My interests, as they relate to bikes, are all about adventure. Going places and experiencing them in a way that’s only possible on two wheels. That’s a relationship that doesn’t change even when I think about professional cycling. Sure, there’s a whole layer of personal drama and team dynamics where the best cyclists in the world fight it out on a grand stage, but that’s not all there is. There’s also a back story about how those people became great.
One of those backstories, which we’ve heard a number of times through the years, is about climbing the mountains in Colombia. What’s fascinating about that storyline is that it’s very easy for all of us, and especially Americans, to take part in. We can write our own chapter and experience the adventure ourselves. For me, that’s the most exciting part and late this summer, I got to do exactly that.
I didn’t do it alone though. I went to Colombia to pick up a custom steel gravel bike built by a company called Scarab Cycles and experience Colombian cycling while there. The people behind the brand showed me the roads they love and told me about the history they knew. I got a glimpse into the backstory of the brand while eating arepas and drinking Belgian beer (I’ll explain). I also got to see the same passion behind handmade Colombian clothing brand Safetti cycling and experience the city of Medellin on foot.
If you’ve ever thought about heading to Colombia and seeing if the rumours you heard about the climbing were true, they are, and this is my experience.
My adventure started by connecting with Scarab Cycles about Colombia. Scarab makes custom steel bikes that tell the story of their home country. The brand has options for both road and mountain bikes, but it’s the gravel bikes I’d heard the most about. I’d seen one of the special editions at the Enve custom bike show and again at the Made show in Portland so I reached out and we started talking.
Scarab doesn’t represent the whole of Colombian cycling and that’s not the point. The brand sits in a small town roughly 45-minutes south of Medellín. As you head out the front door of the shop you’ll find yourself right in the middle of the northwestern edge of the Andes Mountains with climbing in every direction. Some of those climbs are paved but many are not and all of them are steep.
Whatever you end up doing, you have to understand that there is basically no flat riding. You are either heading up or down. For…