Our Must Do Rides series features some of the best routes around the world. This ride was captured and written by Daniel Hughes.
Rio De Janeiro is Brazil’s third-biggest city and for sure its biggest party town. Nestled on the coast and geographically constrained by mountains, this makes for a jaw-droppingly fun city to visit. Each year they have the world-famous Carnival where thousands dress up in costumes and the city parties the night away. If you’re going to go to Rio, then this is the time to visit. You’ll get to party with the locals and you'll be treated to insanely beautiful places to surf, run, ride, and, well pretty much do anything active.
The ride starts at the aptly named Cafe Cycliste. We got there at 6 a.m. (sadly, before it opened) in order to beat the traffic. There were 5 of us in total: me, Alan, Rodrigo, Fabricio and Paula. My friends out here always ride in groups for a mixture of reasons. One is because it's fun, but also because Rio is still a place where you need to ride smart – both for traffic and safety reasons.
This route starts off by heading towards Leblon and Ipanema beach. And here’s another reason to get up early: the sunrise over this beach was stunning. You’ll follow an out and back along the coastline before returning to climb up the hills towards the Christ the Redeemer statue.
The area of Grumari was part of the Olympic route in 2016, in fact most of this ride was. If you remember, the riders got to ride along coastal undulating hills with beautiful coves and beaches. It reminded me, a little bit of Highway One north of San Francisco. Although, sorry to say SF, this was even more beautiful!
We turned back on ourselves, headed back up through Barra, where about 10 minutes before the stop Rodrigo started talking about a Sugar Cane drink and how it was their Gatorade. It sounded good to me! I’m not sure if it was it the most delicious thing or if I was just thirsty from riding amazing roads with friends, but it definitely hit the spot.
On a sugar high, it’s now up, up, up to the Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the world's seven wonders. If you’re after segments, this is the place to be. There are a lot to choose from and the segment to the statue is the most coveted. It’s 2.1km averaging 9% so if you’re going to go for it, hold nothing back!
My favourite segment is the Canoas Primeiro Trecho. This is the start of the climb and takes you to an amazing viewpoint. 2.34km at an average of 9%. Although I didn’t go solo from the start, I did it in 13.01 with an average of 338W. During the Olympic Road race, Nibali did it 8 mins 24 seconds! That’s fast, and they did it not just once but three times!
There’s plenty more climbing and views to take in before heading up to the Christ the Redeemer statue. However, unless you have a lock for your bike you can’t go to the viewing area where you’re going to get the best views of the city. So now, time for some descending!
You will be rewarded for your efforts to get up to the Redeemer, but proceed with a bit of caution as the roads can be slippery, off-camber (remember the Olympics and the crashes?!) and local drivers aren’t the best with cyclists. But the descent offers super-fast, sweeping bends through the rain forest, past the Vista Chinesa and then down back to our starting point. You will have a blast.
Cafe Cycliste is now open, and it is legendary with all local cyclists. It’s an institution serving decent coffee, cakes and the specialty: Croque madame. You will have earnt those!
How can I sum up riding in Rio? Spectacular, diverse and with real warmth in the cycling culture. If you’re there on your own and it's a Saturday head out to Ipanema beach at 6 a.m. and you’ll find hundreds of cyclists to join.