The use of bikes as a form of transportation in Costa Rica has significantly diminished due to the better public and private access to transportation, as well as, the increase of automobiles and motocyles on the road. However, locals in small villages and people who are in the lower income bracket use their bikes as their primary means of transportation. Bikes just like other types of transportation must adhere to many laws such as wearing a bike helmet or reflective gear at night.
Bikes as a form of transportation
Riding a bike in Costa Rica is not as simple as it looks. There are several laws restricting bikes from the highways obviously as a form of protection, yet many people still try. Riding a bike in the city can be tough due to all the foot traffic and traffic jams. People have to go up hills that have extremely steep inclines, they ride in the rain, and they risk their lives on the roads since there are no designated bike lanes in Costa Rica. Bikers must also wear helmets at all times and reflective gear at night otherwise they will be fined.
In the coastal areas and rural zones of Puntarenas, Limon, Alajuela, and Guanacaste it is very common to see lots of people riding on bikes. Sometimes entire families mounted on a bike. These populations use bikes to get to work, to run errands, or simply to get around. In these areas too, cars and motorcycles have increased a bit but people prefer to ride on their bikes as the pace of life is a little more relaxed. Additionally, the poorer populations cannot afford motorcyles or gasoline so bikes are the most economic solution.
Because the use of bikes in these areas is so popular the government has built many years ago a special route for bikes that provides them with more protection and avoid more accidents with cars. This same initiative has tried to raise money to motivate people to ride to work on their bikes in order to improve peoples overall health and decrease the traffic jams on the highways. Again, this type of project has not been taken on in San Jose.
Types of Biking Competitions
Costa Rica is a very popular destination for bike enthusiasts. One good example of this is the road bike competition called the International Route that has been hosted over 40 years in Costa Rica. Competitors come from all over the globe for this competition to complete all of the legs of this competition that run all over different parts of Costa Rica, much like the Tour de France.
Another one of Costa Rica's most popular bike races is known as the Ruta de los Conquistadores. This competition is by far one of the toughest tests of endurance and is a competition in mountain bike realized each year. This competition is a tough route from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. Usually the competition is 4 or 5 days depending on the year and it also travels all through the country. Only over the last 15 years has this competition become accessible and popular among elite bike athletes in Costa Rica as this competition has mainly been geared towards foreign participants. The exciting news this year is that Lance Armstrong supposedly is considering coming to compete in 2010!
Besides these competitions there are several more both competive and recreational throughout the year, and all over the country. Some require that the athletes need to qualify for that are more serious and unusually involve prizes and other more recreational routes. Weekends are the most popular dates for bike competitions where one can see hundreds of competitors. There are plenty of training routes just outside the center of San Jose that are mountainous and challenging. Dry season or early mornings in rainy seasons are when most athletes will be training hardcore.
There also exists in Costa Rica a board that regulates competitions and competitors. This is known as the Federación Costarricense de Ciclismo (FECOCI). This body establishes status, rules, regulations, and gives authorization for official competitions in Costa Rica. All bikers whether professional or amateur that would like to participate in events have to register with the Federation and are given a membership card and a number so that if they can they can classify for a world ranking in cycling.
All around the country you will finding biking supply stores that provide repair services, spare parts, new bikes, all types of accessories, and clothing for biking because biking has become so popular. Biking is not a cheap sport at all. All of these types of items are brand name and are world class quality. The majority of the stores are in the Central Valley. The stores are usually called "Ciclos.”
Another sport that uses a bike is the triathlon competitions that have also started becoming popular here in Costa Rica. This is regulated by a different group known as the Federación Unida de Triatlón (FEUTRI), which is completely independent of the FECOCI. Every day you see more and more people practicing and training for these types of competitions as this is becoming more popular. There are national competitions both for the elite and recreational on weekends at the many beaches of Costa Rica.