Words and Photos: Matt Tongue
Having ridden in a multitude of places all over the world, I’d never really considered Mexico as a mountain biking destination before, but heading to Oaxaca with Oaxaca Bike Expeditions turned out to be one of my favourite trips of 2023. The Oaxacan culture, paired with its diverse landscapes and extensive trail network, proved to be a revelation. Nestled in the southern part of Mexico, Oaxaca beckoned with trails that wound through lush forests, littered with wild agave and high-altitude towns. This Mexican state proved to be a haven for mountain biking, offering trails for all skill levels, vibrant textiles, a diverse food culture, and warm hospitality from its people.
Oaxaca's trails are as beautiful as they are exciting, and what stood out for me was its variety of riding styles. The trails seamlessly blend technical descents with flowing single track, navigating through jungles and open ridges that add an extra layer to the riding experience. The guys from Oaxaca Bike Expeditions were not only skilled riders but also passionate about sharing the beauty of their homeland, including the unique ecosystems encountered along the way. Riding these trails at pace required a good amount of focus, as the narrowness often left little room for error (which I found the limits of a few times - haha). Narrow paths through dense forests, exposed ridges with views that'll make your jaw drop – every trail had a vibe of adventure straight out of the pages of an old-school mountain biking magazine.
Beyond the trails, Oaxaca captivated our senses with its diverse food culture. The city is renowned for its vibrant markets, where the aromas of spices, fresh produce, and street food create an irresistible allure. From savory tlayuda to spicy mole, mixed in with an array of fusion restaurants, Oaxacan cuisine is world renowned, and for good reason. Exploring the food scene after a day of biking provided a perfect balance between adventure and indulgence.
No visit to Oaxaca is complete without sampling its world-famous mezcal. Oaxaca Bike Expeditions organized a visit to a local mezcal distillery, giving us a taste of the traditional craftsmanship that goes into producing this iconic spirit. The history of mezcal is deeply intertwined with Oaxacan culture, and learning about the art of mezcal added another layer to our appreciation of the region. Sipping on mezcal was a sensory experience that connected us even more to the natural beauty of Oaxaca.
As we all know with any good bike trip, it’s all about the people. A special thank you goes out to Yoann and Nate from Into the Gnar for being our trail companions and coaches, injecting enthusiasm and sharing their wealth of mountain biking knowledge. Riding alongside these two is always a joy, turning each ride into a live game show of sorts (does it roll? - haha).
Extra special thanks also go to Javi and his crew from Oaxaca Bike Expeditions, whose expertise and passion transformed our biking escapades into an extraordinary experience. Javi's guidance through the intricacies of Oaxaca's trail network was not just about showing us the way, but also imparting a sense of the region's biking history and culture. We will, I have no doubts, be back for more.