Regular Joe’s special update on the World’s Most Dangerous Road
When I told anyone that I was going to Bolivia on a mountain bike trip, the question invariably popped up: “Are you going to ride the World’s Most Dangerous Road?” I became quite tired of this query, and I made sure they knew I was going for more than a road, I was going to explore way more remote and wild chunks of terrain than a road, for God sakes.
Ever since I arrived here however, the hype was thick in the air. It is the benchmark by which all the unkempt Bolivian toque wearing travelers compare themselves to. It is the must do, the ultimate Bolivian claim. So curiosity got the best of us and we went to ride the Death Road, and see what the hype was all about.
When I say this road is a tourist attraction, I may be throwing down the biggest understatement of the year. This road sees an amazing amount of travelers, all being guided down by a myriad of companies, from well run to “oh my god” sketchy. Gravity Bolivia definitely has the distinction of being the best operation, with a fleet of 200 solid Kona full suspension bikes. They were the first to run trips on the road, and over the last 11 years they have guided over 44,000 people down this descent. Over the years there have been many impersonators, some doing a decent job, and some, like a few companies we witnessed, seemingly trying their hardest to off all of their clients before they reached the bottom of the road. We winced as a helmet-less guide bombed past us, with 10 frightened looking guests in tow careening down the mountain, oblivious to the 3000 feet of freefall just inches from their bald tires, refurbished brakepads, and frozen and rusted suspension forks.
The Gravity Bolivia guides have their work cut out for them, as not only are they in charge of the safe passage of their clients, but they generally bring up the back of all the groups, in order to help out the other companies in case of an accident. Just the week before a couple of the guides had to perform a rope rescue to aid a rider from another group who had gone for some unexpected air. He died in their arms, from widespread internal injuries.
The World’s Most Dangerous Road is aptly named. From the 128 villagers that died in a horrific bus accident while traveling home from a soccer match, to the 15 cyclists that have perished over the years, the road is not to be taken lightly. The array of crosses that dot the entire length of the descent are a constant reminder of the exposure and consequences of this ride.
Despite all the horror stories, and the hype, the ride was quite enjoyable. Beautiful scenery, a fast flowing downhill for over 40km, and the opportunity to claim that you “Did the Road”. It is no wonder that many people get to the bottom exhilarated, minds blown over what was one of the most exciting moments of their lives. As a professional athlete I take moments like that for granted sometimes, so it was refreshing to have things put in perspective.
Check out more on the World’s Most Dangerous Road at www.gravitybolivia.com