I didn’t know what to expect from Mendoza. It was recommended as a ‘must-visit’ to me by an Argentine who said it was an incredibly beautiful part of the world, and I was already aware that it’s the home of Malbec wine – so that was two good reasons to visit right there.
In fact, Mendoza has that mountain, resort town kind of vibe – a lot like Aspen and Steamboat Springs in the US, or Andorra la Vella and Chamonix in Europe. The city is really close to the mountains, so during the winter it’s popular for skiing and snowboarders. Once the snows have melted though, it’s time for the locals to stick the skis back in the shed and get out their road or mountain bike.
The cycling ethos here is very much about practical daily use. You see a few hipster single speeds with beefed up tyres around the university areas, but generally people ride mountain bikes everywhere (presumably because the roads aren’t much to write home about). A lot of kids will meet up in the parks and plaza around town and sit on the grass surrounded by their chunky MTBs. At night when the bars fill up the streets are littered with them.
I spent my first few days in Argentina in Buenos Aires, where it was absolutely freezing. Not quite London or Krakow freezing, but still way more chilly than I expected. So it was a relief when I got to Mendoza and the sun came out. See, look how happy I was:
After looking into doing a winery tour by bike and finding out it was $150 I decided to stick with the classic formula for a spontaneous bike ride – find a bike, find a hill, see what’s at the top of it, nail the descent back down like Vicenzo Nibali going down the Ventoux. Works every time!
The website of the hostel I stayed at said they rented bikes, but on inspection I never saw a sadder looking collection of clunkers in all my life. In the end I got a pretty crappy red hire bike from a place in the main park of Mendoza. It handled ok and was surprisingly smooth in the tight bends on descents. The chain only fell off three times too, so that was pretty decent.
After a quick spin around the lake in the centre of el Parco I struck out west towards the Andes and a mini-mountain called Cerro de la Gloria. At the top there was a wicked cool statue.
Then it was back into town for some post-ride recovery food. In this instance, something I can only really describe as a ‘super-pizza’, with cheese first, then a layer of steak. On a base of fries.
If you’re coming to Mendoza, definitely get out on the bike at some stage. They have a city bike scheme, much like the ones you get in NYC, Amsterdam and London. Plus there’s a lot of different operators who can give you a tour.
Tom Owen is a cycling writer who travels the world in search of two-wheeled adventures. He’s ridden bikes in Bali, Vietnam, Andorra, Spain, Cambodia, Thailand and the UK. This winter he’s going to South America to explore the cycling culture of Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia and many more places. Tom is going to be writing about his experiences for us, so make sure you check out our blog to keep up to date with his travels.
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