Saturday, 7 May 2016: A lovely blue-sky day for a bike ride in the countryside. The Pedalazos bike club aimed to take advantage of good weather for a pleasant loop ride on dirt roads and trails in the rolling hill country west of Monte Alban. The plan was to get an early start so as to finish the ride before the day got too hot. To this end, the group assembled at the Plaza Bella shopping center at 8 o’clock in the morning and was on their way by 8:20 am. The ride concluded at the same location about 12:30.
There were four gringos among the fourteen riders who took part in the outing, adding some English chatter to the friendly discourse that took place as we rode along. The winding route covered 24.3 miles (39.1 kilometers), and demanded the riders climb 2116 feet (645 meters) in elevation along the way. Of course, since it was a loop ride, participants got to enjoy the same change in elevation going downhill. The shopping mall, at an altitude of 5137 feet (1566 meters), was the low point of the day’s ride, which topped out at 6042 feet (1841 meters) crossing the ridge of hills that hide the Rio Jalapilla and the village of Jalapa del Valle from view.
All went well until the very end. Then, unfortunately, while riding the paved road through Atzompa in the last mile leading back to Plaza Bella, one rider hit a nasty pothole that bent his front wheel, throwing him over the handlebars. Another rider collided with him. The injuries were quite painful and put an early end to the ride for some.
The nearby village of San Andrés Huayapam hosted a mountain bike race sponsored by the Federacion Mexicana de Ciclismo on Sunday, 24 April 2016. The event took place in Huayapam’s ecotourism park, adjacent to the two presas which serve as water reservoirs for Huayapam and Tlalixtac. As is the custom with other local closed-course races, the main race was preceded by several rounds of shorter races for kids. The main event got under way about 10:30 am and featured riders from Oaxaca and various other states in Mexico competing in various “Expert” and “Womens” categories.
The course laid out for the race wound back and forth and around the park, at one point crossing over itself on a bridge. The course was 3.1 miles (5.0 kilometers) long, with an elevation gain and loss of 471 feet (143.5 meters) along the way. Depending on what category they were entered in, participants had to circle the course four or five times to complete the race. As race courses around Oaxaca go, this was at a relatively low elevation — 5330 to 5508 feet (1624.5 to 1678.8 meters) — with moderate climbs and few technical challenges, making it one of the easier venues. Even so, the course was sufficiently challenging to keep the riders on their toes.
Two visitors to Oaxaca from the U.S. — David from Pennsylvania and Jeff from California — were in town and eager to sample the excellent trails in these parts. They hooked up with some Norte Americano mountain bikers who call Oaxaca home and who were happy to act as local guides. As the weather had been hot in the Valles Centrales in recent weeks, a ride in the high country seemed in order. So it was that five gringos set out this Tuesday, 19 April, to ride the El Carrizal Loop, described elsewhere on the “Rides” page of this web site.
We stopped at the ecotourism office in San Miguel del Valle to register and pay the 50 pesos per person admission fee to use communal lands. We did not hire a guide, as we planned to ride well marked roads rather than footpaths through the woods. Then began the long, sinuous ascent to El Carrizal. We parked our van at the trucha restaurant below El Carrizal, geared up and began the climb into the village and then on up the mountainside, following the logging road that wends through La Neveria and La Ventosa, eventually reconnecting with the road from San Miguel. Recent overnight rains left puddles along the route, but the trail tread was in excellent condition, with a minimum of mud. It took almost exactly four hours to make the circuit, with time out for a sack lunch along the way. The group logged 12.2 miles (19.6 kms) on the loop, with an elevation gain and loss of 2219 feet (676 meters). The municipal building at El Carrizal sits at an elevation of 8951 feet (2728 meters). The highest point on the route was 10,213 feet (3113 meters). A creek crossing just outside San Miguel was the low point at an altitude of 5972 feet (1820 meters).
Three of our party elected to ride down the mountain to San Miguel del Valle, rather than returning to the van parked at El Carrizal. This deviation added 8.3 miles (13.3 kms) of downhill fun to the day’s adventure, with the guys dropping an additional 3983 feet (1214 meters) on the descent.
The Biciosos club (https://www.facebook.com/Biciosos-99855150398/timeline/) sponsored a Sunday ride in keeping with the hot weather we’ve had in Oaxaca in recent weeks. First of all, the ride was scheduled for just after sunrise to take advantage of cooler temperatures. And the outing included a stop at a local balneario (swimming pool) in the early afternoon.
The loop ride began and ended at the Plaza Bella shopping mall near the village of Atzompa. The 17 riders in the group pedaled west to San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, then turned south and rode through rolling hill country to Cuilapam. From there the route continued south on dirt roads through farm country, with a brief stop at a small reservoir before winding up in Zaachila, where we stopped for a late breakfast and then spent a couple of enjoyable hours splashing around at the balneario. Afterwards the group returned to Plaza Bella to conclude the day’s outing.
The route covered 31.2 miles (50.2 kms), with an elevation gain and loss of 2030 feet (618.7 meters) through the rolling countryside. The high point was 5482 feet (1671 meters) in the hills south of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca; the low point was 4980 feet (1518 meters) in Zaachila.
It is early April in Oaxaca, and hot! The thermometer has been registering in the mid-90s Fahrenheit (mid-30’s on the Celsius scale) on many recent afternoons. So the plan for our group ride this Sunday was to head into the mountains where it would be cooler. To our surprise, there was heavy cloud cover when the sun came up, and the nearby peaks were completely obscured. We packed rain jackets, just in case! There were just four gringos in our little group — Larry, Deron, Jordan and David. After some discussion, we decided to drive to La Cumbre and ride “El Cerezo” (“The Cherry”) and then the 204 Trail. As we passed the monument to Benito Juárez on the east side of town we noticed another group of local mountain bikers packing their gear into a camioneta, obviously also heading into the hills. Turns out they planned to ride the same two trails we had selected. As we all arrived at La Cumbre at the same time, we joined forces. Now there were a dozen of us to shred the trails together. And, happily, the cloud cover was breaking up and the sun shining through as we began our ride.
This being far into the dry season, there was lots of loose, dusty soil and a dense mat of fallen pine needles on the ground, so caution was needed on the steep downhill sections of “The Cherry”, which ran for 3.2 miles (5.1km) from end to end, dropping 1830 feet (558 meters) along the way. We were pleased to see several more small ramps have been added to “El Cerezo” in recent months, indicating people are both using and making improvements to the trail.
Once arrived in El Punto, we loaded all twelve bikes and riders into an extended-cab pickup truck to cover the 5.4 mile (8.7 km) drive back up to La Cumbre and then down a side road to the point we unloaded our bikes and began riding.
Our shuttle dropped us off at the high point on the gravel road, giving us some extra swooping descent on the way to where the 204 Trail takes off into the woods. On this section of the day’s outing we covered 7.0 miles (11.3 km) and added another 3339 feet (1017 meters) of downhill before the trail connected with Highway 175 in the valley below. From there it was another 3.2 miles (5.2km) on the paved road to the presas in Huayapam, where half of the group stopped for cold drinks and lunch while the rest of the gang pedaled back to Oaxaca. All in all, it was a fine day of mountain biking!