Ecuador offers the cyclist seemingly endless back roads and trails to explore.
The Incas, who were legendary road builders, and their living descendants have been carving scenic paths for centuries. Today, mountain bikes are used by rural communities as a major form of transportation in many areas.
The Andes create a playground of huge vertical descents and lung-bursting climbs where the snow line and the equator meet. For most people, the extreme cycling environment of the Andes is best enjoyed going downhill. Descents of 3,000 meters (10,000 ft) in a single day can be done in several areas of the country. The world-class descent directly down the slopes of Cotopaxi Volcano, the technical descent down Pichincha Volcano and trips that take riders from the heights of the Andes to the Amazon Basin are all highly recommended.
Biker-friendly buses and pickup truck taxis, plus readily available lodging and food in most rural areas make cross-country independent bicycle travel in Ecuador extremely appealing, but careful planning is essential. The lesser-traveled back roads make the best routes.
Avoid the Pan-American Highway, and most other paved roads in Ecuador, as you will encounter reckless bus and truck drivers who are not used to seeing bicycles on the road. Most parts of Quito are extremely biker-unfriendly, and should be avoided. The city is often packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Cars will rarely give bikers the right-of-way. The city does have some bicycle trails, however, and hosts the 27-kilometer (16.2-mile) Ciclopaseo bicycling circuit on Sunday mornings, which runs from Parque de los Recuerdos in the North, down Avenida Amazonas, into the Centro Hist├│rico and South as far as Quitumbre.
Bike rental is available in Quito and Ba├▒os, but quality varies widely. Check your bike carefully before heading out. Shocks and strong aluminum rims are essential as the high-speed descents on potted terrain will otherwise lead to unwanted bent wheels.
Packing your bike up at home and bringing it with you on the plane is one alternative to rental. Be sure to bring a strong lock and always leave your bike locked in a secure location. Pack wisely and bring plenty of spare parts, including extra tubes and tires, and a tool kit, as well as a first-aid kit if you'll be pedaling in remote areas.