Mountain biking Colombia ‘s newest trail, The Darkside, last week with my friends from Elemento Outdoor was a true mountain biker’s dream.
The guys at Elemento had been hard at work for many weeks trail building this amazing trail which descends from above the clouds of the Sierra Nevada at 2200m down to about 1650m where it connects to a pre-established network of trails to take you down to sea level.
I had been told this was one gnarly ride, and I was excited to have the honour to put down some of the first tracks this trail has ever seen.
Since most of my mountain biking experience has been done in a confined 4.5 month period in Canada when we don’t have snow on our trails, riding through virgin jungle in 30C weather in March was quite the welcome shock to my mountain biking mind. So remember when you’re bundled up in front of a fire in January that you could be riding sweet singletrack in Colombia.
Our day started at 6:00am waking up at Los Pinos, a former para-military lookout point turned hostel. Needless to say, watching the sun come up over the surrounding jungle with the Caribbean 1500m below us was a spectacular way to start our day.
Once we dragged ourselves away from the view, and fed ourselves we loaded up in a truck (all seven of us,) and made our way to El Dorado, a bird sanctuary high in the Sierra Nevada which has more endemic bird species than anywhere else in the world.
We enjoyed a coffee in the hummingbird garden, then got our climbing legs under us to put the largest ascent of the day (only about 250m,) under us before a full day of downhilling. I enjoyed the warm up climb. It was just technical enough to be interesting, but still rideable, and I was actually disappointed when the climb ended and The Darkside began.
Our group on this beautiful March morning included the motley crew of Tom, Sven, Paul, and Ed all of whom are involved in Elemento and were the main cogs in building the trail. Joining these pros were Ben and James, who were two clients of Elemento, and yours truly.
Any new trail takes a bit of time to get packed down to its mature perfection, and The Darkside was no different. However, for a first ride this trail was fun, very challenging, and in a spectacular setting.
Mountain biking this trail would only be recommended for experienced riders. I’ve been riding for 18 years, and I had problems at points on this technical and steep singletrack trail.
That being said, if you have the skills this trail is one you won’t soon forget. Descending from above the clouds, into the cloud forest, then coming out below with a view of the Caribbean makes for a truly mind-boggling and unforgettable ride.
Along the way we groomed a part of the trail that needed some work, which was challenging work, but was really cool as well. We were able to envision a new line on the trail, cut it out of the jungle, then ride it all in the space of about an hour. Trail building is hard, like landscaping, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
After descending the approximately 600 vertical meters of Colombia’s newest mountain bike trail, we connected onto some trails that were previously there to take us down to sea level. These trails took us from 1600m down through coffee plantations and small mountain villages, past waterfalls, across creeks, and through various climate zones.
Along the way we swam in fresh creeks, had a couple beers accompanied by delicious BBQd pork, and rode hard.
The day was a long one, but being able to go mountain biking on Colombia’s newest trail was a privilege. I’m sure what Elemento is doing will change the landscape of mountain biking in South America.
Come now, before you have to share the trails with everyone else.