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San Cristobal Loop

Continuing our recent excursions exploring the Etla Valley west of Monte Alban, Larry and Albi set out at 9 am on a warm and sunny morning on Thursday, 8 December to ride a little-used jeep road that drops down the side of the mountain from San Cristobal to El Carrizal. This road apparently serves solely to provide access to the farms and a few homes scattered along a burbling brook used to irrigate some of the fields in the valley. We drove west from Oaxaca city and parked in the same spot we used as a staging area for a ride to Cuilapam on 23 November 2016, recounted in an earlier post on this web site entitled, “A Final Ride In Oaxaca.”  From this vantage point we pedaled into San Pedro Ixtlahuaca and proceeded to make the long climb up the main road which leads to San Cristobal and Cuatro Venados. Since both of us have ridden this way before and the climb is tedious, we were delighted when a passing truck offered us a ride on the steepest part of the climb. As it happened, the driver had spent a few years in Denver and spoke excellent English. We had a great conversation for the mile or two we hitched a ride to the top of the mountain. In summary, we covered a distance of 16.6 miles (26.7 kms) on today’s outing, with an elevation gain and loss around the loop of 2675 feet (815 meters). The high point was at San Cristobal at 7226 feet (2202 meters) and the low point was at one of the creek crossings at 5196 feet (1584 meters). It took a bit less than four hours to finish riding the loop.

Gringos Go For An Epic Ride

With the coming of December there are enough gringo mountain bikers in winter residence in Oaxaca to constitute a weekday riding group. On this first day of December five guys set out from Oaxaca to ride an epic loop in the mountains. The plan was to ride in the Sierra Norte from La Cumbre to La Neveria and then plunge down the mountainside on the Mil Rios trail (14% grade in many places) into Tlalixtac.  The total distance for the day’s outing amounted to  45.9 miles (73.8 kms) and had a total elevation gain & loss of 6518 feet (1987 meters). The group pedaled to the monumento on the east side of town, where they hired a camioneta  to haul themselves and their gear up Hwy 175 to La Cumbre. This mechanical assist eliminated pedaling 13 miles (21 kms) and saved the group climbing 3875 feet (1181 meters) up the mountainside. But that still left a challenging 32.9 miles (52.9 kms) for the gringos to manage under their own power.

The portion of the ride between La Cumbre and (almost to) La Neveria entailed riding 12.3 miles (19.8 kms) on logging roads — which, as it happened, had several crews cutting trees in the forest and hauling the logs out on nearly a dozen trucks. Our bikers managed to climb 2075 feet (632 meters) and descend 1918 feet (584 meters) on this segment of the ride.

The most challenging part of the ride — and the most fun — was the descent on the Mil Rios trail. It was also the most confusing. Even though one fellow in our group had ridden this way before and we had a fairly accurate GPS map of the trail, we still managed to make a couple of wrong turns. For a while it was a comedy of errors — think “Laurel and Hardy meet the Three Stooges”. At one point we spent 45 minutes bushwhacking up and over a ridge in the hope of connecting with the correct trail. Happily, we were successful in this endeavor. And once on the Mil Rios trail, it was all downhill. A good part of the trail was great fun, as we swooped merrily through the woods. But there were also many really steep and rocky sections that had some of our riders hike-a-biking.  We found the Mil Rios trail ran 9 miles (14.5 kms), dropping 3768 feet (1148 meters) in altitude to the town of Tlalixtac on the floor of the Tlacolua Valley. From there the final 7.9 miles (12.7 kms) was an easy ride back to Oaxaca.

Community Cycling Program

There is a local community bicycling organization in Oaxaca city called Mundoceiba ( which promotes cycling as good exercise and an alternative form of transportation. The group sponsors night rides around el centro every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 11:30 pm. They also sponsor a weekly Sunday morning ride from Oaxaca to Santa Maria del Tule and back. These outings are open to the public and people of all ages and biking abilities are welcome to participate. Mundoceiba has a fleet of bikes that can be rented at nominal cost for these or other bike rides. Below are photos taken on the Sunday ride to Tule on 27 November 2016. There were 24 participants in this outing — a pretty typical turnout. The author was the only gringo rider in the group on this day, but at the height of the winter tourist season it is not unusual to have several extranjeros joining in the fun, either on the night rides around town or the Sunday trek to Tule. The group left Santo Domingo at 9:15 am and rode at a very leisurely pace, arriving in Tule about 10:30 am. There people split up to have breakfast, then reassembled in the town square at 11:15 am to head back to Oaxaca. The ride ended at the “Bicis Cafe” about 12:30 pm. The round-trip distance amounted to about 13 miles (21 kms).

A Final Ride In Oaxaca

Chris and John, both visitors to Oaxaca from Colorado, had reached the final week of their stay in sunny southern Mexico. They wanted to enjoy one last mountain bike ride before heading back home, where they would have to trade bicycling for snow skiing for the winter months. And so it was they joined some of the gringo bikers who make their home in Oaxaca for a pleasant ride in the rolling hill country of the Etla Valley on 23 November 2016. The group of six riders car-pooled ten miles west of Oaxaca city, then set up their bikes for a most enjoyable 9.3 mile (14.96 km) loop ride. From the start point they sailed southeast on a dirt road that ran through an agricultural valley to the town of Cuilapam. After stopping to admire the ruins of the never-completed Dominican monastery there, the group retraced their route, opting to take a slightly different track running along a ridge line that afforded panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Pedaling around the loop, the riders managed 725 feet (221 meters) of climbing and enjoyed 703 feet (214 meters) of downhill. The elevation along the way ranged from a high of 5720 feet (1743 meters) atop a hill to a low of 5211 feet (1588 meters) in a dry wash.

Revolution Day Ride

Monday, 21 November 2016 was “Revolution Day”, a Mexican national holiday. It seemed a good day for a ride in the rolling hill country of the Etla Valley northwest of Monte Alban. Over many rides the past couple of years, Albi has become quite an expert on the area, as this is one of his favorite regions to explore via bicycle. We drove to the village of San Felipe Tejalapam, unloaded our bikes at the municipal building there and proceeded to ride some rough country roads north to Santo Tomas Tomaltepec and back. We returned by a slightly different route which followed a stream rather than climb up and over the same ridge we negotiated on the first leg of our trek. In the course of the outing we spent 2.5 hours in the saddle and pedaled a total of 11.7 miles (18.8 kms). The first half of the ride entailed climbing 1621 feet (494 meters) to cross the ridgeline that separates the two towns. The return leg was somewhat easier, with just 1397 feet (426 meters) of elevation gain. However, where the outbound segment was entirely on country roads, the return was a scramble through farm fields, along and sometimes in a stream, and over some pretty rugged terrain. Our start/end point was the lowest in altitude, registering 5432 feet (1656 meters), while the highest altitude reached was 6110 feet (1862 meters) at the top of the ridgeline. All in all, it was a most satisfying ride.


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