Peru has the perfect geography for epic mountain bike rides thanks to the Andes, which is the longest mountain range in the world. Nevertheless, the first race took place only last year. Trails here are without a doubt South America’s best kept secret for mountain biking. Alejandro Paz, Peru’s elite downhill champion, takes us along a discovery mission. Enjoy the ride!

This is the man you want to talk to if you plan on riding here!

Alejandro Paz: The video guy

With dreams of buying his first bike, Alejandro started a small dessert business at the age of fifteen. He would bake cookies and deliver them on a bicycle, express delivery being his competitive advantage. Back then, most customers would have never imagined that this young kid would become an elite downhill champion. Holding the title for eight years now, he has also started gaining international attention from an extreme mountain biking video on YouTube that has registered over four million views.
Nowadays he is sponsored by Santa Cruz Bicycles. What makes him ride is his passion for nature and adventure. After fifteen years on a bike, he is convinced Peru can become the world’s capital for enduro.

Always important to fuel up on unique local food when traveling!

One-way ticket to bikers’ paradise

6 AM, Cusco, Peru. We land in the imperial city of the Incas after an easy one-hour flight from the capital. Local friend and photographer, Diego Del Rio, is waiting for us at the airport with a smile and hot coca tea to prevent altitude sickness (3,390 meters above sea level can feel like an endless hangover).
Alejandro suggests we go for an early bite. “If you want to experience the everyday life of locals, the San Pedro Market is a great place for breakfast. Fruit juices come with super foods such as Maca and Kiwicha that help power up your riding,” he says.

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Back in the pickup truck, we leave the city, passing through San Jeronimo, and then head southwest to Paruro. The temperature drops as we move up the mountain. After a 40-minute drive we arrive at the top of the mountain pass “Abra Occoruro.” The trail is called ‘The Milky Way.’

Beginning at an altitude of 4,080 meters, it seems like the boundary between the earth’s surface and space.
“May welcomes the end of rainy season. In other words, it is perfect timing if you are looking for good grip and mind-blowing landscapes,” says Alejandro while setting up his Santa Cruz 5010. Coming from a downhill background, he prefers hard suspension and double-ply tubeless tires with high pressure.

40 minutes worth of ascent in the pickup truck!
“You feel as if you are at the top of the world”

The trail begins with a warm-up pedaling section that meets an open landscape with a 360-degree view of the most important sacred mountains, locally known as the “Apus”. Immediately after, we start gaining speed over a long singletrack with a fun sequence of natural jumps. This section makes it hard to believe you are not on a purpose-built bike park.

The lack of trees at this altitude makes for spectacular views.

The route heads steadily uphill. The climbing begins on rocky ground fully covered with Ichu, commonly known as Peruvian feather grass. Alejandro stands to pedal, picks a good line, and powers his way through. He finds the Santa Cruz 5010 a nice climber thanks to its geometry and light frame. The most technical section of the trail follows with a combination of loose rocks, ditches, and small drops that lead us to a series of steep switchbacks. As we come near the valley, the landscape becomes greener and the singletrack opens up into a much wider trail. Alejandro finds his way past some sheep and cows guarded by local children that run after him to cheer him on. The end of the trail is an easy dirt road with wide corners that allow him to practice wall rides. Elevation has dropped over 2,000 feet since we started.

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After an epic 40-minute ride, we get ready for a stretching session. Mandala Yoga is Alejandro’s favorite spot in Arin, a small town in the heart of the sacred valley. Owner Melinda Cross made her home here a healthy retreat destination where you can take yoga lessons and raw food workshops, among other offerings.

Exposed races faces make for fun wallride practice!

We are now ready for a well-deserved beer, but Alejandro isn’t keen. He insists on continuing riding. It seems he has not yet embraced the off-trail social side of enduro… hard to do perhaps with so many trails in the area still waiting to be discovered!

Stay tuned for more adventure on Peruvian highlands!

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Don’t miss these: Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, one of the most important
archeological sites of the world.

Best travel time: dry season is from May to October.

Guided Tours: Ride with the locals! Find Alejandro at or

Words: Diana Samardzich Photos: Diego Del Rio

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