Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route: Dirt Road Version

  • Distance

    858 Mi.

    (1,381 KM)
  • Days


  • % Unpaved


  • % Singletrack


  • Difficulty (1-10)


  • % Rideable (time)


  • Total Ascent


    (35,294 M)
  • High Point


    (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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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 frenzy 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.

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. Although the mid-fat 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 respectable 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.

  • img_5907
  • 150308_pinanride_81
  • Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (TEMBR), Dirt Road Version
  • 150308_pinanride_174
  • Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (TEMBR), Dirt Road Version

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.

  • 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

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.

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


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, linguistic hurdles, and its overall length. Grades can be steep and surfaces 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 route 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


  • Must Know


  • Camping


  • Food/H2O


  • Trail Notes


  • Discovering the real Ecuadorian backcountry, away from the 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.
  • 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 on the Quilatoa Loop.
  • Getting fit – with the amount of climbing on this ride, you have no choice!
  • 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. I carry a 0-degree centigrade bag and 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.
  • 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. Ideally, I’d recommend the Gaia App on a smartphone and/or a GPS for the handlebars. Make sure your smartphone is stored in a watertight sleeve.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Most towns have ATMs – but carry extra cash in case any don’t work.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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. For example, 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 a big climb to Buenas Aires and onwards the Pinan paramo. Given that this is region is a highlight of the route, I’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.

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. Two good accommodation options. 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 tough. Consider leaving Zumbahua/Quilatoa early and riding beyond Angamarca to clear the first big climb – a few possible campspots are noted. Then, ride from there to Salinas de Guaranda; a big but do-able day, with the promise of a great town to rest up in.

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 Cuena – this section is still being developed.

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 of which 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.

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 CITA line, a town that’s just a short ride on the rail trail to Tumbaco.

Mix and Match

Note that TEMBR Dirt, TEMBR Singletrack, and the Tres Volcanes route can all be woven together. 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:

After Pifo, use TEMBR Singletrack as a 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 Cotopaxi. Later, plug in TEMBR Singletrack/Tres Volcanes’ route to circle around Chimborazo (note that this option is mostly recommended in a southerly direction and means missing out on wonderful Salinas de Guanranda and its chocolates!). From then 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).

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on, 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. 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.


  • 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.


    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.
    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


    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.

  • 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

    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!


  • 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 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.


  • 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.


  • 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 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

    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!


  • 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,


  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Olivia, you can find a list of Casa de Ciclistas in Latin America here, of which Santiago is one of them:

    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 – 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 –

    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:

  • 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.


  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!