mountain bike lets you experience it in a different way.

Starting point on Cotopaxi
A little cycling experience is handy but not essential, provided you take it gently.  It's much more than just battering down the jeep road.  Indeed, the day really got going for me when we ventured away from tracks and trails into Cotopaxi National Park itself.  There are other operators who offer similar trips, some with really fancy full suspension bikes, but that's not what's needed on this route.

Music in all videos:

Overnight was in one of the two refuges run by a local mountain guide.  It had the atmosphere of an Alpine Hut but with much better facilities.  There was a fascinating garden and a 'store' of guinea pigs?  "Do you name them", the guide was asked.  "Yes - Monday, Tuesday, etc.  They're dinner".

Monday, Tuesday...etc
Chimborazo feels quite different to Cotopaxi.  A much shorter initial descent, then the second part of the day spent on tarmac descending a fertile valley.  You'll see what I mean.

I plotted the places on a Google Map (see below) and quickly realised the distances involved.  If we were going to cover all this, we'd spend a long time in a vehicle as well as on a saddle.  OK, we thought, that'll be part of the adventure.  It was.

The 1 million kilometre truck
The vehicle was a Toyota Land Cruiser.  It was somewhat battered with an ill-fitting back door and side-facing bench seats in the rear.  The recently installed seat belts (to comply with new laws) were lap-straps.  I learnt that one of their three Land Cruisers has clocked up more than a million kilometres.  Nevertheless, propped against our luggage, and with just three passengers for most of the trip, we were comfortable.  This is an adventure...

In two days we travelled from the roof of the earth to the dense Amazon jungle, much of it on mountain bikes.

On a trip like this the guide is everything.  Their demeanour makes or breaks a trip, and we were fortunate to have the Biking Dutchman himself.  62 year old Jan travelled the world before he settled in Ecuador and married local woman Ana who runs the office.  Their old house is now their office a short taxi-ride north of Quito's Old Town while they live on the city outskirts.

Jan the Biking Dutchman
On the last day we biked to Jan and Ana's house before two of his employees drove us back to or hotel.

Useful info
The new bikes with 29" wheels are definitely worth the extra $100 on a multi-day tour, but less important if just doing the Cotopaxi descent.  Battered but still effective elbow and knee protection is provided (you might need to tie it on) as are helmets, but we were glad we'd taken our own.

The kit list recommended a waterproof jacket with hood, which is why I took my OMM top.  With hindsight, a regular hood-less cycling jacket would have been better if paired with a warm under-helmet cap.  When it rains here you're going to get soaked no matter what, so it's more about keeping warm when at altitude.  We had waterproof trousers which we didn't wear.

I took cycling shorts and wore 3/4 trekking pants on top, as bare legs would get too much high-altitude sun.  Liz took 3/4 cycling bottoms are were a better choice, leaving just her ankle exposed.

The bikes have flat pedals and walking boots were fine to ride in and jungle hike.  Strong shoes would also have worked but you'd be more likely to get small bits of volcanic ash down your ankle.

Accommodation was basic with no air conditioning, but clean and comfortable.

Jungle lodge
The Land Cruiser was almost always behind so you don't need to carry kit or repair stuff.  However, the bikes didn't have bottle cages, an oversight in my view which Jan is considering rectifying.  I wore a rucksack for most of the ride so I could easily reach for a water-bottle.  Plus I needed somewhere to carry my two cameras.

Everything else is in the videos, but if you have any questions you'd like to ask me, please leave a comment below.


Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi Simon, this blog has been VERY helpful. We just signed up for the 5 day tour because of the videos and information you provided. Do you know what the name of the lodge was when you stayed in the Amazon? What types of wildlife did you see?

Simon Willis said...

Hi Anon

I'm delighted you found the blog helpful, and thank you for mentioning it. Helps to mae it all worthwhile.

I couldn't recall the name of the lodge, but remember it was printed on the guide's t-shirt. I looked at my other photos and found it:

I suspect the part of the Amazon we visited was more an 'island' site in an area where lots had been cleared. Most wildlife needs corridors, so probably wouldn't venture into here. We saw small stuff - butterflies, moths, and a whole variety of insects. So no monkey's or toucans which would travel through the higher canopy.

I hope you have a wonderful trip!