In January 2020 we flew to Bogota, Colombia for a route building project with Bikepacking.com and Conservation International. The primary goal was to establish a week-long bikepacking route that highlights the Paramos, a high elevation cloud forest that captures moisture out of the air and provides 70% of the drinking water for Bogota, a city of 8 million people.
We spent six weeks scouting routes and connecting with locals to make the best possible route. At the end of our trip, I rode the full distance of 262 miles, with 36,000 feet of climbing (422 km, 10,973 m) as a time trial in 39 hours, a route FKT (fastest known time).
Check out the official Ruta Chingaza Collection here: komoot.com/collection/1046652/-the-ruta-chingaza-in-seven-stages
We initiated our scout in Villa de Leyva to attempt to make a connection between Bogota and the Oh Boyaca! bikepacking route (bikepacking.com/routes/oh-boyaca-colombia/).Boyaca, Colombia is the birthplace of Nairo Quintana, the most celebrated pro cyclist in Colombia. Villa de Leyva was a very lovely village to begin our trip. Climbing in Colombia is no joke — the climbs are short and punchy and incredibly steep.
Our route took us into a stretch of private property, so we turned around and re-routed to the village of Lenguazaque.The highlight of the ride was definitely passing through the Rabanal Paramos, our first ride into a cloud forest that captures moisture and filters drinking water through vegetation. Those wild looking, coarse blossoms are the frailejones, a plant that easily identifies the Paramos ecosystem.
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Our intention was to connect the reservoir and small farm roads to Sesquile. The connection ended up being blocked to public traffic and we had to detour around to a main road. We spent the night in Sesquile, a town with plenty of restaurants, shops and lodging options.
Road connection to Sesquile. I had to turn my Wahoo ROAM on and off for some reason. I did my best to record all of our rides in Colombia, even this tiny one!
Rue got sick the previous evening. We rode to Guasca to catch up with our group where we took a break to try and gain access to Chingaza National Park. Route building is all about tirelessly trying to find solutions and not giving up!
On this initial tour, we detoured to Choachi instead of riding directly into Chingaza National Park because we didn't have permission. The day was mostly descent and lower elevation definitely came with warmer weather. From Choachi, we organized a driver to take us to San Juanito to continue our scouting.
I went out for a solo scout to make a dirt connection from Choachi to the main road back to Bogota. I later learned that this route is used for a race called the "Ruta Killer". It's hard!This stretch didn't end up making the final cut as Juan Pablo helped us find another way that ultimately routes on more dirt. It was still a really fun day!
Edgar from Choachi gave us a ride to San Juanito so we could continue scouting. This area was a notorious base for FARQ communist guerrillas in the 1990s. It is now very peaceful and just beginning to welcome tourists. Locals were very kind to us.The riding is lush, passing many waterfalls, with so much diversity of plants and birds. Though in great condition, most maps don't indicate that these roads exist. That night, we camped out in a covered gymnasium in the village of San Francisco and local children came to visit and play basketball with us.
Juan Pablo put together a dirt route out of Bogota that passes through a paramos only 15 km from the city. We went out for a day ride to scout it together. Later that afternoon, Julian took us to a hummingbird sanctuary.
This the crown jewel of the Ruta Chingaza (that we'll be publishing in October). It is the route through Chingaza National Park that contains the main paramos that provides 80% of the drinking water for Bogota, a city of 8 million people.The high quality gravel road that traverses Chingaza National Park is currently closed to cyclists, but we are working with park officials to make a plan to open it up to bikepackers with permits and they are very excited to invite cyclists to travel through. The main concerns are making sure the environment is protected and the riders are safe.
We climbed out of the campground in Chingaza National Park to the park gate. From there, it was a huge descent to Fomeque, where we stopped for a hot meal before continuing on to Choachi.Our partners from Conservation International had limited time, so they could not complete the entire loop. This was a more direct route back to Bogota. This also happened to be Logan Watts's 47th birthday.
It's a big climb through small villages from Choachi to Patios, the most popular hill climb out of Bogota. We made a base camp near Patios for a couple of weeks.Day and night, riders climb this hill. Every Sunday from 7am-2pm since 1974, Bogota closes 70 km of main roads for Cyclovia, where bikes and pedestrians take over the city. I've never seen so many cyclists in my life! People of all ages and backgrounds ride.
Ruta Chingaza Time Trial: After scouting the full route and finding the best loop possible, I went back to ride it as a time trial all in one go.I began in the National Park in Bogota at 1am to make it through Chingaza National Park the following day. Julian, Nick and two other locals rode me out of town. We had a magical moment when the moon rose over the Paramos.I finished my self-supported 262 km ride in 39 hours, a huge challenge. FKT stands for Fastest Known Time, the record on a time trial attempt like this.Find the official route guide on BIKEPACKING.com: bikepacking.com/routes/ruta-chingazaAlso, note that this route is currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, particularly the segment through Chingaza National Park, which is closed to cycling at this moment. The park anticipates being able to begin facilitating cycling experiences (including bikepacking) by sometime in 2021. Check the route guide at bikepacking.com for updates.