Mountain Biking Cotopaxi; The World’s Highest Active Volcano

Mountain Biking Cotopaxi? Sure, why not. When you have the opportunity to mountain bike down the world’s highest active volcano. Yet you have no mountain biking experience. Nor have you acclimatized to Quito’s 2, 800m altitude (almost 10, 000 feet) having just arrived yesterday from Colombia, clearly you should respectfully decline.

Add a reunion with an old friend into the mix, a measure of peer pressure and a rather large ego and declining is no longer an option; so off I went. Mountain biking down Cotopaxi. Oh sh*t.

Before long we were signed up through the Biking Dutchman.  49USD for the day trip, quality equipment, transport, guide, etc. Done.

Biking Cotopaxi
Biking Cotopaxi

Starting the Day

The day started pretty early early. We met at a cafe in the Mariscal district in Quito and waited for our guide to turn up around 07.30. There was a group of six of us and before long we were in the back of the minibus for the 90 minutes ride out of Quito. Bringing us to near the summit of the world’s highest volcano, Cotopaxi.

mountain Biking Cotopaxi
Briefing before biking Cotopaxi!

An Easy Ride?

The ride is pretty easy until you enter the national park. From there it’s a little bumpy. But the scenery is fantastic so it’s no big deal.

As usual, I had come very unprepared. Not even wearing a coa. And once we finally got to near the summit, at 4500m, it was snowing. The temperature was around five degrees, marvellous. Thankfully, the team at the  Biking Dutchman clearly come across idiots like me fairly regularly so they had a couple of spare coats to keep me warm.

Once we were out of the car, the dramatic landscape really hits home. This part of the world is just epic. We had a quick debrief about how to use the gears, how to wear a helmet etc. And we lined up ready to go biking Cotopaxi!

There are essentially three sections when you mountain biking Cotopaxi, so here we go:

SECTION ONE of the ride

The best section, but also the most difficult. You don’t have to peddle at all. It’s all downhill and it’s pretty steep. You’re constantly on the breaks and the bumps really take it out of your arms.

But the views are second to none, and with Cotopaxi, in the background, you really feel like you’re out in the wilderness.

Biking Cotopaxi

You can stop as often as you like, and the group gets quite spread out. Daredevils gunning it down the hill as fast as they can, photographers stopping every corner to take some beautiful pics. And the more risk-averse peeps holding the fort at the back.

You’re free to work at your own pace, which is perfect, because it’s not that easy. It’s loads of fun though. And for me this was ‘real’ downhill mountain biking.

This section takes around two hours

SECTION TWO of the ride

Spread out before and after lunch, section two requires a little bit of peddling.

You’re on more of a flat plateau, cycling over dirt paths and rocky routes. The volcano is further back behind you no. And there are two or three uphill sections that require you to drop gears. The speed is much slower. But the workload is slightly higher. It’s a gorgeous track and you cover a fair few km through the Ecuadorian countryside.

Biking Cotopaxi in section 2

You stop for homemade lunch halfway through which is well needed. And the brownies to finish off are pretty special. Remember to ask for seconds.

This section takes around an hour before, and an hour after, lunch

SECTION THREE. The final ride.

You’re almost home and dry. It’s much easier from here on in… almost. Before you get to the paved, asphalt road you have to hit a seriously taxing uphill battle, complete with a hardcore bump. Which bloody hurt your hands and arms. It’s pretty good fun, and you really earn the ease of the last section.

Once you get up the hill, it’s literally almost all downhill on a smooth road, with mountain ranges all around you. Super peaceful, and a wonderful way to end the day.

Biking Cotopaxi
Biking Cotopaxi in section 3

You finish up at the national park entrance. Grab yourself a cup of coffee/beer and jump back in the transport to be dropped off at your hostel/hotel. My plans to party afterward fell by the wayside, as soon as I hit my bed, as I was a goner. So tired. What a brilliant day, an absolute MUST DO as a day-trip from Quito. another one to add to the travel bucket list.

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Good luck guys, if you do this – let me know how you get on. I know you’re gonna love it. Happy travels.

Biking Cotopaxi

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