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Colombian Entrepreneurs: Bikepacking your own way!

Updated: May 21, 2020

[La versión en español de esta entrevista la encuentras aquí]

At Hidden Journeys we love exploring new places and new ways of visiting them, so we are very passionate about stories like the one shared by Miguel, creator of @labicienlamaleta about his design process and prototype of a bike that can be packed in its saddlebags to be carried on public buses.

Hidden Journeys: Thank you very much for accepting our invitation to share your experience of traveling by bike through Colombia with us. First, please tell us about yourself, what you do, who you are, and what experience you are going to share.

Miguel: My name is Miguel Arias and I am an industrial engineer by profession. I work in the service sector, however, as a hobby, I like the bike a lot, I especially like bikepacking, and this time I had the opportunity to move inside two main cities of Colombia with a bike that I designed to do so. I call it light bikepacking, a kind of tourism with saddlebags where you carry the basics, only what is necessary, but you can move easily to other vehicles. That's what I did on my last trip and it's what I would like to share with you.

HJ: How interesting, tell us how did you make your bike.

M: The bike arises from the need to carry a bicycle in a single suitcase. I felt this need from a bad experience a year ago, at Nevado del Ruiz. I had little time so I had to make the trip short, I could not start from Bogota, I had to get to Manizales first, so I had to carry the bike on a bus. They always charge extra because they consider it extra luggage, besides, it is very uncomfortable because they put the bikes in the trunk without any care, they can be damaged, and in that occasion my bike ended with a tremendous scratch in the frame. That's where I started thinking about how I could put all that in a suitcase, because in Colombia there are no multimodal trips where buses are designed to carry bicycles, but moving would be much easier if everything could be turned into a single suitcase.

HJ: So it's a folding bike?

M: No, it is a bicycle that splits in two parts. The bike not only fits in the suitcase, but remains fixed inside the suitcase, it bag has the exact size of the bike, so it will not move, and you will be able to move large distances in other vehicles. It is the size of a 700 wheel.

HJ: Where did you go when you finished your bike?

M: My favorite example to illustrate the type of adventure that can be done with this bicycle is the journey between Bogotá and the towns and cities of Boyacá. For example, Duitama or Sogamoso, where there is a main road that becomes very complex and stressful due to traffic. What we would do in this case is folding the bike in the suitcase, get on a bus with it in the trunk, and skip that unpleasant part of the rode on public transport. I really like ride on secondary roads and small towns, but the big roads you need to take to get to those places, I rather make them by bus.

HJ: Was that the trip you made to use your bike for the first time?

M: Sure! But I also had the opportunity to meet an entrepreneur of bicycle tourism in Medellín, Manuel, who has a community space called La Casa Ciclista where he welcomes many travelers. My idea of ​​visiting him was to know his experience because he is also dedicated to sell good quality equipment to travel by bicycle.

HJ: And you're already selling your bike?

M: This is the pilot, we are going to develop the brand and ask for a design patent, an then we will market it. It is a gravel type bike, with an architecture very similar to a road bike, with a 32 to 38 rim for greater versatility that allows you to ride on pavement roads but also on gravel terrain.

HJ: A question about the design, does the suitcase where the bicycle is stored becomes the saddlebag?

M: Yes, I opened an Instagram profile to share content of the development part of the bike and the development. It is called Conlabicienlamaleta, so you can find it on Instagram and you can see how compact the bike is, and how the suitcase looks when the bike is assembled. Additionally, it takes 11 minutes to assemble after it is released from the suitcase and about 15 minutes to pack it in the transport terminal.

HJ: How did it go when you tried the bicycle for the first time? Did it meet your expectations regarding weight, ease, or do you still want to work on design?

M: Totally, well let's say it is as a laboratory. On the first trip, arriving in Santa Fe de Antioquia, it was raining and I realized that there were parts that can deteriorate with the water and have to be covered, those are the details that I begin to pursue right now.

HJ: Great, changing a bit of subject, within your experience as a cyclist, what would you recommend to people who want to come or who want to start traveling by bicycle?

M: I practice, as I say, light bikepacking, because it is not two or three months (my work does not allow it), but rather one or two weeks. From Manizales, I highly recommend climbing the Nevado del Ruiz, visiting the waterfalls on the road, sulfur-water springs, it's a super nice place, La Monita stream, camping and going down to the town of Murillo. This last trip I did was inspiring because it was the first experiment with which I could try the bike, I arrived in Medellin, from there I went to Casa Ciclista, then I took the road to Turbo, a completely clear path, you do not find anyone, it's very beautiful because the whole road is surrounded by the Cauca River. Super relaxed, it was very safe and there were mangoes to eat all along the road, that was the best.

HJ: What do you carry in your saddlebags when you make a trip of 5 days?

M: It depends on the level of comfort I want, depending on each person, the clothes that you consider you will need. I varry a small kitchen, in case there is any situation that I need to stop on the road to eat something. Spare parts, one or two tires, and if the night falls something to assemble a safe place to stay. Besides this, sunscreen and a windbreaker, those are the main things.

HJ: Great, anything else you want to share with the people who read us?

M: Of course, I recommend exploring, we have a huge territory that can be visited in a safe way. Very hard, but mixing the rides with the buses, is a good experience. Especially for people who are tired of the city and want to disconnect, there are very good places and if you suddenly have a family near Bogotá, that is the invitation. Go out, there are very good places to visit.

HJ: Thank you very much!

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