Cyclists are inherently selfish or at least we can be perceived that way. Masters racers (blasters) are even more so with a fear that if we stop training or take a beach vacation we will loose everything (fitness) and the next season will be that much harder to hold the wheels of riders young enough to be our children. So what do you do if you want to go on a beach vacation and have the best of both worlds? That world being family fun, riding and sightseeing, go to Bucerias Mexico and try to convince your wife to ride on cobble stone roads, eat street food and ride local transit.
Bucerias is a small Mexican town just north of Puerto Vallarta that is a mix of small hotels, VRBO rentals, expats, small markets, min-supers, friendly locals, safe streets, awesome restaurants and quiet beaches. Bucerias is also a great hub for road cycling which you would never think on first site. The area is a great launching pad to ride in to the back country on quiet roads, with scenic vistas, long climbs, colonial towns, inexpensive (cheap) food and, most importantly, safe places to ride. The locals show a lot of respect for cyclists and perhaps it speaks to a culture that relies on bikes for transportation, a stark contrast to riding around Calgary.
One of the more epic rides that we did was up to San Sebastian a 16th century Spanish silver mining town. What made the ride awesome was the climbing which is the only way to get there. Starting out just east of Puerto Vallarta you climb for roughly 36 km deep in to the Sierra mountains. The climbs have no rhythm as the mountains are a series of foothills that fold over top of each other and get increasingly higher. Just as you think you might be cresting the summit you descend a bit and start over again. The climb starts with palm trees at sea level and finishes with pine trees at roughly 14oo meters above sea level.
Riding with Joel up the climb to Estancia
What makes the climb up to San Sebastian challenging is the last 3 km. We rolled in to the town of Estancia and then turned upwards once again to find a wall of cobbles. It’s hard enough to finish the ride but now you have to stop, let some air out of the tires to roll over the cobbles and then lock in with white knuckles to finish the ride safely. The last thing you want to do is crash on this road surface and I was nursing wounds suffered the previous day when I hit a tope and careened down a cobble stone street in San Juan. Strava adds some additional incentive as there is a KOM (King of the Mountain) and if you take one of the KOMs there is a Jersey that can be won from the local tour operator Bici Bucerias who was our host for the week. In reality, the best way to roll over cobbles is in a big gear, hands loose on the hoods or tops of the bars and find the high point on the lane.
Riding the last section to San Sebastian know as “The Wall”
We were fortunate on the ride with the weather which was perfect. As you ascend the temperature tends to drop and there was a 10 degree difference from bottom to top. Another aspect that made the ride awesome was that it was a supported ride. We had a driver who provided hand ups when needed but there were no sticky bidons.
The reward for climbing was a visit to a historic colonial town far removed from resorts and beaches and devoid of tourists.
Side street in San Sebastian
Lunch was served at a local ranch restaurant that had house made tequila (selling for 100 pesos per bottle) and shredded beef on soft tacos (beef was from the ranch).
Other rides were equally epic but sans climbing. One of my favorite rides was to Fortuna de Vallejo which is an 80 km out and back that skirts alongside the Sierra mountains and weaves through farming and ranch lands dotted by tiny farm towns. At one point on the ride you have to fjord over a small river but it is not too deep.
Each ride we were on had three guides of varying riding ability. If you want to ride fast tempo there is a guide for that. If you want to chill and enjoy the sites then there is a guide for that too. You would be hard pressed to drop your guide but I did do my best, like most master blasters, to push the pace.
Lunch with local guide Peter (left) and ex Blackberry exec Derrick who was the key man in the Spidertech sponsorship deal with Steve Bauer’s team.
The ride to Vallejo took us through a larger town called San Juan which we rode to on a number of occasions. If you find yourself there keep an eye out for the infamous JK tope. It turns out that this particular bump eats roadies on a regular basis.
The last thing you want to hit going 35 km / hour is this thing. (note: I was not looking down)
If you want to combine riding, eating, beach going, site seeing then Bucerias is a great destination and very affordable. I would recommend leaving your bike at home and grabbing a rental from Joel’s outfit at Bici Bucerias which has a selection of Specialized bikes with 25 mm tires which are perfect for the roads.
The accommodations are far superior to staying in a hotel and we had a small villa that was shared with like minded riders and friends from Alberta.
The Casa Victoria pool was a welcome relief after each ride and kept the family entertained each morning.
When you’re not riding there are lots of towns close to Bucerias to explore but that’s another post for another day.