I was recommended to take Mike’s Bogota Bike Tours by a dozen different people all with good things to say about the tour. Through all the recommendations, no one explained what to expect or what I’d see. The website is pretty simple and generic. Most of what was to come from the tour I was completely surprised by and mostly because I had no idea what to expect.
Mike is from California and has lived in Bogota for the last 6 years. Before living in Bogota and starting the tour company, he lived in different parts of South America as a journalist. His tour company is now very successful running two tours everyday. The store itself has a hole-in-the-wall look to it. Nothing special about it, just has a few old books, bikes, maps, and pictures hanging around. His reputation has been earned through character rather than appearance. Even Mike’s bike looked like it’s been around for years. The bikes we rode in were up-to-date though and worked great.
Starting at 10:30am in front of the shop, the tour started right away biking down to a plaza and getting right to the introductions and history of Bogota. His high spirited attitude and easy going personality made the tour feel comfortable straight from the beginning.
Much like other developing countries, the traffic and roads of Bogota are chaotic. Biking became a game of playing chicken and Frogger. We had to dodge cars through the streets and swerve through pedestrian. Surprisingly though, it was somehow easy to bike through. Pedestrian had eyes on the back of their heads and cars noticed the momentum in which we were coming. There was no explanation of safety before the tour. We signed a paper that basically said they hold no responsibility if we get injured during the tour. Once we were out of the main streets and onto the sidewalks and back alleys, it became easier to ride and enjoy the scenery.
It didn’t take long to notice Mike’s fascination with street art and statues in Bogota. He knew every statue and graffiti location down to even the meaning behind it all. He took us to hidden streets covered in beautiful art work.
Mike brought us down streets I would have never thought of going to. One particular area was the red light district in Santa Fe. This is one of the few areas of Bogota that are tolerant of prostitution and allow it to be publicly displayed on the streets. Along the roads as we were riding down were brothels and girls showing what they got on a somewhat rainy Monday morning. That can’t be a good shift.
One of the things I noticed about Mike was how many people he knew around Bogota. He seemed to have connections everywhere. To have a business such as Mike’s in this kind of city, I would imagine you need connections to run it. He handed out fruits, cookies, and printed photographs as a thank you to a few of the guards and workers at the places we went to. He was able to take us to places that were generally closed off for tourists.
Bullfighting at the Plaza de Toros only occurs in January and February during the Spanish off season. The gate is closed and has the appearance of not allowing visitors. Mike however seemed to have broke a deal with them. He rang the bell at the gate and the guard allowed us in free of charge. We had the whole stadium to ourselves. He mentioned the guard works on tips to allow us in so I tipped him 500pesos (25 cents).
I love trying new fruits so I was excited to find out that we were at the second largest fruit market in Bogota. He had us sampling a dozen different fruits I never knew existed. I’ve seen some them on the streets but I had no idea what they were or how to eat them. I loved this part of the tour.
Another really neat part of the tour was the cemetery tour. If I had went to the cemetery on my own, I would have no idea who anyone of the people buried were or their history.
Here’s more information about the company:
Our tours vary with riders’ interests and abilities. Duration also varies, but is usually three to five hours. Places we often pass or visit include the Plaza del Chorro, the Botero Museum and the National Museum; Plaza Bolívar, Plaza San Victorino, Parque del Renacimiento with its Botero Sculpture; Bogotá’s Central Cemetery, the fruit markets of Palo Quemao and the Egipto neighborhood; The Cafe de la Fonda coffee factory; the Londonesque La Merced neighborhood; Third Milenium Park and its Disarmament Sculpture; the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Cultural Center, the National University with its Che Guevara Plaza;Independence, National and Símon Bolívar parks; the Bullfighting Stadium, the Train of the Savannah, the Plaza de Lourdes and many others. On our tours, we also talk about human rights and Colombia’s troubled and often violent history and present. Generally, you’ll also see some great graffiti on our tours.
The tour cost 30,000 (~$15USB) a person and lasted close to 5 hours. That’s an amazing bargain for how much you get to see, learn, and experience.
Have you taken this bike tour before? How was your experience?