Salle’s Cycle Group Ride, Atibaia, Brazil – October 12, 2013
by Paul Decker
Over the past several years work has frequently taken me to Atibaia, Brazil, a small city located in the mountains north of Sao Paulo. Typically I am in and out quickly, but my current trip required me to stay for 10 days.
Facing a weekend away from home I packed my running gear assuming that would be the extent of my fitness activities. Walking home from work one evening, I visited Salle’s Bikes, the local shop in Atibaia. Between one employee’s partial English and my very, very poor Portuguese, he was able to explain there was a group ride on Saturday at 3:00PM and there was one Americano who participated. Given the narrow, rough roads and aggressive driving, most cycling in Brazil is done on mountain bikes with road biking done primarily on the interstate highways.
I was able to borrow a Giant 29er, cycling clothes, gloves and a water bottle from a friend. On the way to the ride a guy in a red kit blew past me, dodging in and out traffic on a narrow road. I knew he had to be going to the same group ride and I thought I was going to be in trouble. When I got to Salles, five guys were waiting, all of whom were obviously experienced, strong mountain bikers. More doubts. They were very friendly and although we could hardly communicate they were more than welcoming. Jason, the Americano from Oklahoma arrived, as did another friend and transplant from Iowa, so communications became easier. Jason assured me that it was an inclusive, no drop ride and not to worry.
When the group was complete we headed for the mountains, leaving town on roads similar to Ridge late on a Saturday morning. Pare, Portuguese for stop, really means yield (sometimes), so intersections require a little more concentration than at home. The traffic circles add even more adventure.
We ended up on 30km dirt road loop popular among local cyclists. The climbs were intense and I was pleased to stay with them. The views were also spectacular.
After a short rest at the summit, we enjoyed a long, fast descent, clearly a skill one does not get to practice in Chicago. At such speeds the second half of the ride went quickly and we were soon relaxing at a fruit market enjoying a novel designer recovery drink – coconut water.
It was a terrific afternoon, meeting new friends and enjoying a Brazilian version of our group rides. Next time I am in Atibaia I look forward to again joining this warm, welcoming group of cyclists. To my new friends from the Salles Bikes; thanks for being such awesome hosts. When you visit Chicago, please join us for a Spidermonkey ride.