MTBing While on a Mexican All-Inclusive Vacation – Part 1

MTBing While on a Mexican All-Inclusive Vacation – Part 1

Hola!  This is an informational post. A bit of a public service announcement (for mountain bikers).  I thought I’d pass along what I learned about mountain biking opportunities on the Mayan Riviera.  Yes, it’s summer but you might remember this post when you book your vacation in the fall.

I didn’t find a lot of information online about mountain biking on the Mayan Riviera so I thought I’d share my two experiences. If this post bores you, you can skip the second post, which will cover Punta Venado Bike Park.

Ek Balam

Our first riding experience was a full day tour at Ek Balam. Ek Balam is a Mayan city that was at its height approximately 1200 years ago.

The tour was with Elite Cyclery who have a shop in Cancun. I discovered them on Trip Advisor while looking for Mayan sites to tour. Elite’s Jaguar Tour included a Mayan site, swimming in a cenote and approx 35km of mountain biking. My idea of a perfect Mexican triathlon.

I contacted Elite by email. They were able to answer my questions and we booked the Jaguar Tour. The deposit was made by Paypal and we were set to go.

The terrain is not difficult but the environment can be challenging for those of us not used to the heat. The temperature on the day we rode was about 35°C! The trails are a mix of dusty, red dirt and broken rock. There aren’t any significant climbs or descents (it is flat!).

The tour was a turn-key affair. Our guides, Jon and Doug, met us at our hotel at 7:30am with bikes, drinks and fuel. The guide ratio was 1:1, which would allow us to split up and cater to different skill levels. The drive to Ek Balam took about 2 hours from the coast. Lots of time to see the Yucatan landscape and get to know the guides. Our guides were happy to discuss the flora and fauna of the area as we drove. They were able to warn us about the numerous hazards of the Yucatan (e.g., snakes, spiders, cacti, trees and most hazardous of all, the heat).

When we arrived at Ek Balam we prepared our gear and bikes for the ride. I think it was already 30°. Probably hotter than any riding day I’d had in the Sault.

Ek Balam, Mexico
Ek Balam, Mexico

The rental bikes were hardtails with hydraulic brakes. I rode flats, but if you brought your own pedals they would put them on. They supplied water bottles, water, electrolytes, gatorade and snacks (and cerveza).

The plan was to ride a 35km loop, swim in the cenote and then tour the ruins. We had to make some adjustments along the way due to the heat.

After covering our very pale selves in sunscreen we were ready to ride.
The first 8km was fast and relatively smooth singletrack. The singletrack is used (and kept open) by locals walking and riding bikes to the ruins for work and to fields where they grow corn. The area is very dry and dusty (the last appreciable rain was 5 months earlier).

After the first single track we had approximately 4 km of road riding to a village. However, the sun got the best of us on the asphalt (heat exhaustion), dictating a change in plans. We headed back to the car for shade and more drinks. After a brief recovery we split up with half the team heading directly to the cenote, while Jon and I went back to the trails for a 10 km loop. This loop was more technical than the first but no more difficult than the Crystal trail at Hiawatha.

We ended up at the cenote for a very welcome and very cooling swim.

Swimming in a cenote, Ek Balam, Mexico
Swimming in a cenote, Ek Balam, Mexico

Refreshed from the swim, a short ride took us back to the ruins where we spent an hour exploring the site and climbing the Acropolis. Our guides packed up the bikes while we were exploring.

Ek Balam, Mexico
View from the top of the Acropolis, Ek Balam

On the way back to the hotel we stopped to pick up smoked meat and fresh made tortillas. Post-ride nutrition of cerveza and assemble your own fajitas.

Tips
– Prepare for the heat – hydrate in advance, use plenty of sunscreen, drink continuously.
– I rode flats but would bring my own pedals next time (the supplied pedals were not grippy).
– I took my hydration pack because I needed it to carry my camera, but also because it made hydrating much easier.
– There’s nothing like riding your own bike. The rentals were adequate, but I missed the familiar feel of my own bike.

 

 

 

 

Coming soon…Part 2 – Punta Venado Bike Park

 

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