A year ago we were planning our bike trip across The Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. We scoured the Internet for tips, but didn’t find many. So with the help of Google maps and a “let’s just do it!” attitude, we planned as best we could and hoped we weren’t overlooking anything important. Now a year later, here are a few things we would have told ourselves about cycling through The Yucatan…
1. Use Google Street View BEFORE cycling into rural Mexico
When I see a town marked on Google maps, I expect that place to be big enough to have at least a convenience store where one can buy water and snacks. That is evidently NOT the case. Many towns on the Google map in The Yucatan are little more than a cluster of houses and dirt streets, no stores in sight. Sometimes there’s a town name… and nothing else! At least no buildings we could see from the road. Therefore, it’s a good idea to use Street View to verify the existence of towns and scout for stores before you head out on your ride. Then you know if there’s somewhere to buy water and snacks, or if you need to pack enough sustenance to make it to the day’s final destination.
2. Yucatan Dirt Roads = ROCK
When our Komoot app created a route that included a “dirt single track”, we dropped the little Google person on the map to check it out. Street View revealed that road was definitely dirt but passable. There was even a shot with a truck driving down it. However, what Street View doesn’t show clearly is how bumpy and rocky dirt roads are in the Yucatan. It took us just as long to ride a 7km dirt road from Aké to the highway to Izamal as it would have to backtrack 10km to the nearest paved road! This isn’t to say that you can’t cycle these dirt roads, just be prepared for a slow, technical ride over the rocks.
3. Bring tools, spare inner tubes, and chain lube
We brought all of this… except the chain lube. Having tools to fix a flat is a no-brainer and we always bring that stuff on our trips, but in seven years of traveling with our Bromptons, we’ve never actually packed chain lube! We tune up the bikes right before we leave, after all. Thing is, cycling around Cancun put a lot of sand and salt on the bike chains, and by the time we headed inland, they were starting to rust. Luckily, we got oiled up at Biciruta Merida.
4. Buy some real Mexican chocolate!
It doesn’t melt in your hot saddlebags like cheap processed chocolate does. Just saying. There’s no excuse not to pack a chocolate snack for the road!
5. Learn Spanish
In the cities where most tourists travel, a lot of people speak English. But not in the small rural areas. Though if your Spanish is sadly lacking (like ours), you can get by with a smile and some clever miming. Everyone we met in the rural areas of The Yucatan was super friendly, albeit a bit surprised to see tourists in their tiny towns.
6. You don’t have to start cycling at 5am!
What advice we did find about cycling in Mexico often said to start riding early because you don’t want to get caught in the “stifling heat” of midday. Since we are NOT morning people, we didn’t heed this advice… and we were totally fine! As long as you’re wearing a hat/helmet with a brim and sunscreen, and drink enough water, you should be good. We didn’t find the heat oppressive at all. Mind you, we did go in December. It might be a different situation in July.
7. You can take your bike on the BUS!
Once you get closer to the Quintana Roo coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, the traffic gets heavier and the scenery gets less exciting, and you might feel that cycling the shoulder of the big highways just isn’t how you want to spend your holiday. If that’s the case, you can put your bike (even bikes that don’t fold) in the luggage area of a 2nd or 1st class bus, and spend more time relaxing in your destination!
We didn’t see many people cycling through The Yucatan, Mexico. In fact, the only other cycle tourists we came across during our entire two-week trip were a couple on recumbent bicycles, and we couldn’t ask them about their adventures because we were on the ADO bus to Merida!
We’re not sure why we didn’t see more cyclists. It’s flat, traffic is light, and the weather is perfect. For two Canadians looking for a place to cycle and sightsee over the Christmas holidays, The Yucatan fit our needs (affordable and warm) perfectly!
Cycling in Mexico Blog Posts:
- Cycling Cancun – The Pleasures & Pitfalls
- VIDEO: Cycling Cancun
- Cycling Cancun Cuidad – 4 Tips + Time-Lapse VIDEO
- Biking Around Isla Mujeres
- Sights & Lights in Merida, Mexico
- Cycling from Merida to the Dzibilchaltun Ruins
- Biciruta Merida – Car-Free Sunday in Mexico
- The Adventurous Cycling Route From Merida to Izamal
- Izamal to Chichen Itzá – Cycling the Scenic Route
- Mexico’s Maya Ruins: Chichen Itza
- Cycling Mexico’s Highways – Chichen Itza to Tulum
- Cities & Sights on our Cycle Route from Mérida to Tulum
- 6 Maya Archeological Sites from Merida to Tulum