The Rare and Elusive Costa Rican Singletrack
"Rom" has lived here all his life, save the first year or two. Here on the southern tip of the Nicoya Penisula in Pachote, a tiny village alongside the estuary that feeds into the Bahia de Ballera.
At this year's La Ruta, Rom placed 12th. I easily spotted him at last year's race. There aren't too many 6 foot blond haired Ticos. Rom has just started getting into race promotion in the area, and he has one coming up this weekend where he's trying to attract the big racing teams and maybe some foreigners.
For the past few weeks, Rom has been showing me all the cool places to ride, all the while coaching me on the various trees and critters along the way. Waterfalls, secluded beaches, deep and dark primary forests, views from the top of peaks that rival any in the Bay Area.
But only accessible on what we gringos would call 'fire roads'. Pretty rutted, eroded, steep and overgrown fire roads, but still technically not quite singletrack.
I had to explain to one of the best mountain bikers in the country what singletrack is. He simply couldn't fathom that you can build a narrow trail onto a ridiculously steep slope, and still make it up in your middle chainring. I told him about the twisting, snaking ride you get as you corner every tree, and pump every roller. Vines to duck and kickers to hit can be built into the design.
Rom's smile grew as I gushed.
On the mainland up near the Arenal volcano, I've heard there is some good riding on the hiking and cow trails. But they can be quite muddy 9 months out of the year so the singletrack season is brief.
Rom is excited about the idea of singletrack coming to the Nicoya penisula. It's still jungly and full of wildlife, but a lot drier. I assured Rom that if the trails are built, they will come.