April 09, 2024 5 min read

Join ALMSTHRE Cofounder Steve Yeager and his girlfriend Jen as they pedal through Colombia's breathtaking terrain. From bustling cityscapes to serene mountain villages, follow their journey of exploration, connection, and unforgettable adventure on two wheels.
Imagine an awe-inspiring landscape that combines the towering heights of Colorado’s majestic mountains with the lush vegetation of Hawaii, creating a unique and captivating picture. This is what greeted us as we stepped off the airplane at the Medellín airport. One quickly realizes why Colombia is known for producing such phenomenal climbers.

In Search of Colombian BamBam

After a quick bike assembly, we were ready to ride. Our new friend, Juan, a local and our driver, took us out to a town called Llano Grande. The route took us away from the bustling city and into the rural countryside.
Leaving town on a heavily trafficked industrial highway was quite the scene: motos and trucks passing by every time you blinked an eye. People jumped on and off moving transit buses, and when I say transit buses, I mean what we consider a party bus here in the states. This is the standard form of transportation in Colombia. It felt like there were no rules to the road, which I can't say I hated.
Finally escaping the chaos, we were into the good stuff! Narrow mixed-surface roads meandered through the lush green mountains, occasionally passing a 1950s truck loaded with fresh produce. As we rode along the mountain ridge, we caught a glimpse of the top of a massive rock formation called ‘El Peñon de Guatapé' or “The Rock of Guatapé.” The road transitioned from pavement to dirt to rough cobbles every couple of miles. Crossing pedestrian suspension bridges over giant lakes, we encountered every type of surface imaginable in 50 miles.
As we inched closer to the city of Guatapé, the geological wonder stood out more and more. At 650 feet, this colossal granite monolith towered over the surrounding area—a jaw-dropping sight! Of course, we stopped for a closer look...and decided to make the climb to the top. After ascending 740 stairs, we were treated to a 360° view with countless islands and peninsulas, green fields, and dense forests surrounded by deep blue water. We could see Guatapé just a hop and a skip away. We descended back down, mounted our bikes, and finally arrived in Guatapé, where empanadas and cold beers were awaiting us.
Check out the Strava route here!

The Torrey pines of Medellin is the size of Palomar

Our next adventure would take us up the local climb, Las Palmas. Living in San Diego, we know of Torrey Pines and Mt. Soledad as staple North County climbs. Both being 500 feet vertical gain climbs, they are doable for all levels of cyclists. Las Palmas, on the other hand, is a 3,200 feet climb! We rode Las Palmas on a Saturday and were shocked to see the number of cyclists on the road. Over 2000 people had climbed the steep city pitch that day, with riders of all ages and abilities.
As you climb toward the top, the views continue to impress, being several thousand feet above the city, looking down into the sporadically cloud-covered valley. Approaching an hour into the climb, we reached the summit, happy to see over 100 cyclists huddled around coffee carts, enjoying pastries, and having a morning chat, preparing themselves for a 3,000 feet drop back into the heart of Medellín.

Some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen

Having met some two-wheeling friends over the previous few days, we were invited on a ride out to a small village about 35 miles away from Medellín called Armenia. Of course, we accepted! We met our new friends on the side of a full-on highway in downtown Medellín bright and early at 6:30 AM. We were promised a “mellow ride with moderate climbing on fresh paved road.”
Nearing the outskirts of town, seeing the mountains in the distance, we prepared ourselves for the climb up and over. Alive with people, dogs, and chickens running about, we had no idea what to expect. Our climb started in a little town called San Antonio de Prado. We climbed for what seemed like an eternity, up and up and up, finally getting out of town and into a lush mountain ridge, continuing to see larger and larger peaks in the distance.
After almost 2 hours, we reached the top of our climb, where large groups of cyclists and runners were congregating after their journey up the mountain. For us, our journey continued on. Descending down the backside of this mountain on one of the most beautiful one-lane mountain roads I have ever ridden.
The natural beauty, green fields, and vegetation covering every spec of ground, insane vista views on every corner, and pristine pavement had me in bicycle heaven! This descent would drop us down the 3,500 feet we had just climbed. We passed tiny colorful villages every few miles and several friendly dogs along the way.
Once at the bottom, we faced a horrifically steep 1,000-foot climb to the town of Armenia Mantequilla. One of the ladies in the group, Ana, had grown up in this village and still had family there. We didn’t realize we would be stopping by for a sit-down lunch, but boy were we happy about that!
Fresh fruit off trees in the backyard, locally grown Colombian coffee, empanadas, and homemade beans, all while enjoying another spectacular view. The property overlooked the Rio Cauca River, which we learned was the 2nd largest river in Colombia, behind the Amazon. A beautiful site it was!
After gorging ourselves and taking a little break, we were back on the move. Looking forward to the steep descent, I went ahead of the group only to catch 2 young kids on one bike. No shoes, no helmets, yet moving at a good pace. I waved as I went around, but the kids had other plans…they came back around me laughing and ready to race. It was on!
We descended about as fast as I was comfortable going, racing down this mountain. Possibly the coolest experience of the trip. Fully immersed in the moment with 2 kids I couldn’t verbally communicate with, just smiles and nods. If the day wasn’t already incredible, now it was all time! This is the power of bikes, exploring new places, experiencing new cultures, and connecting with people from all walks of life. Isn’t that what it’s all about?!

Jenna Bullbrook
Jenna Bullbrook

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