Riding in Ecuador with Tito Tomasi
Story by Tito Tomasi
I live for travelling, adventures, and riding new places. The allure of riding new trails and expecting the unexpected has become a way of life for me. When I first began planning my trip to Ecuador, I reflected back on my first visit there which was in 2012. I wanted to revisit some of my favourite places, but I was also ready to go further and sink my tires into something new.
This time around, I was lucky enough to be travelling with one of the best guides in the country, my friend Mateo. Mateo is a passionate rider that loves to explore (like me), and always comes up with crazy ideas for the next big ride. He rides super hard and isn’t afraid of taking on the big epics.
I’ve always loved sketching and painting, and my artwork has allowed me to keep the memories from my trips alive long after they’re over. From brightly colored paintings to simple pencil drawings, my art is a reflection of what I’ve seen and experienced along my adventures.
I started my trip from just south of Quito and was in awe of Ecuador’s beauty from the minute I stepped off of the plane. The first part of my journey would take me towards Laguna de Quilotoa, a stunning lake that shifts in color as the sun moves across the sky. Mateo and I’s were joined by our friend Dani, would join us for the first major ride around the Quilotoa crater rim. The Quilotoa rim trail is both technical and very physically demanding, making it an aggressive way to start off the trip.
Riding at 3900m elevation was slowly wearing us down, and the threatening rainclouds had us worried about overexhaustion and exposure. The clouds were moving quickly, so we dropped in from rim trail and headed towards the town of Chugchilán in the valley far below. Navigating through farm lands and sandy singletrack, it was an amazing experience passing through villages along old roads, and eventually being rewarded with food and shelter.
The terrain in Ecuador is incredible. After Quilotoa, we travelled north from Quito towards the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, an area which was very different than what I expected. As we approached the area it appeared like all the other dry mountains nearby, but the reality was it couldn’t have been more different. When we finally arrived and dropped into the crater, we were treated to a winding singletrack through an endlessly lush rainforest.
Everywhere we went seemed to hold some sort of historical significance. We were riding deep inside a volcanic crater on ancient trails and learned that we were actually riding through lands that belonged to a pre-Incan culture, the Yungos. The Yungos community used this fertile land as trade leverage during colonialism. In between the land they used for farming, they had developed an intricate network of trails and paths for moving through the area, which were now perfect for mountain biking!
The black sandy trail was surrounded by walls of vegetation, and we were navigating what was one of the most unique trails I’d ever ridden. From weaving through the dank humid rainforest to emerging into a dry dusty desert, the dirt under our tires turned from black to red. Ecuador switched it up on us once again. We had gone from rainforest jungle to a desolate crater-like area that was appropriately nicknamed, “the moon”.
From the Pululahua crater we drove south passed Quito and Machachi to the base of Cotopaxi, an active volcano in the Andes. We set up in a mountain hostel for the night hoping for good weather, but this was a story I’d seen unfold before.
Cotopaxi is a very special place to me. When I first came to Ecuador in 2012, I was on a 19-day bikepacking trip and I spent 4 days waiting for the clouds to clear but never actually saw it. I was always drawn to come back but would again strike out on this trip.
The snow was low, but we decided to make the most of it. The soil was incredibly soft, but still ran insanely slightly frozen ground and cold temperatures. The feeling of freedom and happiness from riding these lines surrounded by deep canyons and crazy colors is something I’ll never forget.
Mateo and I tried three separate times to approach and ride Chimborazo, and on the last attempt I had one of the best rides of my life. We descended from Condor Lake at 5100m into the low-lying jungle at 700m. From the volcanic rock field and sand slopes, to the high mountain ridge lines and impossibly thick jungle, we had proven once again that Ecuador has some of the most diverse riding on earth.
After two weeks of riding in Ecuador and visiting many of the places I’ve dreamed of, I once again feel incredibly lucky for getting to travel to ride my bike. Everything from the adventurous riding to the unique culture and passionate people, has made my experience in Ecuador unforgettable. I would like to thank Mateo and his company Ride Equadorfor his help.
Whenever we travel we leave certain expectations in our mind and assume we know how things are going to go, but once your hands are on the bars it’s always a little bit different. Once you’re there, the only thing that matters is the trail in from of you. This is when you know you’re living 100% in the moment.
“Vive la Vie”
Last Fall a group of Rocky Mountain athletes, ambassadors, and friends took a road trip through some of the best riding networks in Quebec and the Northeastern United States. We set each of them up with our new Thunderbolt, to ride the style of trails in which the bike was designed for. Built for technical climbs with the ability to power through the rough stuff, the Thunderbolt is a quick, nimble, trail weapon, meant to excel on demanding trails.
It’s amazing what you can pack into a long weekend with a solid crew. Our EWS team rider, Peter Ostroski, his sister Sophie, and Rocky Mountain Sales Rep, Sean Rudzinsky, headed north across the Canada-US border to meet up with the Canadians, Christian Gauvin, Kevin Simard, and Ian Hughes. Christian is based out of Bromont and has been a Rocky Mountain athlete for 10 years, Kevin has been with Rocky Mountain for 5 years, and Ian is a coach working for the Centre National de Cyclisme de Bromont (CNCB). Packing up for the weekend, stop one would be at Vallée Bras-du-Nord.
“I couldn’t believe how hard I could push the Thunderbolt on descents and still make quick work of the climbs. The snappy nature of the bike makes it ride light and is easy to handle, and its maneuverability and quick acceleration allowed me to get creative on the downs!” – Peter Ostroski
Action, agility, and acute adjustments, the trails in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States demand focus and quick corrections. Often overshadowed by the trail lore of the Pacific Northwest and tales of the endless BC backcountry, the east side of our continent doesn’t seem to get enough credit. Riddled with technical singletrack and daunting rock moves, it pays to ride with purpose and precision.
When we re-designed the Thunderbolt, we brought the rear travel up to 130mm, increased frame stiffness, and lowered the suspension rate curve. We also added the option of our BC Edition platform, accommodating a longer stroke shock to provide 140mm of rear travel. Both the Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt BC Edition have RIDE-9™ adjustments, giving you control over the geometry and suspension characteristics, so you can be ready for any trail.
Christian charges hard year-round racing fat bikes in a true Canadian winter, racing XC and enduro in the summer, and helping out with demo days and local ride events. He lives in Bromont, right next to the trails. The mountain biking scene is strong here, and with a passionate drive the community has helped move mountain biking forward through volunteerism, fundraising, and commitment.
“We have an incredibly strong trail building crew here in Bromont, and there’s definitely no shortage of talented riders. The builders are all so passionate about riding, I think it’s their personal commitment to both building and riding that makes the trails here so fun!” – Christian Gauvin
Rocky Mountain has been working with Vallée Bras-du-Nord since they first began developing mountain bike trails in 2007. The trails are the work of an incredibly unique, at-risk youth program where they work in groups of 10 for nearly 6 months at a time, building and maintaining all the trails in their tenure. The vision is that working in nature can be used as a kind of therapy and connecting youth with the outdoors is a way to help them build skills and self-confidence. The dedicated program managers are building out a network that truly represents the riding in Quebec, with trails that breed creativity. The network here is growing quickly, and for good reason.
We’re truly lucky to get to ride and work in such a beautiful place. We have everything from flow trails to the more classic, technical riding you’ll see in Quebec, and have developed the network to weave amongst the natural features of the environment. It’s pretty epic here!” – Mathieu Dupuis-Bourasssa, Operations Manager at Vallée Bras-du-Nord
''I love how hard the trail building community is working to grow our sport in Quebec. There’s so many great networks in close proximity, we as riders have seemingly endless choices of where to ride.” – Christian Gauvin
Peter Ostroski grew up in New Hampshire, and after a 6-year stint in Alaska, moved back to the Northeast settling in Burke, Vermont. He’s been a member of our EWS team since the beginning, starting with a spot on the original Altitude Team alongside teammates, Kevin Soller, and a young Jesse Melamed. But his history with Rocky Mountain doesn’t start there. He first rode a Rocky Mountain at 12 years old, hopping aboard an extra-small Instinct that he reflects fondly on calling it, “his dream ride”. Peter’s known for his ultra-quick precision and solid power on the pedals, both of which he developed as a cross-country racer charging hard on the tech trails out his back door.
The trails of Quebec and Northeast US don’t get the same level of exposure as the West Coast of North America, but things seem to be working just fine. The trail centres have developed a unique culture that’s helping to shape our sport in a meaningful way, and the riding still offers everything one could want.
“The mountains aren't as big as the Alps or BC, but they pack a punch and offer tight, challenging steep terrain if you know where to look.” – Peter Ostroski
Putting in the time: An interview with Peter Ostroski
Peter’s been riding and racing for Rocky Mountain for a really long time. He’s worked his way up from a grassroots hookup to representing our brand proudly at the Enduro World Series. He’s been a member of our North American enduro race team since its inception and isn't slowing down any time soon.
RMB: To start it all off, Peter, where are you from?
PO: I grew up in North Conway, New Hampshire, and stayed there until after I finished University. It was only an hour or so from my hometown. After wrapping up at Plymouth State University I moved up to Girdwood, Alaska for 6 years to ski and ride. Now, I’m back in the Northeast USA living in Burke, Vermont. It’s really awesome being so close to the Kingdom Trails, and there’s a ton of other great riding nearby.
RMB: What first got you into riding?
PO: I was lucky enough to grow up in a family who loved being on the move and doing things outdoors. My folks introduced me to mountain biking, and at that time North Conway had a fairly strong riding community. My buddies and I were pretty competitive, and we grew up pushing each other, chasing around the older riders, and rode mostly on trails which were way above our heads at the time.
From there I got into XC racing at a state level, which included everything from 24-hour solo missions to competing at the cross-country nationals. Mountain biking has always been a passion of mine when there wasn’t snow on the ground. I grew up alpine ski racing and was fortunate enough to compete at the national level and consistently through university. It’s always been exciting trying to balance both sports while dealing with the dynamic swing from season to season.
RMB: So how did you go from XC to Enduro?
PO: Throughout my years XC racing, my goal had always been to race a World Cup in Europe - just to see if I could hang at that level. Once I pushed through the local ranks and had gained enough points to race “across the pond”, well…it was an eye-opening experience. I realized it wasn’t the path for me. My timing was good though, because enduro was gaining momentum in the US and having a new discipline to compete at was interesting to me. I had always trained on aggressive trails for XC racing, riding bikes like the Slayer for most of my rides during my XC racing years. Fortunately, it’s that exact kind of riding which I enjoy most, so it was a natural transition for me. I’ve been a part of the enduro scene for the last 6 years.
RMB: Tell us about your history riding Rocky Mountain Bicycles, it starts long before your enduro racing career.
PO: I’ve been riding a Rocky Mountain since I was 12 years old and first jumped on a 26” wheeled bike (which was the original Instinct). I think it may have been size XS just to make it work for my size, and it was my absolute dream ride. I owe my introduction to Rocky Mountain to the regional sales rep at the time, Mark Jenks. He took me under his wing, showed me some basic mechanic skills, and helped me with my riding as a coach and mentor. Mark had set me up on a regional sponsorship program, which gave me the opportunity to represent Rocky Mountain as a junior with a sweet bike and riding kit. From there, I was introduced to the US sales manager, John Olden, and worked my way up to some larger races and events on a similar program.
Things really clicked when I was on my way to Utah for a race, and I met two guys from Rocky Mountain’s R&D office in North Vancouver. The Product Manager, Ken Perras, and Marketing Manager at the time, Peter Vallance, took me on a ride and gave me the chance to share my background and present some ideas to move the brand forward. It paid off! I was able to make my way on to a more structured program, and a season or two later, Dre Hestler brought me aboard the first enduro team with the new Altitude. The Altitude Team included a young Jesse Melamed, Keven Soller, and myself. We hit a few of the very first EWS races as the Altitude team, and grew into the Rocky Mountain Urge BP team, and now the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro team. It’s been a crazy journey!
RMB: It sounds like it’s been a pretty awesome journey!
PO: Being a part of a strong team with some of the best riders in the world is a special thing. I have learned so much about bike racing over the last 5 years. It’s so important to have teammates that you can trust at the races to talk about the tracks, bounce ideas off of, and keep the energy high. Having the support of the EWS team has been great, and it’s allowed me to bring experience, stories and knowledge back to the regional and national races in the US.
RMB: What do you do in the winter? Tell us about that?
PO: Winter’s always been about skiing! I mentioned I grew up as an alpine ski racer, and then raced at the national level in university. Now, I’m a ski coach, and I keep the passion alive through my career and continued involvement in the sport. This is what led me, besides the amazing skiing, up to Alaska 7 years ago. I began working at a junior program at Alyeska Resort, and it evolved into somewhat of a full-time gig. As with many things in life, it's a balance. I try to give the athletes I coach the best opportunity to reach their potential, while striving to accomplish my own goals as an athlete.
RMB: Do you coach year-round?
PO: I coach skiing mostly in the winter, but there are a handful of summer ski camps I’m involved with. Right now, I’m working at Burke Mtn Academy in Vermont, which is a ski academy that has produced numerous Olympians and successful alpine racers over the past 48 years. It’s been really working at the school that was the first sports academy in North America. My job is somewhat seasonal, which gives me more time to dedicate effort towards both my biking and skiing career, keeping my life dynamic and fun.
RMB: What does your schedule look like for the year?
PO: For the upcoming season I plan to race a few EWS events (Austria, Whistler, Spain and Italy), a handful of Eastern States events, Trans-BC, and the Continental EWS races in North America. The goal is always to podium at national level races, Trans-BC, and try and be up there in the ranks at the EWS races I attend.
RMB: Everybody knows about the PNW trails, so tell us about the northeast US trails.
PO: The PNW gets so much attention, but the Northeast US trails are pretty rad! There is some really amazing riding and super varying terrain. There’s everything from rolling hills to fairly sizable mountains, modern flow trails to raw and technical trails. The mountains aren't as big as the Alps or BC, but they pack a punch and offer tight, challenging steep terrain if you know where to look.
I don't think the Northeast gets the exposure like the Pacific Northwest because the culture is just different, and these places have only just recently pushed to become riding destinations. The PNW is leading the charge, but with strong engagement from the NE municipalities and land owners to push for more MTB tourism, I think the momentum is growing around here.
RMB: What bikes are you riding on this season?
PO: I will primarily be riding Instinct, Altitude, and Thunderbolt. I also spend a fair bit of time on the Suzi-Q in the winter, riding on snow and going wherever I can. When the conditions shape up, its actually pretty fun.
Pinkbike's first look at the new Thunderbolt
"It certainly doesn't feel like a cross-country bike – it's not intended to – but it does have the pedaling potency that Rocky's bikes are quickly becoming known for...rear suspension is efficient, as expected, and it feels a lot like 130mm should feel; it's supple on top despite the on-power competence, but is much, much more forgiving than bikes sporting just 10mm less squish." - Mike Levy, Pinkbike Technical Editor
Pinkbike's Mike Levy was one of a select few journalists to get an advance look at our new Thunderbolt. Head over to Pinkbike to see the rest of his initial impressions.
Thunderbolt & Altitude Lauded at the Bible of Bike Tests
We're honoured to have two bikes selected to be in Bike Magazine's 2016 Bible of Bike Tests. Both the Altitude 770 MSL and the Thunderbolt 799 MSL were lauded by testers, and we're proud of how they stack up against the competition.
Altitude 770 MSL
"Compared to some of the other all-mountain bikes, it felt downright ethereal. This was refreshing and liberating when it came time to hump uphill, and the Altitude has the steep seat angle and clean suspension kinematics to hustle upward with an ease that will endear it to XC racers and all-day climbers alike. The absence of heft and sense of balance persisted when pointed downhill too, making for a nimble ride aided by neutral handling and an effective, supple suspension."
Thunderbolt 799 MSL
We've been blown away by all the ladies ripping it up on the Thunderbolt, so for this year's Bible of Bike Tests we floated the idea of their women's bike testers evaluating it. We had them try the top-of-the-line 799 MSL model just to be cheeky, but don't worry: we make Thunderbolts across most price points.
"It “climbs like a cheetah on speed,” wrote one tester, while another noted: “This bike is built to go fast." (...) The XC-trail nature of the Thunderbolt was a perfect match for the Kingdom Trails network, which largely consists of buttery-smooth dirt ribbons twisting through tight trees, with an occasional root section mix in, and short, punchy climbs and descents. The 27.5-inch wheels, 16.6-inch chainstays and 44-inch wheelbase (size medium) no doubt aided in the Thunderbolt’s exceptional maneuverability through the forest mazes, and its rocket-like acceleration points to its astounding 25.5-pound weight. Testers also remarked that the bike descended with more authority than expected, with its 120 millimeters of rear travel feeling deeper than the number purports."
Bike Mag's Thunderbolt BC Dream Build
Bike Magazine's Brice Minnigh selected our Thunderbolt BC Edition as the platform for his 2016 "Dream Build."
"When it came to choosing my dream build, I approached the privilege as literally as I could: I picked the bike that had pervaded my dreams the most over the past year" said Brice. "And while a small handful of bikes have crept into my dream space in recent months, none of them have left such an indelible impression as the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition."
Bike Mag Lauds Thunderbolt MSL
"Why did two of our editors pick the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition as their favorite of the 2015 Bible of Bike Tests? Well, for starters, because it climbs with the speed of a lightning bolt hurled by Zeus himself. And such spectacular displays of fireworks are aptly followed by the heavy rumble of thunder as it blasts through burly descents with all the power of a 6-inch-travel all-mountain bike."
— Bike Magazine, 2015 Bible of Bike Tests
Introducing the 2015 Thunderbolt MSL
We are excited to introduce you to our new 2015 Thunderbolt MSL.
A 120mm travel, 27.5-wheeled XC trail bike, we designed it for people who hammer at the pointy end of the pack, but stay aggressive and stylish when terrain gets rougher. Marathon racing? Sure. Triple up those whoops? Why not! BC Bike Race? Of course! Smash every corner? Be rude not to.
The design process went much further than simply making a carbon version of our popular aluminum Thunderbolt; we reengineered it from the ground up to have shorter chainstays, lower standover, RIDE-9™ adjustability, new pivot technologies, increased anti-squat and more.
Global pricing to be announced. Available Fall 2014.
- RIDE-9™ System — Our patented RIDE-9™ technology is the key to our bikes’ extraordinary versatility. It uses two interlocking chip insertsto adjust geometry and suspension characteristics, allowing riders to tune their bikes to their specific riding styles, terrain, and weight.
- SMOOTHWALL™ Carbon — SMOOTHWALL™ carbon uses one of the world’s most sophisticated carbon processes to deliver industry leading stiffness-to-weight, ride quality, and durability. We eliminate excess resin and fibers by using rigid internal molds instead of traditional air bladders. We then utilize different typesof carbon in specific frame areas to maximize stiffness and impact resistance while minimizing overall weight.
- PIPELOCK™ Pivot — Rather than relying on lateral compression for stiffness like traditional main pivot designs, our patent-pending PIPELOCK™ pivot uses a military grade, hard-anodized collet that expands radially to create the widest—and therefore most rigid—pivot stance possible. Using PIPELOCK™ allows us to cut our main pivot weight dramatically while significantly increasing lateral stiffness. PIPELOCK™ Pivots also feature grease ports for effortless maintenance.
- BC2™ Pivots — Lighter and stiffer than conventional bearing pivots, our Bushing Concept 2 (BC2™) Pivots are the oversized next generation of our groundbreaking ABC™ system. Unlike other bushings, our patented system uses a hardened alloy insert that bottoms out to control the contact of the bushing surfaces, reducing the preload that causes stiction and binding. BC2™ Pivots also feature grease ports for effortless maintenance.
- ABC™ Pivots — Our revolutionary Angular Bushing Concept (ABC™) pivots are lighter, stiffer, and require less maintenance than conventional bearing pivots. Like our BC2™ pivots, they rotate on hardened alloy inserts that bottom out to reduce stiction and binding. However, by using an angled bushing surface they increase their relative contact area, optimizing them for compact locations like chainstay pivots.
- SMOOTHLINK™ Suspension — SMOOTHLINK™ suspension stays supple yet supportive through a wider range of gears than conventional single pivot or other four-bar suspension configurations. This patented system reduces both pedal-bob and bottom-outs, while allowing us to fine tune variables like braking and climbing traction across a widerange of intended uses.
- Fully Di2 compatible with integrated battery stealth port in downtube.
- Internal cable, shock, and stealth dropper post routings keep cables neatly stowed.
- Easy internal cable management with downtube stealth port.
- 142mm E-Thru rear axle increases stiffness.
- BB92 pressfit bottom bracket provides maximum lateral stiffness.
- Grease ports on BC2™ and PIPELOCK™ pivots allow for fast and easy maintenance.
Thunderbolt 799 MSL
Thunderbolt 770 MSL
Thunderbolt 750 MSL
Thunderbolt 790 MSL
We’re a selfish bunch, so we couldn’t resist producing a Thunderbolt MSL BC Edition. With its lively, bottomless-feeling SMOOTHLINK™ suspension curve, adjustable RIDE-9™ system, and class-leading stiffness it was the perfect candidate for some additional brawn. Set up the way we set our own bikes up—wide bars, short stem, big tires, stiff wheels, and premium suspension—, the BC Edition translates the Thunderbolt’s agility into true trail bike playfulness and aggression.
When XC gets rowdy, the agile and playful Thunderbolt shines. With 120mm of SMOOTHLINK™ travel and 27.5” wheels, the Thunderbolt delivers a great mix of intuitive XC capabilities and pure, playful trail fun.
"The Thunderbolt is my kind of XC bike. It's got a natural feel and tackles the climbs exceptionally well. On the descents it provides the kind of small bump sensitivity usually reserved for longer travel bikes.” -Thomas Vanderham
Rocky Mountain's entire development team unanimously agreed on the need for a fun XC bike that stands on the shoulders of our dedicated XC race bikes. By understanding the attributes of race bikes, we tested and perfected the numbers to arrive at geometry that lends a more playful feeling to riding cross-country. We were able to design a short 426mm rear end on the Thunderbolt, tucking the 27.5” wheel in close to the rider for lots of maneuverability and agility. At the same time, the top tube has been lengthened from traditional Rocky Mountain designs to accommodate today's shorter stems and wider bars. Our Engineers and test-riders like Thomas Vanderham experimented tirelessly to arrive at the bike's 68.5° headtube angle, balancing the unique handling-properties of both XC and trail riding styles.
- No-nonsense FORM™ Alloy frame with 27.5" wheels for agile, playful handling
- 120mm of XC-tuned SMOOTHLINK™ Suspension delivers exceptional climbing traction and a stable pedalling platform
- ABC™ Pivots are lighter, more durable and laterally stiffer than conventional bearing systems
- BB92 pressfit bottom bracket provides maximum lateral stiffness
- 142mm E-Thru rear axle to increase stiffness (Thunderbolt 710 utilizes F/R quick release)
- Internal cable routing keeps cables neatly stowed, with service-friendly ports
- Internal “Stealth” dropper-post routing tucks the housing inside the frame for minimal clutter (with external option)