Smoothmovin’ to San Cristóbal

Who wants to ride a smooth dirt road when you can ride a smooth dirt road AND enjoy some roughstuff?!

Writing up the Rough ‘n Tumble ride reminded me that I hadn’t actually posted a report on the more conventional version of this route.

By conventional, I don’t mean shirt and tie biking for the whole ride (fear not, this is not an uptight outing). I’m thinking loosen the collar, roll up the sleeves, even pop on an American Apparel cotton T-shirt and some skinny jeans. Yep, that’s the kind of ride I’m talking about!

Once the city’s been escaped, Smooth Stuffin’ to San Cristóbal begins life as a respectable gravel climb (which continues onto Cuatro Venados, currently closed to visitors). Expect the odd vehicle, a nod, a wave, and a polite buenas dias to a passing wood-collecting family and their donkey.

But shortly before San Cristobal, the route veers off to the left, like it’s been sweet-talked by its GAP-wearing alter ego. Off onto a more primitive road that’s fruity enough to be fun… but never enough to question your casual attire.

The pictures from this ride were taken a while back, when the temperatures were hothothot and the cloudless sky had a washed out hue like the old Polaroid pictures my dad took. Or at least, an early Instagram filter.

Goats were seen and plants were inspected, of course. Above, you can see some example of ferns, or rather, a progression… from a fiddlehead to an adolescent to a mature fern. I keep recommending it, but Dr Oliver Sachs’ Oaxaca Journal is the guidebook to read for anyone travelling through the region, with a broader interest in what it’s all about. Oliver Sachs (author of Awakenings) is both a wonderfully engaging writer and a self-confessed fernhead. As a result, the book is a beautifully balanced work of astute observation and botanical nerdery. For instance, did you know that Oaxaca, as a state, has more than 700 fern varieties?! Yes, it blew my mind too!

Ah, the sweet sight of a disintegrated road… Why do I love a (non-dangerous-to-locals) landslide so very much?




This one required no more than a 3-minute scrabbly scramble… well worth the glorious hour of vehicle-free vistas. A lack of combustible engines also means an increase in grass-up-the-middle dirt tracks… my very favourite!

Just as Dr Sachs loves to wax lyrical about all manner of simple, vascular plants, I’m prone to seeing great beauty in bicycles, so please allow me to indulge. Gosh, isn’t that Jones Spaceframe a good looker! Except for the reduced framebag potential (compared to the same bike in a diamond shape) I’d love to ride one myself. Rumour has it the various curvy curves and differing tube diameters add a certain compliancy to the ride.

Onto another of my obsessions. Ice creams and in particular, Paleteria Mendoza. The good news? This small, village-based ice cream parlour was open for business! The bad news? In these COVID-19 times, it’s been closed every time I’ve since returned, shattering my heart, like a broken corn chip, into a million pieces…

(Note to self: maybe it’s time to start gathering a list of the finest paleterias in the area and blend them into one gloriously creamy ride)

See below for a map of the Smoothmovin’ to San Cristobal. It’s perfect for a gravel bike, except you’ll probably want a largish volume tyre to help tame the descent.

Comments (3):

  1. Kyle Pennell

    12 July 2020 at 1:09 am

    Hi there – My name’s Kyle and I made a site called Oaxaca Explorer. I just wanted to say really nice work with this site. You did such a nice job keeping it light, easy to read, and non cluttered.

    • Cass

      12 July 2020 at 1:31 am

      Hey, thanks Kyle! I’ve actually checked your excellent site out extensively and linked to it in a couple of places! I’m still in Oaxaca, but hoping/considering getting out for a few nights bikepacking on this route. Wish the Sierra Norte and the high country was open…


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