Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route: Dirt Road Version

  • Distance

    858 Mi.

    (1,381 KM)
  • Days

    23

  • % Unpaved

    75%

  • % Singletrack

    0%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    8

  • % Rideable (time)

    99%

  • Total Ascent

    115,795'

    (35,294 M)
  • High Point

    14,780'

    (4,505 M)
The Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route - the Dirt Road Version - runs the length of the country's volcanic corridor, following jeep tracks and tertiary, low traffic sealed roads. Meandering a remote course through the Ecuadorian Andes, it connects vibrant, colourful market towns with small mountain settlements. Amongst many highlights, its itinerary includes the volcanic trio of Cotopaxi, Quilatoa and Chimborazo, as well as the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca.
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Important Route Update May 9, 2018: After recent reports concerning safety around the village of Buenos Aires (south of the border with Colombia), we sugggest bypassing the area due to the activity of illegal gold mines and the ensuing tension between miners and local people. This is the sad consequence of unregulated mining and has as nothing to do with FARC or any guerrilla related issues, as has been suggested. The government is stepping in to close these mining operations but until it happens, we recommend playing it safe and dropping down from El Angel to Ibarra, and taking the back road to Otovalo, from where you can pick up the TEMBR route. We’ll update this post when the situation changes.

TEMBR Dirt is the mellower hermano to the unremittingly challenging TEMBR Singletrack. It strives to encourage bicycle tourists to escape the hectic traffic of the Panamerican Highway and delve deep into Ecuador’s backcountry, without missing some of the country’s classic sights. Staying high in the Andes for much of the time, it’s a showcase for Ecuador’s remarkable mountain diversity; patchwork fields in its rural settlements, the technicoloured hubub of its markets, its quiet and ethereal páramo, the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca, and of course, the majestic volcanic backdrop for which Ecuador is known. In tackling this route, it’s hoped riders will spend their time and money in small communities along the way, helping encourage low impact, positive tourism across these often overlooked regions.

  • Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (TEMBR), Dirt Road Version
  • Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (TEMBR), Dirt Road Version
  • Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (TEMBR), Dirt Road Version

Unlike its hike-a-bike obsessed sibling, the TEMBR Dirt is almost completely rideable, bar the odd push and shove, depending on the vagaries of Ecuador’s tempestuous weather and its impact on road conditions – be sure to read the Difficulty Box Out for more details. Although the mid-fat (2.8 to 3in tire) platform suits the country especially well, this is a ride that will appeal to anyone with a standard mountain bike, a relatively light load, a good level of fitness, and the desire to experience the Ecuadorian Andes.

The crux of this route runs from the Colombian border to Cuenca – effectively, the country’s volcanic corridor. Cuenca also provides a wonderful finale and easy logistics for returning to Quito. But for those continuing their journeys southwards, the route also suggests an additional, predominantly low-traffic connection to Vilcamaba, near the Peruvian border. See Trail Notes for details.

Route Development

Piecing this route together has been a collaborative effort. Enormous thanks are due to the Dammer Brothers for sharing their unparalleled knowledge of the country and to Nick Gault, for his extensive beta testing and feedback. TEMBR Dirt is still being fine-tuned and is subject to modifications. For the latest updates, be sure to download the gpx from Ride With GPS and take note of the many waypoints we’ve included. Please let us know if you run into any issues or inconsistencies. Thanks!

Reflecting Ecuador’s beauty and diversity, TEMBR strikes a balance between revealing remote backcountry riding and visiting points of touristic interest. As such, it opens with a fascinating meander through groves of otherworldly frailejon, by way of the El Angel Ecological Preserve, followed by a herculean climb to the equally beautiful páramo near Piñan – don’t miss it, it’s worth the effort! Descending back down to the Inter Andean Valley, R&R takes the form of a stopover in Otovalo, home to Ecuador’s biggest textile and handicraft market. A classic, Ecuador-style cobbled climb leads onwards to windswept Lago Mojanda, from where an unconventional dirt and sandy descent funnels riders to Guayllabamba, home to delicious the cherimoya fruit. From there, it’s a relatively flat stint (at last!) as the route picks up a bikepath along the old railway line to Tumbaco.

Onwards, a network of unpaved, sometimes grassy backroads sees riders gaining altitude once more in search of the perfectly conical Cotopaxi volcano, its National Park speckled with delicate, mossy flora, particular to Ecuador’s tundra. Striking into the fertile highlands around Quilotoa, the landscape here is completely different; steep-sided hills are home to shepherds herding sheep and llamas, as well as patchwork quilts of quinoa and potato fields, staples of the Quechuan diet. A popular backpacking destination, Quilatoa and its surrounding villages are home to a number of excellent choices in accommodation, details of which you’ll find on the GPX file. Beyond the rustic market town of Zumbahua, the riding becomes remote once again, en route to forlorn Angamarca and rugged Simiatug. Nearby Salinas de las Montanas is home to a thriving, grassroots tourism and local business infrastructure – amongst its many projects, this small settlement even boasts a chocolate factory.

No visit to Ecuador would be complete without taking in the grandeur of Volcan Chimborazo – assuming the weather gods are on your side – connected via a series of paved and unpaved backroads to Guamote and its colourful Thursday market. Ahead lies the push to Cuenca, reached via Ecuador’s most noted Incan ruins, Ingapirca. Cuenca itself is the country’s most appealing city, where you’ll find a rich display of colonial architecture, as well as a strong artistic and musical vibe. For those headed onto Peru, Loja marks the last sizeable settlement before the border, from where dirt roads will lead you to Vilcabamba, a quirky town known for the longevity of its local inhabitants – and the North American and European expats who have now usurped the area.

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TEMBR can be completed in its entirety, or section ridden. Public transportation between segments is easy, cheap and omnipresent – see Trail Notes for more details on how to break it down. Help is often at hand if you need a ride up one of the route’s many long climbs; a number of pickup trucks and local buses ply the highlands and will take you and your bike, generally at the cost of just a dollar or two. This means sections of the route can become a feasible undertaking for adventurous families too, the section around Quilotoa being an example. For a recent gallery of sections of the route and ride impressions, see here.

Should you prefer to crank up the challenge level, consider mixing up your own blend of TEMBR Dirt, TEMBR Singletrack, and Los Tres Volcanes, ideas for which also be be found in Trail Notes.

Just be warned. Ecuador is an extremely rugged country, rippled with arduous climbs. When locals tell you the road ahead is plano – flat – they are talking ‘Ecuadorian flat’. Altitudes along the whole of TEMBR fluctuate wildly, from the hot and steamy lowlands, where coffee and sugar cane grow in abundance, to extended stretches at 4000m and more. Embrace the climbs, savour the dirt… and enjoy!

  • 150308_pinanride_98
  • Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (TEMBR), Dirt Road Version
  • Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (TEMBR), Dirt Road Version

Difficulty

Ecuador being Ecuador, TEMBR Dirt is a very challenging undertaking: you’ll need grit, determination, acclimatised lungs, and mountain legs to complete it successfully. Although there’s no technical singletrack or hike-a-bikes to contend with, we’ve awarded this route a solid 8 in difficulty due to its prolonged climbs, extended stints at high elevation, cobbled surfaces, linguistic hurdles, and its overall length. Grades can be steep and terrain very mixed. Even during the summer, weather can be extremely variable; during the rainy season, conditions can become particularly challenging in places. Check out the elevation profile below to see what you’re letting yourself in for and pack light. Lastly, use this route as a guide – during the rainy season, you may well need to detour around smaller, unsurfaced tracks and resort to more paved backroads.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Trail Notes

    signpost

  • Resources

    link

  • Discovering the real Ecuadorian backcountry, away from the motorized frenzy of the Panamerican Highway.
  • Experiencing the vibrancy – and culinary delicacies – of Ecuador’s market towns.
  • Meandering across the beautiful, enigmatic páramo, Ecuador’s high altitude, treeless tundra.
  • Sleeping in a community owned ‘choza’, the traditional huts that dot the country’s highlands, if you’re lucky enough to come across one.
  • Riding through Cotopaxi National Park and around Chimborazo – the latter’s peak marks the closest point to the sun.
  • Treating yourself to comfortable, eco-friendly accommodation in Isinlivi, on the Quilatoa Loop.
  • Getting fit – with the amount of climbing on this ride, you have no choice!
  • Mid-June to mid-September is the high season in the Ecuadorian Andes. By Ecuadorian standards, this is the driest time of the year. Outside of this, be prepared for extended bouts of very heavy rain, which will effect road/trail conditions. Traditionally, there is also a ‘mini dry season’ in December and January. Hour to hour temperatures can be extremely variable, depending on altitude and weather, though they don’t change much throughout the year. A 0 to -5c bag is generally sufficient with wear extras layers if needed.  Ambient dampness can make nighttimes feel cooler than they are.
  • Always expect mixed weather in the highlands, whatever the season. Be prepared for persistent rain at times, and/or four seasons in one day! Bring a quality, reliable waterproof jacket (rather than the kind that pack up tiny but wet out quickly).
  • For the same reason, waterproof footware or shoes that dry out quickly are recommended.
  • This is a high altitude route, so allow time to acclimatise first. Never rush into high mountain rides.
  • High quality topographic maps can be obtained in Quito but following this gpx with a general country map (eg ITMB or Reise Know How) is all you’ll need. An ideal navigation solution a navigation app (eg Gaia or Mapout) on your smartphone and/or a GPS for the handlebars. Make sure your smartphone is stored in a watertight sleeve. There are charging opportunities en route but bring a cache battery too.
  • Ecuador is well suited to ‘plus’ bikes, given the cobbled backroads and the sometimes swampy nature of the páramo. Otherwise, we recommend 2.25in tires, ideally with front suspension though lightly laden, fully rigid touring bikes will be fine too (I’ve used a rigid Surly Troll and a rigid Surly Krampus in the past – the latter being more enjoyable). For the most part, it’s definitely not a route that lends itself well to a gravel or cyclocross bike, though there are intermittent sections where skinnier tires are advantageous.
  • There are high-end bike shops in Ibarra (off route), Quito (off route), Tumbaco (on route), Riobamba (off route), Cuenca (on route) and Loja (on route). Euadorian shops stock, or should be able to order, all the latest gear, even 27.5+ tire sizes.
  • With its strong tradition in climbing, Ecuador is well stocked with quality camping gear. The Ecuadorian chain Tatoo has an REI-like selection of high-end gear – they have stores in Cuenca and Quito. Pressurised cannister bottles are available in big cities. Denatured alcohol is easier to find in smaller locales.
  • If you spot an empty choza – the community-owned, traditional straw huts used by shepherds – make yourself at home. Just be sure to leave it in a better state than you found it. And if there are any locals around, check in with them first.
  • A grasp of Spanish will certainly come in useful. A few words of Quechua will be especially welcome by indigenous locals.
  • The route passes through isolated areas, some of which can be communally owned. Whenever you encounter anyone, please ask for permission to ride, by saying “Preste pasito, por favor”. Where necessary, be sure to reassure anyone you meet that you will close all gates behind you (“Yo cierro las puertas”).
  • A general note on buses. Most have room for a bike or two in the trunk, depending on the bus, wheels may need to be removed and an extra charge may be levied. Although buses can often be hailed down from the roadside, it’s often to find one that starts in a particular town, so there’s time/room to fit the bike.
  • Getting there: TEMBR isn’t routed through Ecuador’s capital, Quito. If you’re arriving by plane, you can ride/catch a taxi from the airport to the town of Pifo, and catch a direct bus to Tulcan (on the Colombian border) from there. If you want to decompress for a couple of days, consider catching a ride to Tumbaco and heading out from there.
  • Quito is probably best visited by bus as a side trip; on Sundays, much of the center is car free between 8am and 2pm.
  • Most large towns have ATMs – but carry extra cash in case any don’t work, to tide you through to each segment of the ride and even beyond. Note that there’s no ATM between the Panamerican Highway (Lasso) and Guaranda. Generally speaking, carry enough cash to tide you through each main segment (see Trail Notes).
  • South America’s village dogs are very vocal… expect to be chased!
  • Every town will be able to offer cheap accommodation; $5 per person and upwards. A few recommended options are marked as POIs on the Ride With GPS page.
  • There’s no shortage of camping spots/abandoned buildings/chozas (traditional straw shelters) along this route. Generally speaking the Ecuadorian Andes is a safe place to travel; we’ve never had any safety concerns outside Quito. Always aim to camp out of eyeshot of any road and ask if you end up close to a community. Football pitches are often good options.
  • Streams and rivers abound. To save weight, a couple of water bottles is generally all you’ll need to carry in the highlands of Ecuador, plus a means to purify anything you find en route. Water filters that work quickly, like Steripens, are great for this.
  • Every town can serve up a belly-filling set lunch (almuerzo) and dinner (cena) menu.  ‘Completos’ costs just a few dollars and includes a soup, main course and juice. They offer the best bang for the buck. Western food (Pizza etc…) is generally available in large town and cities.
  • Carry a minimal camping stove setup for cold/damp nights in the mountains and supplement this with cheap local eats along the way.
  • Don’t expect to find much more than the odd, poorly stocked village shop in between towns. Carry food for 2-3 days at all times.
  • Ecuador has an abundance of exotic fruit. Be sure to sample chirimoya when you’re passing through Guayllabamba. Better still, track down the locally made Chirimoya ice cream.
  • Other treats to look out for include tostadas – toasted corn – and mote – soaked corn. At the weekend, these are often served with hornada – delicious crispy, roasted pork . If you’re not squeamish, there’s roasted guinea pigs – cuy – to tuck into as well, an Ecuadorian speciality.
  • Locro de Papa is a hearty soup that will keep you fueled. It’s loaded with potatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, achiote, milk, cheese and cilantro, garnished with avocado and spicy aji (Ecuadorian hot sauce).
  • Always keep your eyes out for local produce. We suggest supporting small businesses when you can. Fresh cheese is commonly available; just add bread, a pinch of salt and a dollop of aji.
  • Market towns abound – we’ve listed the days of those that are more established in Trail Notes. They’re great for resuppling on fresh and local produce, as well as experiencing an important part of Ecuadorian life.

At over 1300km in length, TEMBR Dirt can be tackled in its entirety, or broken up into six parts that can be section ridden. Listed below is a suggested breakdown, splitting the ride into five digestible portions. Although the segments vary in length, each offers a suitable locale to spend a rest day or two off the bike.

Note that TEMBR Dirt is still being fine-tuned and is subject to modifications. For the latest updates, be sure to download the gpx from Ride With GPS and take note of the waypoints and the details within each. Please let us know if you run into any issues or inconsistencies. Thanks!

Tulcan to Otovalo: 235km (5 days)

Additional notes

El Angel is small, low key, with a good GH and food; a good rest spot. There is an enormous climb to Buenas Aires and onwards the Pinan paramo. Given that this is region is a highlight of the route, we’d urge you not to bypass it! If necessary, consider taking a bus from the junction to Buenas Aires, which passes through en route from Ibarra – details on the gpx file.

Riding north and like singletrack? Try this trail to Buenas Aires.

The descent to Otovalo follows an awesome water channel.

May 2018: Please read update at the top of this post re security in this section due to illegal mining activity

Otovalo to Tumbaco (possible side trip to Quito): 121km (2-3 days)

Additional notes

Otovalo is touristy but a nice place to rest up. The climb out of town is cobbled; dirt roads begin after Lago Mojanda.

The ‘rail trail’ south of El Quinche is a little rough going in places (watch for dogs!) but much quieter than the paved highway alternative.

Tumbaco to Salinas de Guaranda: 325km (6 days)

Additional notes

After the wilderness of Cotopaxi, the settlement of Isinlivi makes a great hangout. There aretTwo good accommodation options in town. Zumbahua has a great Saturday market if you can time your route accordingly, otherwise you can detour around town – see gpx file.

The climb out of Angamarca is steep, protracted, and sometimes muddy. Consider leaving Zumbahua/Quilatoa early and riding beyond Angamarca to clear the first big climb – a few possible campspots are noted – to divide it in two. Then, ride from there to Salinas de Guaranda; a big but do-able day (many rolling hills), with the promise of a great town to rest up in. Stopping short in Simiatug is also a possibility. Be especially aware of local sensibilites in this area, as there’s been disputes between locals and mining interests in the past.

Salinas de Guaranda to Cuenca: 390km (5 days)

Additional notes

The detour to the refugio in the Chimborazo National Park (free entry, free camping, water available) is highly recommended if the weather is on your site. There are some fantastic views on the way up and the gravel road is mellow.

Expect a larger percentage of paved riding between Achupallas and Cuenca – this section is still being developed. Let us know if you find improvements!

Cuenca to Vilcabamba: 309km (5 days)

Additional notes

There is more paved riding on this section than prior to it.

Short on time?

The crux of the ride – and the Avenue of the Volcanoes – is from Tulcan to Cuenca; both cities are well served by buses to Quito. These sections included the very best of the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route. The last segment, Cuenca to Vilcabamba, provides a useful low traffic link for those on longer itineraries, headed south into Peru. If you’re just come to ride the TEMBR, Cuenca makes a great terminus to the ride.

For a shorter route, consider riding from Otovalo or Tumbaco to Ambato, which can be easily reached after the descent from Chimborazo, see this gpx file for info.  This city offers good transportation back to Pifo using the (bike-friendly) CITA line, a town that’s just a short ride on the rail trail back to Tumbaco.

Mix and Match

Note that TEMBR Dirt, TEMBR Singletrack, and the Tres Volcanes route can all be woven together. By loading all three files into your smartphone, you can easily see where they overlap (or, use a program like GPS Visualiser). For those running a lightweight, bikepacking-style setup and who are game for relatively short but sometimes very challenging hike-a-bikes and paramo/singletrack yomps, consider the following:

The first section of the Singletrack version is especially challenging, so it’s best avoided by those who don’t enjoy multi-hour hike-a-bikes. Instead, after Pifo, use TEMBR Singletrack as an unconventional way to enter Cotopaxi National Park. Once in the park, hop on the Tres Volcanes route for a fun but challenging hike-a-bike over El Morro. If the weather is clear, consider branching off onto the more remote Singletrack version and looping around Quilindaña instead.

Later, plug in the Tres Volcanes route as a more challenging alternative through the Quilatao region (though it means missing the lovely settlement of Isinlivi). Whichever route you choose, continue riding to Salinas de Guaranda on TEMBR Dirt. Once you’ve reached the Refugio Carrel in Chimborazo National Park, hop on the Tres Volcanes route and descent down to the main road to the north. But instead of following the Tres Volcanes back to Salinas de Guaranda, connect through to the same route to the east via the highway, intersecting with it as it enters the park to circle around Volcan Chimborazo in a clockwise direction, which in turn will plug back into TEMBR Dirt. But doing with, you won’t miss out on Salinas de Guaranda – which makes a great rest stop – or on any of the best riding in Chimborazo NP.

From there on, stick to TEMBR Dirt, to avoid the infamous hike-a-bike challenges of Ecuador’s mini Inca Trail, unless you seek an extremely challenging ‘shortcut’ to Ingaparca.

Market Life

Markets remain the lifeblood of Ecuador. They tend to occur on Thursday and at the weekend. Here’s a few of the more colourful indigenous markets to bear in mind when planning your trip.

  • Otovalo: Daily, largest on Saturday morning (touristy but well worth visiting for textiles).
  • Saquisili (off route): Thursday morning (touristy but still maintains local vibe)
  • Zumbahua: Saturday morning (recommended).
  • Simiatug: Wednesday morning (very local).
  • Guamote: Thursday morning (recommended).

For a 2017 gallery of the route and thoughts on bike setups, see Cass’ post here.

Join the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route Facebook Group to connect with other riders and report updates.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • curtisinterruptus

    Oh man my wife and I are going after this route starting mid June! So psyched! Any recommendations on background reading to prep for the trip?

  • Cass Gilbert

    The weather should be picking up by then!

    I’d suggest just grabbing a guidebook. Lonely Planet books are available in phone-friendly format.

    Before you head out check back for updates, as I hope to reride the route in May.

    Enjoy!

  • tony

    That looks like a fantastic trip. Is there a best time of year to do it?

  • Cass Gilbert

    All the weather details are in the Must Know section. My advice? Bring a rainproof, any time of the year (-;

  • Peter

    Will be doing the route from Tulcan to Cuenca in June – so looking forward to it! Just have to get my legs ready :) Thanks for the inspiration, and the great info and pictures!

  • Cass Gilbert

    That’s the best section! Hope you enjoy it (-:

  • Brian Mulder

    Thanks for formalizing this Cass. This stitches together the bulk of Ecuador’s natural and cultural highlights along a fantastic route. And, combined with the Peru Divide and Pike’s route’s through Bolivia it’s a healthy supply of dirt for those doing a longer South American tour!

  • Dabadau Tabaluga

    Wow, great work. Maybe next year. Is there a gpx file for download?

  • Davin Spridgen

    the photography on this post is breathtaking. Wow great job!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks! You can download it via RWGPS.

  • Added to the page now… sorry about that; it takes a couple manual steps to do that and I missed it. Done now though.

  • Bikepackers.dk

    Hi guys
    We will be coming from the south to Ecuador, probably in september.
    I guess it wouldnt be a problem to do the route from south to north? Will it give us any tricky parts?
    It sounds like the perfect route for us. We ride 29+ rigid with around 15kg without food and water. Are there any sectiond of the singletrack version you would recommend to mix in?
    Looking very much forward to Ecuador when I see your pictures.
    But first we have to finish Argentina and Chile. And then Bolivia. Oh – and Peru as well. What a nice life.
    Best
    Kenneth and Marie

  • Cass Gilbert

    I think it will be great heading north too! Check out Trail Notes for ideas on working in singletrack options. Some ideas are outlined there.

  • Sarah Wragge-Morley

    Great looking route, shame we missed it as we have just left Ecuador. I can vouch for the steepness of Ecuador hills, we spent a day pushing one bike at a time up a hill and only made 6 km after 5 hours.

  • Dabadau Tabaluga

    No problem, thanks :)
    Next time I will look at rwgps, didn’t know that.

  • Great one. Put it already to my bikepacking bucket list.
    Cass, question to you, as you had a chance to ride a lot on Surly Troll. Im planning to buy Troll for extended bikepacking adventure – Tour Divide in US, than jump to South America, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. You think Troll is up to the task for roads similar to Dirt version of Trans Ecuador?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Definitely. I first rode across Ecuador on my trusty Troll with a pared down, classic touring setup (4 small panniers and a framebag). Given that it was before days of large volume tires/midfat platform, I’d definitely recommend a ‘plus’ wheelset if I was doing it again, to help take the bite out of Ecuador’s cobbles and open up some off route excursions. Otherwise, fit some 2.4s or more, and you’ll be just fine.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thank you!

  • Colt Fetters

    Phenomenal set of images as always Cass.

    It appears you were using a Krampus with a basket. Did you find a Krampus fork with brazeons, or did you find an alternative method for mounting?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks!

    Hm, I’ve run so many setups recently… but don’t think I’ve run a Krampus with a basket! Should work fine with the aftermarket Krampus fork though, the one with all the eyelets.

  • Elliot Gough

    Absolutely stunning photography on an amazing tour! I noticed in one of the pics you’re using micro panniers on a rear rack. I’m aiming for this kind of set-up myself and I was wondering what rack did you use? I ‘m looking for one as small and compact as possible on a 27.5+ bike.

  • Karl

    Hi Peter, I’m thinking of doing the same part of the route around the same time. I’d love to chat.
    -Karl
    karlpeterschmidt@gmail.com

  • Jonathan Black

    I have a Troll and rode the Divide. Best bike ever. Wheelset is everything. I built my wheelset using Kris Holm 47mm rims, and DT Swiss Alpine III spokes — absolutely bombproof. For rubber, I run a Surly Knard in front and a Surly Dirt wizard in the rear.

  • Thanks Jonathan! gonna certainly look up to these wheels you mentioned.
    btw. did you change fork in your troll or rode the entire way on the fixed one?

  • Jonathan Black

    I rode with firm fork. I found the 3 inch tires to be plenty of cushion for me. BTW, the Kris Holm rim is one of the only “mid-fat” rims that I am aware of that comes in 36 spokes, which I prefer. I have seen others with broken spokes on the Divide, and I am not one of them. :) The Kris Holm Freeride rims are actually made for Freeride Unicycles, so they are very strong.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I was using a Tubus Vega. Although it’s a really nice, lightweight rack, clearances are on the tight side with a 3in tire.

  • Arctos

    Cass:
    Your photos and route reminds me of a similar mountain bike trip through Ecuador in December and January of 1986 into 1987. Small front panniers and a medium backpack on rear rack on a 64cm Ritchey Team Comp with 26X 2.0 tires which were marginally adequate in some soft pumice, mud and sand at points.

    Started at the Columbia border on rough tracks reaching Otovalo for the Saturday Market. Invited into locals thatched mud huts on back trails. Unfortunately I knew no Quechua for communication. Some serious bike-n-hike at times finally reaching Mt.Pinchincha and Quito.

    Continuing South on dirt West of the Pan Am Hwy climbed West col of Chimborazo and stayed at the Edward Whymper Hut at 5000 meters/16400 feet. My 20F down bag was not good enough that night with zero F temps and high winds.

    After a long pumice surfaced descent crossed over the Pan An Hwy to enter Cotapaxi NP to camp in twig structure hut. After reaching Quayaquil took the one car ferrocarril train back to Quito for the flight home. Another unique experience.
    Nothing but fine memories of the people, the food and the challenging scenery. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Rik Adriaans

    Hi Cass,

    This route and description made us come to Ecuador… with the bike.
    Coming from the real flat Netherlands we are in Palugo now to get used to the height and getting the good vibes of Ecuador at the farm at the same time.
    Also visited the casa cyclista of Santiago in Tumbaco when we were getting groceries. He named you as well… with a smile.
    Probably starting next Monday/Tuesday in Tulcan, looking forward to it!

    Thnx for this route and site!

    Cheers,
    Evelien&Rik.

  • gerwyn

    hi cass thanks for your great trip report im hoping to do this trip as part of a SA backpacking trip would have a gear list you took and what time of year did do it thanks gerwyn

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Gerwyn,

    I’m afraid I don’t have my gear list handy but it’s all pretty standard stuff – I take pretty much the same things on every trip, maybe more in the way of waterproof gear for Ecuador. Have a look at the Need to Know section, there’s details on the best time of the year to ride it there. Enjoy!

  • gerwyn

    thanks for your help gerwyn

  • Raúl Rodríguez Herranz

    hey guys,
    we are in Ecuador trying to download this TEMBR track in a garmin GPS but can´t find the the full file, just the first setion from Tulcan to Otavalo.
    Somebody could help us?
    My email is Rulxmaster@gmail.com.It will be great if someone could send me the file.
    Thanks a lot,
    Raul Rodriguez

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Raul, go to the map, click on ‘view full route’ and download the track from there – it’s free to sign up to Ride With GPS if you haven’t an account already. You can export it any whatever file format works best for you.

    Enjoy!

  • Josh Buchsbaum

    Hi Cass/Raul,

    I started the route and noticed the same issue and have tried downloading again. Route ends around Otavalo. Using a Garmin Etrex 20 which I believe is good for 10k pts. Was this resolved? Any help much appreciated.

    Thanks!
    Josh

  • Cass Gilbert

    Because it’s a long route (some parts recorded, some drawn into RWGPS), I believe for older Garmin units you need to chop it up into a few sections.

  • Peter

    In June, I followed the route from Tulcan to Riobama. It is MAGICAL!! It was also quite tough (for me at least) as I struggled quite a bit with the altitude. The landscape is amazing and varied: almost every day provides a “take your breath away” moment as well as a challenge that keeps you on your toes :)

  • Josh Buchsbaum

    Thanks for the quick reply. Ended up just loading the kml onto maps.me. Thanks for the awesome route.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Would love to hear how you got on!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the feedback Peter, so glad you enjoyed it, breathtaking moments and all (-;

  • Cass Gilbert

    Sounds awesome Arctos. What a wonderful country (-:

  • Rik Adriaans

    WAUW!
    We really had a great time. What a great way to experience Ecuador. Lovely people, great views!
    The route was hard at times, killing climbs. Hours and hours at the lowest gear :D. But it was well worth it!
    Santiago said we were crazy, mad Cass disciples, haha ;).
    Thanks again for this great route!

    Cheers,
    Evelien&Rik.

    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1b84af3e7f855000f58e02ecd241607cca4f4f8b82eb8ff180e46ad269873cdd.jpg

  • Olivia Rekman

    Hey Cass – thank you for an amazing website and route! Wow – me and my partner are heading down to Ecuador from Sweden/Canada in beginning of December in 2 weeks, to follow in your footsteps/bikepaths! Did you end up going again this year – just saw your post below on your plans?

    I just have two questions that I hoped on some input on from the ether:
    (1) is there any way of getting a hold of Santiago at Casa di Ciclistas beforehand arriving in Quito, to notify him and his wife that we are planning on showing up and if they have room for us?
    (2) what did you do for flying with the bikes – we will pack them in cardboard on our way down, and heard that easiest to put them together at the airport – did you bike from the airport to Tumbaco or just put the bikes together and put them in a cab? And when flying out of Ecuador – how did you pack the bikes – plastic/cardboard – and is Santiago at Casa di Cicilistas a good place to do this at for basecamp and sourcing new cardboard etc? We have been debating on bringing CVB plastic to have ready for the flight back to Canada, but feel like it would be a bit of a gamble to pack in plastic (we fly with United Airlines) – I’ve done it before in France but cared less about my bike at the time.

    Thanks again!
    The grateful swede,

    Olivia

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Olivia, you can find a list of Casa de Ciclistas in Latin America here, of which Santiago is one of them:
    http://mebobandsurly.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/casa-de-ciclistas-in-latin-america/

    I haven’t taken a taxi from the Airport to Quito, but I don’t see why it would be being complicated in any way. It’s not a long journey and taxis are cheap in Ecuador. That way, you could ask Santiago to store your box. I expect he’ll be able to, but drop him a line to check he’s around.

    I like to travel with a soft bike bag (my favourite is the Tardis, by Ground Effect – http://www.groundeffect.co.nz/products/tardis-compact-bike-bag) as it folds down small and is easy to store. But cardboard boxes work too. If for some reason you aren’t able to stay with Santiago, I’m sure you can pick up a replacement box in Quito – there’s several good shops there, like Cikla – http://cikla.net/

    Enjoy the ride!!

  • Mike Gurnham

    Might as well throw this out there, I’m currently riding slow in Colombia, getting fit and ready for the Trans Ecuador. I’ll be starting probably around January 5th from Ipiales, Colombia. If anyone is thinking of riding around the same time I’d be happy for some company.

  • A. Gorilla

    Thanks to everyone who helped assemble this route. I didn’t ride all of it, but the parts I did were fantastic. For those heading south from Cuenca, there’s an amazing dirt road route out of Cuenca to Highway E59 at Santa Isabel. The road leaves Cuenca to the west and follows a lush, green valley, climbing slowly to the southern edge of Cajas National Park. From there, it swings south, rising into the paramo, where it stays for some 50 kilometres of incredible scenery. It then drops a long way down to Hwy E59. From there I went to the coast, but for those continuing south, it looks like you can follow dirt roads through the mountains most of the way to Loja. You can find the route here: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/26587683

  • A. Gorilla

    I actually found Ecuador to be easier riding than some of the dirt roads I took in Colombia. It is higher up, but generally I’ve found the roads less steep. The exception being Angamarca to Simiatug, which is the hardest stretch of riding I’ve endured in three months in South America.

  • Cass Gilbert

    That’s a tough stint alright. There’s a lower alternative… but I think the graft is worth it!

    I definitely found some of the Colombian backroads super hilly too. Though I think segments of the Peru Divide may trump them all…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Glad you enjoyed the bits you rode!

    And a big thanks for the route extension link. I’ll ask the Dammers to check it out – they know the area super well – and see if it all works on the ground.

    Cheers!

  • A. Gorilla

    It definitely didn’t help that I was stuck in a thick fog for most of the way. Being able to take in the views would have made it more fun.

  • Kev Kelly

    Hi Cass,

    A great adventure
    I’m thinking of cycling the route in December 2018
    -Would you know the climate at this time
    – Also is it better to fly in and out of Quito
    I’ll be travelling via the UK
    Thanks
    Kev

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Kev, check out the details in Must Know – there’s a pretty detailed paragraph on weather expectations. But expectations is what they are… nothing is fixed in Ecuador… just like the UK (-; In theory, there can be a window of drier weather in December/January, but it’s much less reliable than the summer.

  • Marc Conti

    Hi Cass, I read your familly trip reports of Ecaduor and would love some beta to help us plan a multi-week trip with our 3y.o son next summer. We rode the bc trail and ended on the Canadian part of the Divide last summer as our first bikepacking trip. We also trekked over 200miles in the Pyrenees with our toddler so we are used to being in autonomy mode in the mountains. Just wonder which part of this ride would be too rough for the trailer, as we try to keep the ride smooth for our son. Don’t mind pushing the caravan for a few hours as long as it is not a daily thing. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Marc

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Marc, given the caveat that no riding in Ecuador is ‘easy’ and certainly a good notch above the Divide… I’d say the best bits to do with a family are from Tumbaco to Guaranda/Riobamba. Or, you could peel off after the detour to Chimborazo (at Cuatro Esquinas), and head to Ambato via Mocha. Ambato is a little hectic, but better buses back to Quito etc… I’m not sure if you’re travelled much in South America, but driving quality is a bit mixed… though no worse than the US!

    For the most part, all of this is rideable, bar the odd bit of pushing, depending on the weather. However, there are extended sections with cobbles throughout the route, which we found ok with our Chariot, as long as we took it easy. Nothing is exactly what I’d call smooth, especially if you want to be away from paved roads. The good news is that most local buses/pickup trucks should be able to shoehorn in your bikes + trailer, which can be useful on some of the longer climbs, if you want to save time/change things up a bit. There’s certainly lots of great places en route to take days off the bike and do other things.

    If you end up planning your trip for sure, I can suggest a couple of small detours to make your life a little easier and point out the best places to hang out. I’d also recommend the odd non-bike detours, like a couple of nights in Mindo (a bus ride from Quito), which has awesome butterfly farms and lots of hummingbirds.

    All in all, I think Ecuador is a great and safe place to visit with a family. But the riding is definitely challenging!

  • Bridget

    Hi Cass, thanks for the effort putting this route together!
    My boyfriend and I are in Colombia now on Surly long haul truckers. Is there any way the dirt road version would be suitable with these bikes?
    Thanks for all the great info on this site!!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, definitely, as long as you don’t mind some pushing here and there. The key is to pack light, fit the largest tires you can (which I think is valid all dirt road routes in South America!) and be open-minded to the ever changing challenges of Ecuador’s climate and terrain. Big tires will help massively with the cobbled and stony sections, especially for comfort.

  • Bridget

    Awesome. Thanks for the fast response and the encouragement!

  • Laura Killingbeck

    Hey Cass,
    Thank you so much for all these amazing posts!! Could a surly disc trucker or salsa marakeesh handle this route? I’m used to riding long distances (1-3 K miles) on pavement on really cheap bikes ($50), but want to buy something better that can handle road touring and dirt touring for similar or longer distances. I’ve been looking at the trucker and marakeesh but as I’m reading your posts about gear I wonder if I am looking at the wrong style here and need something like the surly troll you recommended. I get that maybe the trucker or marakeesh aren’t ideal, but could they reasonably handle this route? THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! I am mechanically impaired but love being out there riding. It would be nice to have the right bike.

  • Laura Killingbeck

    Thank you so much, very helpful!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Check out the Must Know section on recommended bikes/tires, and that might help you decide. A mountain bike of some kind is definitely best, ideally with flat bars for more controlled braking. I’ve not tried a Marrakesh but it looks like tire size is the limiting factor.

    I’d definitely recommend a more appropriate bike if you’re intending to ride dirt road routes in South America and potentially mix in trail too. If you’re sticking to pavement for the most part, then the Trucker would be just fine. You’ll certainly grit your way through. At a similar price point, bikes like the Troll or Ogre would be your best options.

  • Jc Ven

    Kev
    I also plan to do this route, I am from Canada, need a partner???

  • George North

    Hi Cass,

    Thanks for putting this together – El Ángel was incredible.

    Whilst riding up the track to Buenos Aires today (on the way to Cotacachi Reserve from San Geronimo) I was warned that the area around Buenos Aires is currently unsafe due to dissident FARC/ Narco traffickers in the area.

    In view of the politically motivated kidnappings/ murders around the Colombia/ Ecuador border in the last few weeks, we decided to take his advice and turn around (we took the bus to Cotacachi via Ibarra).

    As ever, this information should be taken with a pinch of salt! The guy however did live on the way to the village and was quite specific. The police at the checkpoint at San Geronimo also later advised bypassing the area (although they did seem more interested in warning me about the size of the hill!).

    Happy cycling,

    George.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for this political update, George. That’s a shame to hear. I’m a little surprised, as the area is really just paramo and not much else. I’ll ask the Dammers what their take is too.

    Cass

  • Hi Cass and George (thanks Cass for you email),
    There has been incidents with the guerrillas in the northern coast of Ecuador for many years. The region to watch out for is San Lorenzo, a town that has always been questionable in terms of safety. San Lorenzo is right by the coast on the border with Colombia and far away from the TEMBR. This is not the first time that violent incidents happen in this particular area and I think It won’t be the last one. Andean towns like Buenos Aires are not and will not be affected by this conflict any time soon, I will consider the whole TEMBR very safe in this regards.
    I will definitely avoid any riding in the vicinity of San Lorenzo or attempting to ride down to the Northern Coast of Ecuador, as I said before, this area has been in constant conflict for many years (I also know many riders who had ridden there and experienced not problems at all).

    Hope this helps

    Cheers

    Michael

  • George North

    Thanks Michael and Cass. It sounds as though the guy we met (a Hungarian called Victor) probably had his own motives (unknown to us!). The police on the checkpoint didn’t seem particularly concerned, although they did want to see in my panniers on the way up which seemed a bit unusual.

    Cheers,

    George.

  • Ala Boincean

    Hey Cass and all! We just rode sections of the route in april 2018 and would like to share a warning about the village of Buenos Aires (somewhere 150 km in or so). Locals warned us to get out of there as soon as possible (on a bus) and to not even try to ride anywhere around the gold mines in the area because a few people got killed the week before and there are regular robberies. Needless to say that gringos are preferred targets. Some might say that it might have been exaggerated but for us it was not worth finding out. Otherwise we really enjoyed the first section around El Angel, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo and Salinas.
    This might shed some light http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/montanas-buenosaires-mineria-oro-imbabura.html
    Thanks!

  • Oscar Jenkinson

    Hi Cass,

    Thanks for another super detailed write up, this one looks absolutely amazing.

    I’m hoping to ride it, starting in Otovalo/Ibarra, in early September this year, going solo. I’m 20, have done a few bikepacking trips solo before, first the GR247 in Spain and then a month’s dirt road loop in Northern Thailand but this would be my biggest yet.

    I would ride with a Spot SOS system, a solid bivvy/waterproofs to avoid getting caught in the weather, a fair knowledge of Spanish, and my mountain legs!

    How would you (or anybody who’s taken this route) rate it as a solo adventure? I need to sell it to my worrying mother.

    Many thanks!
    Oscar

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hey Oscar,

    The dirt road version is completely do-able as a solo adventure. As you can see from the stats, there’s lots of climbing, but it’s pretty straight forward otherwise, as long as the weather is on your side. I personally prefer a lightweight tarp over a bivy, as the weather can be mixed. But if you’re ok with that, go for it!

    For me, the best bit – and core part of the route – is from Tulcan to Cuenca. Otovalo to Cuenca is great too! If you want to ride some trail, there’s lots of options to mix that in too. See Trail Notes.

    The Singletrack Version is a different entity altogether as a solo undertaking…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the feedback Ala. That’s so weird, as I really had no idea there were any gold mines in the area through which the route passes! There must be something afoot given the warnings, but it’s very strange as the area really is just open paramo after Buenas Aires. I’ll check in with the Dammers again and see if they can confirm any of this.

    Thanks for the link, interesting indeed.

  • IMPORTANT: Fellow bikepackers, after a few emails asking about the safety of the village of Buenos Aires (North of Ecuador), today I talked to friends who live there and they suggested that we avoid going through Buenos Aires at the moment. There is ilegal gold mines trying to settle in and the situation is getting tense between miners and local people. This has nothing to do with FARC or any guerrilla related issues, but with the sad consequences of mining… there has no been incidents with tourists or bikepackers until now, but lets avoid this happening.
    I will suggest that until things settle down, we all avoid this section of the route.
    To do that, you can take one of the many back roads that go from El Angel to Ibarra and then to Cotacachi or Otavalo to continue on the original TEMBR route.
    I will post any updates on this issue as the government has offered to close the mining operations and move miners away. I hope it all happens soon.

  • Marc Conti

    Hi Cass, thank you for the reply and the infos.

    We had a lot debating if we were gonna try it or not this year, since we did not get as much training/riding done this spring. But finally, we bought our tickets and we will be in Ecuador for a month starting mid-June. For the moment, we hope to stash some gear somewhere close to Quito/Tumbaco for the first two weeks, as we will do some touring in the Intag valley until July. So if you know anybody in that area, please let us know. The ideal is to catch a ride to Laguna Cuicocha from Otavalo and ride mostly downhill in the valley, staying in farmstays in the communites along the way. If things work out, we plan to ride to El Chontal and visit Los Cedros Reserva. We heard it is a worthwhile adventure on it’s own.

    If we feel strong enough by July, we will probably try to ride from Tumbaco to Quilatoa with a really laid back schedule. I would appreciate your input on a two points

    1) Looking on google earth, there doesn’t seem to have many camping option until we get to Rio Pita, the area around Cotopaxi looks good if we stay out of the National Park but that probably will be only 2-3 nights, then Quilatoa looks pretty touristy so camping options looks grim. Do you think its worth carrying all the camping gear ? We are thinking of bringing with just the bare essential and a tarp for the 2-3 odd night out. Also, your talked about various Chozas around Cotopaxi. Got any more info about there approximate location ?

    2) If the weather is on our side, we are considering doing the full loop around Cotopaxi. Is this foolish with the trailer ? There are double-tracks that leads all the way to Yanahurco Hacienda, on the east side. From there, it looks like the tracks wrap west heading to El Tambo Hacienda (couldnt find precise position) but my guess is this section is far less travelled by jeep. It looks like it is a only 5-10km ride between both Haciendas, but that can be a long if we got to push the Chariot. Have you been that way ? I tried emailing both Haciendas but l did not get any reply yet.

    Thanks again for all the time you put into this site. Is really appreciated !!
    Marc

  • Cass Gilbert

    Mark,
    You could get in touch with Santiago at the Casa de Ciclistas, he may well be able to store gear.
    https://mebobandsurly.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/casa-de-ciclistas-in-latin-america/
    I’ve never had too much trouble finding a camping spot along the route. If it comes to it, you can always ask someone if you can camp in their field, or on a village football field, or outside the church. I prefer to have camping gear but I’m almost sure you could find places to stay if you prefer to go light and leave it behind, which may make sense as a family. I haven’t marked all the hostels/guesthouses on the route; for instance, there’s a few around Toacazo too that would provide a good half way point en route to Isinlivi from Cotopaxi. I don’t believe there are any chozas along the route.
    The full loop of Cotopaxi is definitely not trailer friendly… I’d just spend some time ambling around the National Park, which has plenty of double tracks. You could base yourself at the Tambo Lodge, for instance, and head out on a day loop, especially if you decide not to bring a tent. Lots of great hiking around there too. Perhaps the best idea is to plan to stay in places, but carry an emergency tarp in case you need it, along with sleeping bags and mattresses for the odd abandoned building or garage! Of course, you’ll save money by camping and have a different experience, but given that Ecuadorian accommodation tends to be well priced, it’s definitely an option.
    Enjoy! Hopefully the weather will be on your site (-:

  • Daniel Gomez Salazar

    Hi Cass, Awesome route thanks a lot for the effort. Anyway, how viable would you think that it is to do this route with no camping gear, just crashing in the small towns ?

    Thanks !

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’m not too sure… Some sections might be possible – like Quilatoa, as it’s more touristic – but on the whole, I’d definitely recommend having a tent. The camping is great too.

  • Daniel Gomez Salazar

    Oh thanks for the answer, and another question. How cold does it get at night, I mean which sleeping bag would you recommend ?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Check the Must Know section… all the details are there!

  • fauxpho

    Any updates on this potential obstacle/risk? Do you expect this to resolve by mid-summer? My itinerary puts me near Buenos Aires in mid July. Thanks for any insight.

  • Hi there,
    Difficult that it gets resolved that soon. Miners and the government are trying to pull it together but those things take time.
    By mid July we will have posted here an option to skip that section so don’t worry keep moving your plans forward…

    Cheers

    Michael

  • Mike K

    Starting the route 1st week in July!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Great! The weather should be clear by then. I’m making constant micro-adjustaments to the route, and adding in info, so download the latest gpx just before you leave.

  • sagonger

    Thank you really much for your efforts to bring all that information togethee! It’s really great to see!
    I’m starting to ride the TEMBR in some days and have one more question: what is (by your experience) the best way to deal with the dogs? Of course, they are too fast to ride away from them. Stop and let let them sniff at you?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Personally, I don’t have a specific technique… I’ll outrun them, shout at them, stop and pretend to pick up a stone, squirt water at them, depending on my mood… They’re not too bad, just annoying more than anything.

  • Frank Abbing

    Hi Cas
    We are thinking of doing (parts of) this route in the coming months (now in Nicaragua). We are riding with a bike touring set up, meaning panniers and all, however we did the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route with that. How would this route compare to GDMBR? We don’t mind to push here and there and don’t need gurantees, but it should be doable :-). Could you advise?
    txs Frank and Jacinta

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hey Frank, it’s hard for me to say more than what I’ve written in this post… but it’s a lot harder than the Great Divide! Have a good read (see Difficulty and Trail Notes, in particular, check out the profile, and you should get a good idea). My advice would be to go as light as possible; send stuff you don’t need ahead to Cuenca or Loja. It’s very doable on any touring bike with reasonable size tires if you don’t mind some rough stretches and cobbles, but you’ll enjoy it much more with a light load!

  • sagonger

    Hi Cass,

    I’m currently in Chunchi and I can confirm that there are multiple ATMs at the central place there.

  • Alycia Kline

    You talked us into bringing our bikes to Ecuador! We are riding up the coast right now and will be bussing into Quito to start the ride from Tumbaco in a few days. Question…we downloaded Ride with GPS with no problem. Haven’t used that app before but it says it won’t provide cues for the TEMBR. We like to have sectional cue sheets. Are we missing something? Are we not looking in the right place? Is this approach not appropriate for this route? We read the download help section to no avail as well. Thanks for your thoughts:) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db218d0111645cf63451f0f2a7457838ed5b2464a4d5541379a642b534e36a46.jpg

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Alycia, I’m not sure what cues you’re thinking of, but all you’ll need is the gpx file – just make sure it includes the waypoints, as it will with the RWGPS App. If using an iPhone, I’m a big fan of Gaia and Mapout.
    We’re often making minor tweaks here and there, so make sure you have the latest version (the files are dated).
    Hope the weather is on your side. Enjoy!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Great, thanks!

  • Paque Benelu

    Hi Cass

    We are thinking of doing the route on 2 tandems with our 9 and 12 year old sons, does the route require a lot of sand and carrying ? thanks a lot
    Benoit and Lucille

  • Cass Gilbert

    Great guys, what an adventure! There’s no sand to speak of and no carrying (just pushing if muddy or steep). If you read the ‘Difficulty’ section you should get a sense of the kind of road conditions you can expect – eg mud, cobbles, and sometimes rocky terrain. For the most part though, I’d consider it very rideable, as long as you travel light and run a bike with mtb tires.

  • fauxpho

    Cass, how do you suggest one obtains your latest copy of the route? Downloading the GPX file directly from the bikepacking.com site gets me your latest (? June 6) version, but it doesn’t include any waypoints. Same thing if I go to RideWithGPS and find your file there. No problem downloading and showing on Topofusion, but the file attributes clearly show no waypoints. ??

  • Cass Gilbert

    Looking at the date of the file, the last version is 6.6.18. When I make changes, I update the date. The date appears in the gpx string too.

    The file attached has the POIs as waypoints. I’m not sure why they’re not showing up on Topofusion, as I’m not familiar with the inner workings of that program. They do on all the phone apps I use. Have you read the Download Help post? That addresses a few more common issues people have faced with installing the file into their various units. If you’re downloading from RWGPS direct, make sure you tick the ‘POIs as waypoints’ box.

    http://www.bikepacking.com/plan/using-routes/

    If you’re having issues, I’d suggest installing the RWGPS App as a backup on your phone. Even if you don’t use it navigate, it’s nice to have access to the full POIs (both name and details) as there’s a lot of bonus info there.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve reloaded in an updated version of the track as of today… and everything seems to be working fine for me.

  • fauxpho

    Hey Cass, thanks for the replies. I solved my Waypoints issue (subtle switch toggle in Topofusion). I’m surprised you guys don’t use Topofusion! I would think it would be invaluable for editing GPX tracks. Their excellent point reduction algorithm (using curve fitting rather than simple sub-sampling) alone would help w/ your site.
    Worked my way around the clutter of RWGPS too. If i sort by newest date after searching on trans ecuador, your entry shows 82nd of 87. Apparently they mark by date of original route entry, not date of update. On the phone app, there is no way to sort search results, so finding your latest updates is rather tedious (their issue, not yours)

  • Cass Gilbert

    I have a Mac… which means no Topofusion…

    RWGPS recently updated their user interface. It’s now super easy, at least to use in relation to this site. Just click ‘Send to Device’ top left of map and follow the prompts; it will sync this posted version with your Android or iPhone (as well as some other devices) directly.

    Even if you don’t want to import straight to your device, you should be able to click straight through to latest version of the route, from this page, without any need to search around. There’s a few little intricacies which I’ve detailed in the Download Help post, for accessing the RWGPS page, or exporting a kml file, or one with less points etc… Hopefully it’s clear as it should be very quick and easy now.

  • Thanks for the updated route, Cass. Should be starting it in about two weeks’ time!

    Incidentally, if you wanted to get TopoFusion working on your Mac, I’ve got it running happily on mine using Winebottler. It’s relatively straightforward – I can share the necessary settings if you want…

  • FWIW, in MapOut, if you go to Tours list and click the blue ‘i’ on the right of the TEMBR tour, it lists all the waypoints and you can read the associated information, but it’s just in alphabetical order so not the greatest – easier to see in the RWGPS app, but useful to know it’s there!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Ah thanks. I noticed that Mapout showed the waypoint name; good to know the rest of the info is buried in there somewhere. Gaia shows it more clearly with a lot more topo detail, but Mapout is a nice and simple app to use.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Interesting! My Macbook Air is so old and slow and I’m not how it would do… but I should definitely give it a go at some point. Thanks!

  • For reference, in case anyone else wants to try it too, just download and install Winebottler and then create a package with the TopoFusion installer using all the default settings plus the following Winetricks: d3dx9, vb6run. You can access files (such as GPXs) in Mac OS by going to the Z drive in TopoFusion. Works pretty well on my Early 2015 MacBook but, as you say, no idea if it’ll run on an old Air!

  • Andrew Connolly

    Hi Cass.
    My wife and I have just completed the route and we thought it was fantastic. We had to miss the section to the north east of El Angel due to the illegal mining activities but enjoyed the detour to Ibarra where we managed to stay with the Bomberos at Laguna de Yahuaracocha. Meeting the legend that is Santiago at the haven of the Casa de Ciclistas was a highlight and set us up for the stunning trek through the Volcano corridor where we were lucky enough to meet Mateus Dammer out with some clients on a bikepacking trip near Cotopaxi. A really, really nice guy and very modest. He was genuinely pleased that we had come to experience his country. The whole route was a joy and even though we had some rough weather at the start we would highly recommend it as an almost traffic free way to see Ecuador. We are on surly Trolls with a half pannier and bikepacking set up with 2.25 Schwalbe Marathons, and even though the cobbled sections rattled our teeth the rest of it was perfectly manageable, but if you are on the lighter side it will be easier.
    Don’t sweat your gear choices, pack some rainy weather gear, get fit and enjoy. Classic stuff.
    Andy

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Andy, thanks for taking the time to leave this comment. I really appreciate the feedback!

    Yes, Mathias is a star! (as are all the Dammers)

  • Alycia Kline

    Wanted to let the forum know that we were robbed on the TEMBR last night on our way from Cotopaxi to Isinlivi. We were camped in a flat out of the way spot before the descent into Isinlivi. Our bikes were locked together and against our tent but the wind was very loud which would make it difficult to hear anything going on outside (which has been the usual camping scenario for us so far). I must say…bikes with plus tires here stick out…alot. however…the plus tires made sand and broken cobble and the conditions of the TEMBR much more rideable and enjoyable. So…the risk of theft, which is present anywhere at anytime, is maybe a little heightened by the bike profile. We definately keep a low polite respectful persona when we travel and I speak above average Spanish. Also my travel partner has biked through South America extensively without a problem but on better roads…and hence a cheaper bike. So…I guess I’m just throwing out a warning that the plus bikes might make you a target…or maybe we were in the wrong place at the wrong time…it has been a beautiful trip up till now…and it just became a fairly expensive trip.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s not clear what was robbed – the complete bikes while you were asleep? If they were iocked and immobilised, did someone carry or wheel them off in the night? Not that it’s useful to hear right now, but even in the backcountry, I actually tie my bike to my tent, so if anyone tries to take off with it, they’ll effective pull my tent down too… This said, I’ve never heard of anyone having two bikes stolen that are securely locked together…

    Plus bikes do stand out – everywhere in South America – but Ecuador is certainly no stranger to expensive mountain setups, thanks to the big x-country and downfill race scene and high end bike shops all around the country. I’ve not had any issues in all the years I’ve ridden there, with whether it be plus, fat, or normal mountain bikes, so I’d be tempted to put it down to wrong place at the wrong time, rather than the allure of plus bikes in particular.

    If it’s not too late, be sure to talk to the local community, as its members may well be able to help. These are small and remote areas, and most people know most people… Any tire tracks/footprints from where they’d been wheeled away? I heard one story of a kid taking a bike from outside a tent… only for it to be discovered in his village later on.

  • Alycia Kline

    The bikes were locked together…so it had to be at least a couple people…still had one framebag attached with mostly tools. Our campsite wasn’t very visible from the road so I’m guessing someone pegged us earlier in the day and planned on robbing us. The road was very sandy…so when we checked for tracks…there weren’t any. We walked around a little and found one local who was shovelling his truck wheels out of some sand he was stuck in…he said he didn’t know anything. We used to lock our bikes to our tent…but we have never had a problem and recently became a little lax and started just locking them together…especially since we have been camping in isolated areas…we were even making fun of ourselves for locking them together…like a cow or sheep might be the only thing to run off with them…haha. We have seen some expensive bikes but the only place we have seen plus bikes is in Tumbaco bike shops so far…and never out on the roads or mountains…but we have only been here 6 weeks doing our thing which makes us far from experts on anything here. Someone told me I should have got bike insurance…didn’t even occur to me but I read about it…and it’s something people could do if they are nervous about theft. What can you do. We are just disappointed that we can’t continue on as it was spectacular to see and the bikes and the trip were a big gift I gave to my boyfriend. We have 5 more bikes at home, nothing as amazing as the bikes we got for this trip…but maybe it’s our destiny to have sore behinds. For the record…if we got our bikes back today we would continue on with the trip…probably with post theft paranoid caution…we knew it was a risk and we just got unlucky.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I know exactly what you mean about locking stuff up in the backcountry. I sometimes feel completely ridiculous as I tie my bike to the tent, in the absolute middle of nowhere. But it’s reached the point that the act itself seems to help me sleep at night, so i do it… And a part of it is the fear of experiencing the exact same situation you’re describing… a windy night where you can’t hear what’s going on outside, as unlikely as anything happening may be. But still, that’s really bad luck as it sounds like you did everything ‘right’. I’m sorry to hear it happened in an area that’s generally so relaxed and friendly. Perhaps you’re away from the area by now but I still think it’s worth pressing the guys in Isinlivi for info/help.

    I don’t insure my travel bike either, though I always used to through the CTC in the UK. If you’re lucky, bikes are sometimes included on your house insurance – so maybe worth checking up on that?

  • Jack Breen

    So far a brilliant route and thanks for making this route available Cass, cannot recommend it enough, a bit of advice about the early stages for those looking to do it.
    A friend and I are 5 days into the route and stayed at Buenos Aires night 3 as per route. We hadn’t heard anything bad prior to arrival yet when we arrived the locals were extremely concerned and interested in us being there. Upon speaking to a restaurant owner there had been a recent murder and frequent crime as a result of the illegal gold mining activity. They let us stay in their house and were very helpful. Overall we had no mishaps or anything to cause anyone concern but thought that those taking the route should be aware of the danger within this area due to the influx of individuals from neighbouring countries.

    For those on the route we recommend the restaurant on the edge of the football pitch to the right of the pink/orange building, a helpful owner and a safe place to stay if you want to overnight in Buenos Aires.

    Jack and Matt

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Jack and Matt, I appreciate the feedback. Did you read our update at the top of this post, re the illegal mining situation in Buenas Aires? We’re keeping our eyes on the situation and if it changes, we’ll update the post. Right now, we’re recommending detouring down to Ibarra, but I’m glad to hear you headed up there anywhere and everything was fine. Did you end up continuing the ride and travelling through the Pinan paramo area and across the water channels? That’s one of my favourite parts (-:

    Enjoy the rest! Cass

  • Lydia Franklin

    Hi
    I am doing a solo challenge in September 2019… the only concern I have is safety for a lone female rider near the columbian border… should I be concerned?

  • Lydia Franklin

    Hi
    Im having major trouble uploading the route to my Garmin Etrex 20X. I have both downloaded from this site and from ride with GPS but only get a small portion of the route from just above Loja. Any help??

  • Cass Gilbert

    Did you read the Download Help post, linked above? That should solve your issues, using GPS Visualizer.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Right now, we’re not recommending anyone rides that section due to a mining dispute near Buenas Aires. Hopefully it will be resolved by then, but who knows… Aside from that, there’s no particular security concerns for solo riders.

  • Lydia Franklin

    Hi cass… no i havent but have split it into 2 and got more of the route. I reckon if I split it into a couple more segments then it will work. If not I will try the gps visualiser. Thanks

    http://www.facebook.com/OneChallengeAtATime

  • Lydia Franklin

    Thanks for that advice

  • sun lao

    Thanks for your trip report Cass! Was wondering is it possible to do the trip in early May? And also how can I get back home from Vicabamba? i could be wrong but the closest international airport is José Joaquín de Olmedo. Did you flew back from there or from Quito? thanks!

  • Lydia Franklin

    Hi
    Im planning to do this route next September as a solo charity challenge… I recently did the Westcountry Way and found that route largely unrideable with a loaded bike, even though it was described as 100% rideable… it got me worried about this route. I expect some hike a bike but dont want to be pushing 90% of the time. Has anyone ridden this on a fully loaded bikepacking rig??
    I have attempted the Tour Divide race and managed days of 80-100 miles on that terrain as a relative guide.
    Thanks… appreciate any info
    Lydia
    P.s feel free to email onechallenge@hotmail.com

    http://Www.facebook.com/OneChallengeAtATime

  • I would imagine that almost everybody has done this on fully-loaded bikepacking rigs!
    That said, to get specific, my setup weighs approx 39kg and my girlfriend’s 34kg (both incl food and water). I’d say we’re reasonably strong riders and had just come off riding the Baja Divide and a sizeable loop in Colombia, so were in good shape! It was 100% rideable. Hope that helps…

  • Lydia Franklin

    Yes that does help thanks. I dont mind suffering the first week whilst I ride myself back into it.
    My setup should be a tad lighter as well.
    Thanks again
    Lydia

  • Sarah and I just finished the TEMBR and now in Peru. First of all, thanks Cass and Michael for putting this together – it was a great ride. Ecuadorians were without doubt the friendliest of all the countries I’ve cycled through in South America and the varying terrains were spectacular. The weather was a bit of a mixed bag (not as reliable a dry season, in my experience, as further south in Peru but maybe that’s just this year) but I can’t blame you guys for that!! As the notes say, expect four seasons in a day!

    Thought I might put together a bit of a ride report as I’ve found them useful on previous routes.

    We did the dirt road version, with the exception of Cotopaxi, where we took the Tres Volcanes loop round. Bit of hike-a-bike but nothing too bad and really spectacular (even if the weather was challenging at times)! Otherwise, it was 100% rideable. As the notes intimate, the meat of the ride is really the northern section down to about Cuenca, so if you’re pushed for time, that’d be good to focus on. We diverted off to the Black Sheep Inn near Chugchilan/Quilotoa, which was a great mid-trip treat. That valley’s pretty nice too (where it hasn’t been ravaged by the new road)!

    Two things to be aware of…
    Just south of Iguiñaro, there’s been a landslide on the Linea Ferrea. I doubt it’ll be cleared as the route isn’t used much but it’s passable by carrying bikes (for 25m or so). Nice section after it (tunnels etc) so worthwhile unless you don’t want to hike-a-bike, in which case you can just take the main road and re-join the route a little further on.
    About 32km south of Guamote, there’s been a fairly substantial mudslide. It’s still passable for now, but was a bit sketchy. Given the limited traffic on that route, I wouldn’t assume they will necessarily repair the road and heavy rain could easily wash it away. One to watch.

    A little on our setups/gear…

    Bikes
    We rode Karate Monkeys with Rockshox Reba front sus forks and Thudbuster ST seat posts. Having toured in South America on a rigid Ogre before, it was a real treat to switch to the KM with suspension. The KM is a much livelier and more nimble ride, whilst still being very stable for mile-munching, and I’d definitely opt for suspension if doing it again. We both ran Rohloffs, which made for very minimal maintenance. I was 36x16T and Sarah 32x16T. 36 was fine on my previous trip in Peru and further south but Ecuador has some pretty punchy climbs! I’d probably run a 34 or even 32 if I did it again. For a little perspective, I weigh 71kg and my bike 39kg in total (we’re on a 6 month tour so there are a few ‘luxuries’ in there).
    Flat pedals (Hope F20s) were great as ever – I love being able to wear comfy hiking shoes.

    Tyres
    We were running 3″ Maxxis Chronicles (on WTB Scraper i45 rims), as this was part of a bigger trip. They’ve lasted well – no punctures (running tubeless) and hardly lost pressure. Whilst most of the route is on dirt roads and not particularly technical terrain, I would have preferred a little more traction on the front (I was previously running WTB Ranger Toughs which are considerably softer and therefore grippier but also less durable). I’d probably consider running a High Roller II or something similar up front.

    Tent
    MSR Hubba Hubba NX performed nicely.

    Navigation
    I used a Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt (fits nicely in the loop of the Jones bar) and it was great. Quite a lot of turns, so it’s good to have something in front of you all the time. The battery is good – lasts for the longest of days and I just recharged every night – and the black and white maps are perfectly sufficient for picking the right tracks. Otherwise, MapOut on iPhones.

    Cooking
    We have an alcohol stove. Finding pure alcohol wasn’t always that easy – pharmacies sell 70% but you have to ask around for ‘alcohol industrial’. Paint shops and ferreterías (hardware stores) are the best bet. Certainly not as easy to find as in Peru.