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Leon Kaye headshot

E-Bikes and Local Food in Medellín, Colombia: A Perfect Pairing

By Leon Kaye

In Medellín, Turibike's e-bike tours go rain or shine

Of course bicycle tours are still a thing, whether they are in Medellín or Bogotá, Colombia, or any other city worldwide. While we’re on the topic of Medellín, if huffing, puffing and pedaling isn’t your idea of fun, be easy on yourself: Consider booking an electric bicycle tour, as such trips across the city via e-bikes are a bit more relaxing, and offer a great way to experience the city that’s home to 3 million.

Cycling has long been a part of life in Colombia, starting with the weekend ciclovías that are a regular event in the country's cities — several miles of city streets are closed on Sundays, allowing locals and visitors open space to walk, skateboard, roller skate and, of course, cycle. As cycling has long been a vivid part of the nation’s culture, Colombians were justifiably beside themselves when one of their own, Egan Bernal, won the Tour de France in 2019. In the iconic cycling race dominated for decades by the Belgians, Spanish, Italians and, yes, the French, Bernal was the first Latin American to win the 2,200-mile (3,500 kilometers) race.

But Bernal’s victory should hardly be a surprise. Colombia has a proud legacy of cyclists, with names like Winner Anacona, Esteban Chaves, Fernando Gaviria, Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán. That legacy is one reason the country has emerged as a cycling tourism destination. Now, e-bikes are gaining a foothold in the country, giving adventures another (and easier) outdoors option.

Among the difference visitors will note between pre-pandemic Colombia and the country today (way more co-working places, more vegan dining options and, as with the rest of the world, higher prices and an increase in poverty), e-bikes are a much more common sight in Colombia’s larger cities. For the advocates of electric cars who believe they can do much to slash emissions, don’t expect that trend to take off in Colombia any time soon: Among reasons including the country’s massive income inequality, it’ll be a while before Teslas, BYDs or Leafs in large numbers will roam the roads. The infrastructure for electric vehicles isn’t quite there yet.

Until then, e-bikes are a step toward decarbonization in the country’s urban centers, in part because they are emerging as an affordable option for Colombians. They’re practical, too. In Medellín, for example, cyclists have an impressive amount of bike lanes: It’s just that much of the city is located in a valley, and many residents live in the hills and mountains that surround Medellín’s central neighborhoods and downtown.

For visitors to the city who may be considering choosing among the various brands of e-bikes once they return home, taking a test ride can help them make that decision. One local company in Medellín that offers such a tour is Turibike.

Cheese arepas, local treats that'll cancel out any calories you burn peddling on an e-bike
Cheese arepas, local treats that'll cancel out any calories you burn peddling on an e-bike.

The company’s guides offer a city tour, but a far more compelling option is Turibike’s food tour. The nine-mile (15 km) tour gives visitors a chance to sample 10 different local foods, from arepas (corn cakes) to pasteles de guayaba (guava pastries) to picada, an indulgent, artery-clogging sampling of sausages and other cuts of meat popular across Colombia.

Turibike provides a rain jacket, helmet, water and, for gringos who may feel intimidated by their limited high-school Spanish, the company’s guides are bilingual. The e-bikes offer a safe, fast and low-carbon way to get around town. Toward the end of the tour, you’ll even reach a safe area where the guide will allow you to go full throttle and test out your bike’s maximum speed. And after the tour, Turibike sends you a link where you can view photos of the experience and watch a video allowing you to relive your tour from an aerial view — along with a graph that shows your elevation through the adventure.

Image credits via Leon Kaye and Turibike

Visits to local bakeries are among the highlights of Turibike's e-bike tours
Visits to local bakeries are among the highlights of Turibike's e-bike tours.


Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye