Sometimes when you travel with a group, there are some members of the party who are not as interested in cycling as you (who knew?)! While planning for an all-inclusive Mexican vacation, I did some searching to see if there might be any mountain biking opportunities on, or near the Mayan Riviera. I discovered two trips that would allow me to get out riding. In Part 1, I described our Mexican triathlon of mountain biking, cenote swimming and Mayan ruin explorations. This article talks about a coastal bike park that I was able to visit via public transit.
Punta Venado Bike Park
My second riding adventure was at the Punta Venado Bike Park. The park has approximately 30km of purpose built singletrack. Punta Venado is just south of Playa del Carmen and is easily accessible by taxi or colectivo.
I woke up early to grab a few hours of riding before my travel companions were ready for the beach. I headed out to the highway to catch a colectivo (a system of vans that provide public transportation between Cancun and Tulum). A van stopped within 5 min and I was on my way to the park. Our resort was about 15 km south of the park. I was dropped off at the access road and walked 1.5 km to the park entrance.
I rented a Giant hardtail and helmet. The bike was in good condition but, if I go again I will bring my own pedals – the stock pedals left much to be desired (my Five Tens would not stick to them).
The terrain is flat but the singletrack takes advantage of the undulations and is mostly fast and flowy. The black diamond trails are chunkier and use the local limestone to add challenge. There are a smattering of drops, berms and skinnies on the blue and black trails. There is even a teeter totter (is every bike park required to have one of these?).
I rode about 1/2 the trails and then went to the Blue Venado Beach Club for some hydration. I think that the beach club and bike park are parts of the same company (there are also ATV and horseback tours available). The beach club is open to the public and seems to be a popular spot for the locals. The cold cerveza was very much appreciated!
Back on the bike, I completed the trail system. It was getting quite warm by this time, so I did take advantage of a small trail side cenote to take a refreshing dip (this cenote was small, but exactly what I needed – a large, cool bathtub).
I purchased a couple of cerveza for the walk out to the highway and returned my bike. After a 10 min wait, I was on a colectivo and headed back to the resort to join my companions on the beach.
Punta Venado is suitable for riders of all abilities, the trails are clearly signed and the maps are easy to follow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
– 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.
This last week for the north routes before our Hwy 552 hill climb will be a sprint/regroup session. For the A and B groups, we’ll have a flat segment, a hill segment, and a bonus segment. C-group riders are encouraged to come out, ride social, and watch the fireworks.
Reminder: Rides are starting at Aweres School in Heyden at 6:30pm. Map: Google.
A and B groups: This format is fun for riders of varying speeds, so we’re mixing the two groups this week. Everyone will struggle and most will get dropped on one segment or more, but never for more than 10min before we regroup and ride social to the next segment. Format reminder: Riders are expected to light it up on the segments, and some riders will absolutely get dropped. At the end of the segment, everyone will stop or soft-pedal until the entire group is back together before riding at an easy social pace (no pushing it at all, everyone should feel comfortable) to the next segment.
The route is about 36km out Hwy 556 to Hwy 552 and down the hill, out to Post Office Road where we will turn around and head back to Bellevue Valley Rd where we head east and climb the big hill before riding back to Aweres School on Hwy 556. Map: Google (Ignore the loop Google adds at Post Office Rd/Hwy 17. We’re turning around at Post Office Rd instead).
Segment 1 (flat) – Hwy 552 headed northwest.
Start: Intersection of Hwy 552 and Pruce Rd.
End: Intersection of Hwy 552 and Post Office Rd.
Segment 2 (climb) – Bellevue Valley.
Start: Bend in the road as the climb starts.
End: Culvert after the “Stop Sign Ahead” sign (before the final kick up to Hwy 556). Note: This is deliberately not the same as the Strava segment. We’re just having fun today, not contesting a KOM. Please do not race up to Hwy 556.
Segment 3 (bonus) – Hwy 556.
Start: “Road bends left sign (yellow with left arrow) after descending”.
End: Ulch Rd sign just before the railroad tracks. Note: This is deliberately not the same as the Strava segment. We’re just having fun today, not contesting a KOM. Please do not race across the railroad tracks.
C group: This will be a 24km social, no-drop ride from Aweres School along Hwy 556 to the entrance to the cell tower climb and back. Map: Google. The group should feel free to lengthen or shorten this mildly-hilly out-and-back based on the pace and skill of the group.