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Old 11-10-12, 02:49 PM   #1
Newspaperguy
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Tell me where to go

I'm planning on taking two weeks at the end of January and beginning of February for a short bike tour. I'd like some suggestions on where to go. I'm looking at someplace warm, in either the southern U.S. or Central America. Although my Spanish is limited, I can get by with it and twice I've done winter tours in Spanish-speaking countries. I also appreciate the cultures of Central America.

Are there any places you would recommend?
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Old 11-10-12, 05:39 PM   #2
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baja?
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Old 11-11-12, 08:08 AM   #3
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The Yucatan of Mexico is good in Jan/Feb, and is quite safe. Personally, I found the mostly scrubby landscape a bit disappointing, though the Pu'uc hills (south of Merida) has pleasant rolling hills and is less scrubby. Lots of Mayan sites, of course. The 4 major ones are all different from one another. Merida is a pleasant city. In 2000, there were still a few undeveloped spots along the Caribbean coast.

Costa Rica is not an easy place to bike. It's very mountainous and many roads are lousy. Still, I can recommend the Pacific coast, the area are Arenal volcano, and the route I took down to the Caribbean coast (passing through Turrialba). The area near the Costa Rica/Panama border on the Pacific side looks interesting on a map, but I wasn't there.

I've heard somewhat encouraging things about biking in Nicaragua. Personally, I'd avoid El Salvador & Honduras.
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Old 11-11-12, 02:54 PM   #4
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If you don't mind desert riding then maybe something like Las Vegas to Tucson, via the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Weather-wise it would be a great time of year to do that, although cool-ish storms are possible that time of year as well.

Central America would be great too, being the dry and moderate time of the year. I guess if I had to choose a two-week section of it I'd probably want to ride Panama again, starting at Panama City and riding west on the Pan Am to near the town of David, then turning north and crossing the Continental Divide to near Chiriqui Grande, then northwest to the Costa Rica border at Guabito. If there's any time left after that, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is great, otherwise you could head to San Jose by bike (or bus if you're out of time) and fly home from there. There's a bus station right at the border on the Panama side, and at the time I went through there three years ago a ticket to San Jose was $11. Not sure how much extra the bike would be. You could probably pick up a bus at many locations along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica as well. Possible downside to this route depends on how much you like climbing. When you turn north at David you'll climb 5,000 feet over the divide, then a great downhill to near sea level followed by lots of steep rollers between there and the Costa Rica border. Beautiful scenery, however.

I did that route in reverse, but wouldn't want to do this particular Panama-only route in that direction unless I already had my "tour legs," since the steep hills start very near the Costa Rica border.
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Old 11-11-12, 03:27 PM   #5
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Cuba.. ? Costa Rica?
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Old 11-11-12, 03:39 PM   #6
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simplygib, how was the Pacific side of Panama before reaching David?
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Old 11-11-12, 03:40 PM   #7
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You're in BC?

Cuba.

Empty roads, great biking, private rooms for accommodation, wonderful weather, very safe.

Food is a little indifferent.
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Old 11-11-12, 04:24 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
simplygib, how was the Pacific side of Panama before reaching David?
I haven't ridden west of Chiriqui (near David), but if you're talking about the section between Panama City and Chiriqui, it was pleasant riding, and as far as I remember the Pan Am had good shoulders most of the way, plenty of services, etc. More hills near Panama City but nothing terribly steep. We were running ahead of schedule at that point so diverted south off of the Pan Am at Guabala, which is about 60 miles east of David, to tour the back country. It turned out to be about 65 miles of mostly dirt and gravel, some of it quite steep, before rejoining the Pan Am at Santiago. It was an interesting experience though because of the several very small rural towns along that route. Nearly rattled my teeth out though.

Here are some photos of that section. The good roads are the Pan Am, the rest are the diversion we took.
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Last edited by simplygib; 11-11-12 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 11-11-12, 06:28 PM   #9
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A few years ago, I got out to Cuba. It was an amazing experience and one I recommend highly. I was in the central part of the country and I didn't even get to Havana. I loved the food and I loved the people. I've also done some cycling in Costa Rica, from San Jose to Puerto Limon and then to La Fortuna. People complain about the drivers there, but I had no problems and not even a close call.

Starting a tour at Las Vegas has a lot of appeal since it's a cheap and short flight. I hadn't thought about cycling to Tucson, although I'll consider it now. I was contemplating going from Las Vegas into California as one possibility.
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Old 11-12-12, 08:26 AM   #10
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Thanks for the Panama info & photos, simplygib.
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Old 11-12-12, 08:58 AM   #11
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simplygib, how was the Pacific side of Panama before reaching David?
I rode the Pacific side a few years ago, and it was ridiculously steep hills, unlike anywhere else in Panama (or Central America, actually). Just up and down, relentlessly. The Continental Divide was a pretty steep climb too, way steeper than any of the road elsewhere in Central America. We had decently heavy loads, but were chugging up at around 4 km/h, sweating profusely. Coming down the other side was crazy too, with the steepness - I was braking, having trouble slowing from around 78 km/h - I thought I was going to go over a guardrail. I think in over 20,000 km of touring, that as the climb and descent I was the most frustrated with... (maybe just because I expected Panama to be a lot flatter, but that Pacific side is sure not!).

But sorry, that's a bit of the OP's topic - I'd second the vote for Baja if you haven't done that before, or another route in Mexico that I think looks pretty sweet is starting from Queretaro, north of Mexico City, and head through Bernal to Xilitla, then down to El Tajin - It's about a 500 km route, you could easily keep biking back from El Tajin through Pachuca and back to Mexico City and add on a few hundred more kms. I think you hit up 3 or 4 Unesco World Heritage Sites, and a couple of Mexico's 'Magical Towns'. It's a route I'd love to try in the next year or two...
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Old 11-12-12, 10:49 AM   #12
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Sections 3 and 4 of the ACA Southern Tier are completely doable that time of year although you may get some below freezing temps and snow, then again it could be 60 and 70 degrees during the day and crystal clear skies. A detour to Terlingua Ghost Town and Big Bend is highly recommended.
Las Vegas to Bakersfield through Death Valley was beautiful the first week of February when I did it in '09. Did get some wet snow over Walker Pass but otherwise gorgeous weather.
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