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Cycling in Medellin is an experience like no other. The city is known as one of the most cycling-friendly cities in Latin America, with over 100km of separated bike lanes throughout the city. The city also offers several high-profile weekly cycling events and some of the best high-altitude climbs in the country, making it a dream destination for cycling enthusiasts.
Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just looking for a fun way to explore the city, there’s a cycling route in Medellin that will suit your needs. From challenging mountain climbs to leisurely rides through the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, there’s something for everyone. And with the city’s warm climate and stunning scenery, cycling in Medellin is an experience that you won’t soon forget.
Our family spent 2 months in Medellin and cycling played a major role in our time here. Both of our teens are competitive bike racers back in the United States, so we did a lot of cycling here in Medellin to continue their training and to conquer some new routes.
Is It Safe to Bike in Medellin Colombia?
Yes and no. Like all big cities with lots of traffic, there are inherent risks of cycling in Medellin. Generally, cars and motorcycles are respectful and aware of bikers, but this is not 100% the case. Overall, even though there is more traffic than in many US cities, I think that road cycling is safer in Medellin than in the US where drivers don’t respect cyclists.
The other dangers of cycling in Medellin are dangers of being in Medellin generally. You always need to watch your surroundings, be alert, and don’t flash valuables. That includes fancy training watches, expensive smart phones and high end bike computers.
All of that being said, our teens are biking here in controlled situations nearly every day, so we generally feel safe about the biking situation in Medellin. Cyclists here look out for each other, and I’ve seen many other riders check on our teens when they’re stopped for a break or a quick bike repair, which is fantastic.
Where to Get Bikes for Cycling in Medellin
Bikes are shockingly hard to come by for visitors. While it would seem that there are lots of options, there were shockingly few in our experience. Here are some of the best options for getting a bike in Medellin.
Medellin Bike Rental
Getting a rental bike in Medellin is actually quite difficult. Many local bike shops rent bikes on a one-off basis, but there are not many bike rental companies in Medellin. The closest we found to a bike rental is from SiClas, an organization that rents out bikes for their weekly SiCleada bike rides.
Purchasing a Biking in Medellin
After joining several Medellin cycling facebook pages in preparation for our arrival, we started to ask around about bike rentals in Medellin. Most people simply recommended that we just buy a bike in Medellin instead of renting, and that’s exactly what we did. Bikes are about 30-40% cheaper here in Colombia than what we could find in the United States and buying a bike was much cheaper than a long term rental.
For our son, he got a used road bike that is really great and that he plans to ship home with us. He was planning to get a new road bike in the next year and this bike was 50% of the price of the same bike back in the US.
For my daughter, she didn’t need a new road bike at home, so we bought her a temporary bike here. We purchased an inexpensive used bike and then sold it when we left and we were barely out any money.
If you do buy a bike in Medellin, make sure that you get a purchase card with the bike. BIke theft is very common and you’ll need the purchase card to be able to resell the bike or to exit the country with it.
Encicla Medellin Bike Share
Medellin does have a bike share system that operates in conjunction without their metro and bus system, called Encicla. The idea is that there are several bike drop locations around the city and with your Civica card (metro card), you can check out a bike for up to an hour and return it to a new location.
While the theory is sound, we found that almost every station for bike drops was ALWAYS EMPTY. In the time we were there (nearly 2 months), I saw less than 20 bikes TOTAL in the bike share program. I’m not saying they were always in use (I only saw people riding them a handful of times), but there simply are not bikes for the Medellin bike share program. It really is sad, because this is the first city we’ve traveled to with such a dysfunctional bike share system, and it’s ironic that it’s in a city that loves cycling as much as Medellin. The bike share program in Bogota is so much better!
Also, the bikes that we did see were also in bad need of repairs, and in really poor condition.
Cycling Infrastructure in Medellin
When it comes to cycling infrastructure, Medellin has come a long way in recent years. Medellin has over 100km of separated bike lanes throughout the city, making it in theory one of the most cycling-friendly cities in Latin America. The city has implemented several measures to promote cycling and make it a safer and more convenient mode of transportation. There are lots of designated cycling routes throughout the city and in addition to crosswalks, there are traffic signals for when bikes can cross intersections as well. While the cycling paths are not perfect, they are a good start to getting more people to travel by bikes in the city. The bike path system in Bogota is significantly better so hopefully Medellin can move in that direction.
The biggest problem with the bike lanes in Medellin is that they are note always well thought out. Many areas just have a bike path, but no sidewalk, so the bike path just ends up getting used as a sidewalk by pedestrians. In other places, like Nutibara Hill, the bike path is one lane of the road…except that there is 2 way traffic and only one lane designated for cars, so drivers always use the bike lane, making it essentially worthless for Medellin Cyclists.
Mountain Bike Tours in Medellin
Finding mountain bike trails near Medellin requires a pretty good amount of inside information and skill, so a guide is absolutely necessary. We talked to several friends as well as bike shops and they all recommended the same place for Medellin mountain bike tours – Sueltele Mountain Biking. We signed up for a ride with them and quickly learned why everyone recommended them – the owner is AMAZING and knows more about mountain biking in Medellin than just about anyone. He customized our rides and our full day perfectly with our experience and to what we were wanting to ride. The bike trails in Colombia are incredibly steep, so we were grateful that he had good mountain bikes for us to use and that he gave us some tips on riding trails this steep. Sueltele offers lots of options from cross country rides to a full downhill experience, so there’s something for everyone. We highly recommend them!
Best Medellin Bike Tours
If you want to explore Medellin by bike, we highly recommend that you go with a local guide so that you can learn about the areas history and culture as you go. Here are some of the best bike tours in Medellin:
- Night Cycling Tour of Medellin – See some of the most famous sites and stop for a few local treats along the way. Seeing the city by night will give you a new appreciation and love for this beautiful city.
- Downtown Medellin E-Bike Tour – You’ll love seeing downtown Medellin by bike on this guided tour. Groups are limited to 6 people so it’s a really intimate experience. This tour uses e-bikes so it’s easy to cover lots of mileage and see a lot of the city.
One of the best ways to begin your cycling adventure in Medellin is to participate in the city’s Ciclovia. Every Sunday and public holiday, several main roads in Medellin are closed off to motor vehicles and opened solely for cyclists, runners, and pedestrians. It’s a perfect opportunity to explore the city’s distinct neighborhoods, local culture, and bustling street life.
The main Sunday Ciclovia in Medellin is on Avenida Poblado between 7am and 1pm. . The road is closed and blocked off from El Centro down to Envigado. You can start and end wherever you choose. During the Sunday Ciclovia on Avenida Poblado, you’ll find vendors selling snacks, street performers and the local recreation program Inder offering workout classes along the route.
There is also an evening Ciclovia on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8pm to 10 pm along Avenida Regional. Here they just close off part of the southbound traffic, and allow the other lanes to keep going. Because traffic still is right next to you, this ciclovia is less enjoyable since you’re breathing car exhaust the whole time. When we went, we also noticed that the evening ciclovia is difficult to get to without crossing the busy traffic that’s still going on Avenida Regional.
Wednesday Night Sicleada
If you’re looking for a large group cycling event, check out the SiClas run event Sicleada every Wednesday evening. The ride attracts a huge amount of people, often dressed up or wearing flashing lights for attention. The meeting place is a Carlos Restrepo park at 8pm on Wednesday evenings. THere isn’t a set route and they change where they go every week. There are hundreds of people that join this event every week. It’s not a place to do cycling training or to go fast, but it’s a fun way to engage with the Medellin CYcling community. You can check out the SiClas website to see where the weekly ride is going.
Aeroparque Juan Pablo II Cycling Track
If you’re looking to get lots of miles in without stopping at every traffic intersection, then this is the place to go. Here, right next to the local airport, there’s a 0.95 mile paved cycling track that is one of the top places in Medellin for cycling training. The loop is almost completely flat, but if you just need to get your miles in, this is the place to go. This is quite close to where we lived so our kids put in lots of miles here each day. While you don’t get much resistance training in, it’s a great place for interval training and for increasing mileage and leg strength. There is also gym equipment inside the interior of the park where you can get in some strength training in addition to your cycling training in Medellin.
For mountain biking enthusiasts, Parque Arvi offers a network of trails set in a stunning nature reserve. Located in the northeastern part of the city, you can reach the park via Medellin’s iconic Metrocable. The trails in Parque Arvi range from easy to difficult, making them suitable for both beginners and seasoned riders. The most difficult part of biking at Parque Arvi is getting there, since the cable cars do not allow bikes. While Parque Arvi does have some rental bikes available, the bikes that we found there were not suitable for any sort of real trail riding.
If you’re up for a challenging ride, Las Palmas is the route for you. This 17-kilometer road climbs steadily from the city center to the top of the mountains east of Medellin. The reward for your hard work is a stunning panoramic view of the city. There’s a well-deserved sense of achievement when you reach the top and look down on the sprawling city below. The route is heavily trafficked by cars as the bottom portion is the main road that leads to the tunnel connecting to MDE airport. If you want to avoid most of the car congestion, start after the road to the airport turns left. The route is a pretty solid 7% grade!
Another beautiful and challenging route is the Santa Elena. This 21-kilometer uphill route takes you to the land of the traditional ‘Silleteros,’ farmers who create elaborate floral displays for Medellin’s annual Flower Festival. The ride is tough, but the beautiful flower farms and stunning views at the top make it all worthwhile. Santa Elena has several road bike routes and some great mountain biking nearby, so it’s an ideal place for cycling in Medellin.
Bike Safety in Medellin
As an avid cyclist, safety is always paramount, especially when cycling in a bustling city like Medellin. Here are some key safety tips to remember:
- Always Wear a Helmet. This is non-negotiable. A helmet is a must to protect you from serious injuries in case of an accident.
- Be Visible to Cars and Other Cyclists. Wear bright-colored clothing during the day and reflective gear for night rides. Install lights on your bike to ensure you’re visible to motorists, especially during dawn or dusk rides.
- Follow Traffic Rules in Medellin. Adhere to traffic signs, signals, and road markings, especially for when you can and cannot cross the road on your bike. Sadly, many Medellin drivers are really bad, so don’t just think you’ll be safe because the road looks clear – always be aware!
- Stay Alert While Cycling. Always be aware of your surroundings and practice defensive cycling. If you’re cycling on the road, stay as far right as possible. Don’t have headphones on when biking so you can be aware of traffic coming up behind you.
- Always Lock Up Your Bike. Bike theft is a MAJOR PROBLEM in Medellin. Even leaving your bike outside for a few minutes unattended can get it stolen. Always use a thick and sturdy bike lock so your bike isn’t stolen.