Leo Hoogenboom leads it out. Photo by Barry B. Brown/Coral Reef Photos
On the island of Bonaire last week, I solidified my opinion of cold-weather biking: like getting a flu shot or cleaning the toilet, you have to do it, but it’s not really much fun. I hear the protests already—the cold air is invigorating; it’s not bad if you dress right; snow bikes are fun—and I’ll concede it all. But next winter, you take a break from rides that require bundling up like Ralphy from A Christmas Story and head down to the Caribbean for some mountain biking—as I did last week—and then come talk to me about how good it feels to ride with numb fingers and frozen snot and a sore throat. I’ll take the crackling dry single track and hot Caribbean sun on my bare skin every time, thank you very much.
A municipality of the Netherlands, Bonaire is the “B” between Aruba and Curaçao in the ABC islands and drifts just 50 miles north of Venezuela. Divers love it for the unique double reef and windsurfers flock here as well, but I discovered that the island has a secret life as a mountain bike destination. Usually the drawback of riding in vacation destinations are the pieces of scrap metal that hotels pass off as rental bikes. But I found a friendly local bike shop in downtown Kralendijk called De Freewieler that rented Ridley Shark hard tails with working shifters, brakes, and—bonus—life left in the front shock. They also arranged for a local to show me around.