We love to take bike tours when we travel. We’ve seen Stellenbosch, South Africa, Paris, Barcelona, Dublin, Shanghai, Vietnam and London by bike. Mexico City easily made the list of Cities we wanted to explore by bike as well. As in the past I turned to TripAdvisor but this time, I found a single bike tour offering – luckily it looked interesting. I shot an email to Mexico City Bike Tour, explaining to them what we wanted to see and how much time we wanted to spend. They responded within a couple hours letting me know that their standard Chapultepec-Reforma-Roma-Condesa tour would fit our needs. Book it!
We met our guide at their “office”, which is really just a shed where they store their bikes. Two other travelers joined us on this tour – both singles – one man from Boston and a young female chef from China, who lives and works in Orlando. After brief introductions, we were given helmets, retro-reflective vests and a bike. The bikes were a little run down – by far the worst condition of any bike tour company I’ve used in the past. The breaks were a little shoddy and my seat wouldn’t stay at the proper elevation — several times I felt like I was riding the bicycle equivalent of a low-rider. I was concerned about my personal safety from time to time while on the ride, that’s for sure.
The tour was lead by a great guide who is a trained urban planner, with a passion for the environment and a mission to change the way we all think and live in modern Cities. Mexico City has an amazing traffic problem – but surprisingly (at least to me) a popular bike share program that’s been around since February 2010 and currently has more tan 4,000 bikes and 276 stations. We made dozens of stops throughout our 4 hours bike ride.
Our first stop was about 5 minutes from our meeting point. This first quick stop was to confirm that our bikes were all in working order (and mine was at this point), to learn a bit more about our guide and go over the basics of the program. Antonio asked each of us what we were passionate about – what we wanted to learn while on the trip: History? Architecture? Food? Politics? Colonialism? Future of Mexico? Our group of four were really focused on History and Architecture – thank god we didn’t have a group of anti-intellectuals who just wanted to ride from bar to bar (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that — just not something I was keen on for this ride).
On our trip we learned about the Spanish invasion (my words, not Antonio’s) of the Aztec empire and the subsequent draining of the lakes around current day Mexico City. We also learned about the impact this had on the land and how the area around Mexico City is still settling and you can easily see the impacts of this settling. We came across an Obelisk that was constructed in the early 20th Century and over the past 100 years has sunk quite a bit – requiring additional stairs to be constructed (you can see the different colored stairs – this is how much the surrounding area has sunk).
We toured Chapultepec Park and learned about various native plants and saw exhibits that showed how the area that is now Mexico City looked around the time of the Spanish invasion. We continued down the Reforma (where our hotel was located), which is a street full of tourist attractions (shops and hotels) and is a major street where the residents of Mexico City celebrate and protest (which, you’ve read about here).
Our guide found a great little place for lunch – a place he had never been before, but his colleagues had recommended. We ordered several appetizers and entrees all to split. The chiles rellenos were by far my favorite. Although the place we stopped didn’t have a visible sign and our guide who knew the exact intersection had a hell of a time finding it – sorry guys.
We began winding our way back through the park stopping to take pictures and to allow one of the slower members of our group to catch up – this last portion had more elevation to climb (some hills and some man made elevation like overpasses, etc) than anywhere else on the tour. The slowpoke in our group also wasn’t an avid bicycles, so often she’d swerve unexpectedly and run into other members of the tour. She was a bit rogue – I had to stay away from her while riding.
We managed to make our way through the winding streets back to the little shed where the bikes are stored. I enjoyed our bike ride through Mexico City. I still feel this is the best way to experience any City. Unlike other tours, our guide had an interesting professional background – instead of being a student who had studied a script, this guide was a trained urban planner with a vision for the future of Mexico City and all modern Cities. A vision where cars aren’t the required mode of transport and the pollution they spew aren’t choking all life in the area.
As noted above, my biggest concern was the operational safety of the bikes themselves. I thought the guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about cycling and the evolving City. Have you biked in Mexico City? Do you prefer to have a trained professional (architect, urban planner, historian, etc) or just a normal person whose been trained as a guide?