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Riding Costa Rica

By Tom Rounds -

Touring & travel

 02 July 2013 00:54

One of the perks of working in the motorcycle industry is the opportunity to ride the newest bikes released and test the latest equipment. However, possibly above all, it is the opportunity to ride a variety of tracks and explore some of the best riding areas on earth.

We recently returned from an adventure tour with Costa Rica Unlimited that solidified this belief! Our guide with Costa Rica Unlimited was Chris Kilbride, a Floridian transplant who moved to Costa Rica over a decade ago.

Kilbride, like many US transplants, is a surfer who found his paradise years ago in this Central American country and, other than the occasional trips back to the states, is now a full-time resident.

A top amateur racer in the states, Kilbride’s first love remains motorcycles; in addition to Costa Rica Unlimited he also owns MotoShop Jaco, a motorcycle shop in the heart of Jaco, the main tourist town in Costa Rica.

With Kilbride at the helm, we were in good hands upon arriving at San Jose Airport, where we were greeted by him and guide Carlos Jimenez. The drive to the Pacific coast toward Playa Hermosa was much easier than expected.

An hour and a half after picking up the gear at customs we were standing on the sand in front of our palatial house. While we longed to ride, the ocean was calling. Costa Rica is located just south of the equator and the weather was about 90 degrees and about the same humidity.

After taking a pounding trying to bodysurf, we settled in for dinner, some story telling and crashed out as soon as we hit the beds.

The next morning we awoke to the smell of bacon and eggs and slowly made our way downstairs to the breakfast area. After a hearty meal and some coffee, we geared up, filled the Camelbak’s and found our respective Yamaha WR405Fs.

The riding began on the Pacific and it wasn’t long before we left Hermosa behind and began experiencing the true inner beauty of Costa Rica. The landscape was mountainous and even though it was the dry season, there were green hills in every direction.

We were seemingly in the middle of nowhere, crossing up a mountain road when we stopped at a small structure that would be our lunch destination. Like most of the restaurants we would enjoy, this place was so small with no locking doors or windows in the dining area; just an open air and view from the atop the mountain.

From the sands on the beach, into the jungles, over mountains and through villages, the single track trails take you to destinations no other tourists ever see on a Costa Rica vacation.

We came across small villages, beautifully maintained soccer fields, kids in school uniforms walking to class and women washing their clothes in rivers and hang drying in front of their homes.

Rather than frown or shun us away, they truly seemed to love seeing us ride by. The kids would throw their hands in the air expressing for us to ride little wheelies, which of course we obliged.

There were plenty of amazing river crossings to be found adding to the single track, fire-roads and even occasional pavement sections. The wide variety of terrain would become the norm for the rest of the trip, as we would be continually switching from one type of riding surface to another.

It was this diversity that really made the riding fun as you could always expect something new around the next mountain.

We came into a region one day that had been hit by a good rainstorm the night before. The reddish clay based trails made climbing the steep sections a challenge to say the least.

Amazingly, we were passed by locals on 1980s XTs with bald tyres! For us, it was grab third gear, stay as throttle smooth as possible, look straight ahead and pray you made it to the top.

If you came up short, the only choice was to head back down and try it again; which we did numerous times.

Each day we’d spend 5-7 hours on the bike then try to relax and cool off at the pool. Chris was never one to let us relax and he was determined to have us experience everything.

We tried boogie boarding, surfing, ended up biking down a dirt road to join a Zipline Tour across the jungle which was a highlight in itself and would be coaxed into a club or casino in the evening.

It was non-stop and had I been a few years younger I probably wouldn’t have been the first ready to come back to the house each night but I had to get some sleep for the long ride days.

The trails, single track to fire-road, were some of the most scenic we’d ever experienced. The guest house was nothing short of amazing with a huge pool right next to the beach.

The activities from Zip-lining to Surfing (or attempting to surf!) to the great night life a few minutes away in Jaco made the tour with Costa Rica Unlimited one of the best overall riding trips, heck vacations, we’d ever come across.