Biking is a great way to explore Peru’s back roads and get to know local people along the way. Many of Peru’s adventure agencies, especially those that offer rafting trips, rent mountain bikes starting at US$15 per day and up, though quality varies tremendously and the bikes are generally meant for local use only. Adventure agencies in Lima, Arequipa, Huaraz, Cusco, and Puno offer multiday bike expeditions with tents, a support vehicle, and a cook. These trips follow fabulous single-track routes up and over the mountains with mind-boggling descents on the other side.
Dozens of cyclists pass through Peru each year, during their epic Alaska—Patagonia pilgrimage. Those who want to start their tour from Peru will have to box their bike up and fly it with them, as good bicycles are extremely expensive in Peru. Some airlines provide a box in which your bike will fit once you take the handlebars off. If your bike is or looks new, smear mud on it so you can get through customs without having to pay duty taxes. Most people use mountain bikes to travel on dirt roads, often with slicks for road and highway travel.
When planning your route, keep in mind that the Pan-American Highway (Carretera Panamericana) is a dangerous bike route because buses pass at high speeds and the shoulder is cluttered with debris. The same applies for major routes into the mountains, including the Cañon de Pato near Huaraz. The best trips are on remote back roads, which are invariably spectacular and much safer. Keep in mind altitude, weather extremes, drinking water, and the complete lack of repair parts outside of major cities.
Good sources of information include the Adventure Cycling Association in the United States (www.adventurecycling.org) and the loads of trip journals from people who have biked in Peru, which can be found at www.geocities.com/thetropics/island/6810/. One of Peru’s best known bikers, Omar Zarzar Casis (www.aventurarse.com), has written a book in Spanish, called Por los camino de Perú en bicicleta, describing 10 of Peru’s most beautiful mountain-bike circuits, available in many Peruvian bookstores.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition