In spite of its altitude and undulating perimeter hillocks, the majority of Bogotá sits on a plateau that’s as flat as a pancake. Or a patacón if you happen to be Colombian. The topography, combined with chronic traffic congestion and a severely overstretched public transport infrastructure, makes the bicycle the thinking man’s choice of carriage. Desperately wishing to mimic such wisdom, I jumped on the two-wheel bandwagon soon after arrival.

Given the terrain and my expected usage, I thought I’d plump for a fixie over a mountain bike. Flat terrain demands a heavy frame to keep up momentum no? Plus they look achingly hipster-cool, and the sheltered bogotano denizen has not yet learnt to despise this demographic. I was safe.

Budget constraints ever salient, I plumbed the depths of what money could buy. And to a great extent, you gets what you pays for.

While it might look bacano, corners had most certainly been cut in terms of part-quality and assembly so as to bring it down to the price I eventually paid. Assembly is no responsibility of the bike’s manufacturer, but the design and quality of the original parts – which, incidentally, have dwindled in number due to nigh-on continuous repairs – leave much to be desired.

Nevertheless, I feel I’ve reached something of a stalemate with my bike. Most of what can go wrong has gone wrong already: today’s puncture repair stop and entertaining pedal-mechanism-disintegration were genuinely unexpected. For the most part it’s settled into a pattern of serving me in begrudging, but mostly reliable, good faith.

I ride around 50 miles per week on the iron steed, my regular commute to the university campus being roughly 5km and taking around 20 minutes depending on traffic – and headwind. The commute could be almost entirely completed on cycle lanes (ciclorutas) were it not for their placement exclusively adjacent to busy roads (see below) with attendant dust/emission issues, so I divert through the leafier back streets wherever possible.

The cicloruta in the next photo runs along the left-hand side of this multilane artery - fume central

Best to avoid facing entire classes with 7am pink-eye, I say.

The ciclorutas of the city vary in quality considerably. The best are well-signed, well-surfaced, and set away far enough from the road to mitigate the worst of the choking, lead-ridden pollution. Many however are incomplete, apt only for guesswork navigation when they abruptly end, or at best continue in unpredictable directions. The network printed on city maps is imaginative at times.

Smoothly dropped kerbs are inconsistently applied where cicloruta meets street (punctures and buckling), rubbish, invariably littered with broken glass (more punctures) is often strewn across the path after a resourceful street urchin’s had a good rummage but hasn’t tidied up, and of course the cicloruta is a popular parking spot for hawkers, vendors and sleepy drunks…

…and then there are the pedestrians! As a naturally brisk walker, the slow, meandering let’s-walk-five-abreast gait popular among bogotanos is frustrating on foot. When one of these unwieldy gaggles straddles the whole cycle path and ambles into the cross-hairs of a speeding cyclist with limited braking capacity (blame the workmanship), trouble’s brewing.

My recently bought clown horn is, in reality, no laughing matter, as it often warns of mere seconds before I will plough through a crowd of the offending party’s nearest and dearest and cause serious bodily harm. Needless to say I haven’t yet carried out this threat, but I feel the full-tilt menace of a honking fluorescent spectre bearing down on families and lovers alike will eventually teach people to share the pavement better. One would hope.

But while it’s still quicker, cheaper and greener than any other means of transport , I won’t be giving it up any time soon.

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