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The Culture of Motorcyclists in Cuenca, Ecuador

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Spend one afternoon in Cuenca and you’ll quickly notice a great number of motorcycles and scooters making their way around town. While this is not unusual in Latin America, I was perplexed by the lively culture of motorcyclists in Cuenca. The demographic of motorcyclists is diverse – young, old, male, female, riding with children, riding with dogs – I feel like I’ve seen it all! Why do motorcycles play such a big part of life in this city?

After speaking with motorciclistas around town, there are three primary reasons that motorcycles are a dominant form of transportation in Cuenca

1. Time-Saver

Traveling by motorcycle or scooter saves lots of time getting around the city. Whether navigating Tranvia construction traffic, rush hour, or narrow one lane streets, most motorcycles are able to bypass traffic jams and significantly cut their commute down.

2. Affordable

Cars are incredibly expensive in Cuenca – even a used car in poor condition could set you back $5,000. Of course this price does not match up with the general cost of living, thus a motorcycle is a very affordable investment, with some great scooters and cafe racers costing as little as $1,000. Gas is relatively cheap in Ecuador which makes motorcycles one of the most affordable transportation options, especially if you aren’t along a bus route.

3. Social Life

This subculture of Cuencano society has cultivated a social life revolving around motorcycles. In North America you’ll see mostly an older generation united around motorcycles, but in Ecuador you will see a wide range of ages gathering together around their motos. Whether 18 or 70 years of age, you will gather with buddies for a ride.

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It seems as though locals and expats alike have realized the benefits of having a motorcycle in Cuenca. Aubree, young American and owner of Rumisol Yoga, says that travel by scooter is the best option for transportation in the city if you really need to get around. She notes that it is faster than her bicycle or a car to get around the city, and the least expensive. Al Bourassa, another expat living in Cuenca, says that he had a car when he first moved to Cuenca, but decided to buy a scooter when he noticed how much faster and cheaper it was to get around.

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Motorcycles & Social Life

Motorcyclists form a real subculture of Cuencano society, and many define their social life by their motorcycle status. The most lively day of the week for the social life aspect of motorcyclists is Thursday evening, when each type of motorcycles gathers on Remigio Crespo to hang out, have a drink, and go for a ride around the city or a destination on the outskirts of the city. You’ll see the scooters at Puente Roto, the Royal Enfields in front of the brand’s only store in the country, and the Harleys, sports bikes, cafe racers spread along Remigio. What a sight to see!

Cuenca also has its very own association of motorcyclists, LAMA Cuenca. LAMA (The Latin American Motorcycle Association) was started by Latinos living in Chicago in the 1970s. Over the years, LAMA chapters have spread to every state in the United States, and throughout the Americas. To be a member of LAMA is a formal commitment to brotherhood and to being a hardworking, standup individual and there is a vetting process to become an official member. LAMA Cuenca is one of several chapters in Ecuador and has 8 official members. Each official member pays annual dues, goes to conferences, and travels regularly. You may see them riding around with the LAMA vest decorated with patches symbolizing their hometown and places where they have traveled.

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In fact, LAMA Cuenca is only but one of the motorcycle clubs in Cuenca. Another active club is the Herederos del Pasado, which is the scooter club of the city. The Herederos del Pasado meet every Thursday evening at Puente Roto, and go for day rides many weekends. The group is formal with jackets embroidered with the members’ names, and is coming upon its two-year anniversary.

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Traveling Ecuador by Motorcycle

For most motorcyclists, traveling by moto is a way of life. Whether the travel is a short day trip out of the city or taking long road trips to greater distances traveling on the motorcycle is a whole new perspective and way to experience the beauty of Ecuador. The options for short day trips from Cuenca Popular spots for day trips are endless, with some popular destinations including Yunguilla, Gualaceo, Giron, Cajas, or Tarqui. Taking longer trips on the motorcycle requires much preparation, but is well worth it and really allows you to see the country in a whole new experience. Some popular routes include riding the Ruta del Sol along the Pacific Coast, trekking north through the Sierra to Quito, or in the east through the Amazon.

Locals Eduardo Merchán and Pedro Hermida say their favorite part of having a motorcycle is being able to travel. Eduardo notes that being on the motorcycle is liberating, and that it is a new way to see and experience the roads and scenery that Ecuador has to offer. Pedro explains that traveling by motorcycle is an entirely different way to travel because it allows for a new perspective, and that riding through the wind is a great feeling.

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My Ecuadorian partner and I have taken wonderful trips by motorcycle throughout Ecuador. One of my favorite things about being on the motorcycle is being able to adapt to the different geographies and climates of the country. For example, in a ride to the coast you will need to prepare for the rural areas outside of Cuenca, going through Cajas, and coming down to sea level and coastal temperatures. One of our favorite trips went through the oriente (the jungle) to the towns of Sucua, Macas, and Puyo, up to the popular adventure town Banos de Ambato, and back down south through Riobamba and Alausi.

Traveling by motorcycle shows you that Ecuador really is the “país de cuatro mundos” as you enjoy the cities, coast, Andes, and Amazon. Even more, it gives you the chance to immerse in a culture of brotherhood and solidarity with motorcyclists who are looking for the same sense of adventure in this beautiful land.

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6 comments
  • David
    David | December 31, 2016

    What a joy to find this webpage. I will be retiring in Ecuador (probably Cuenca) and the first priority on my list is motorcycle touring….I love riding the moto and have done so all over USA/Canada and even all the way to Panama.
    Can’t wait to hook up with the “Brotherhood” when I get there.
    I also have a question (if someone happens to read this)…I believe I read that the maximum size moto allowed in Ecuador is a 650…is this true?

    • Kelly
      Kelly | January 6, 2017

      Hi David! I’m glad you found it as well! Your travels sound amazing, and you have much to look forward to in Ecuador!

      There is no maximum size for a motorcycle, but the roads are not made for larger sizes. You will see plenty of 900s, or even 1,500. We travel on a 500 very comfortably, and it gives us just enough power to go through the mountains but also handle some of the poor roads. If you have more questions I would be happy to put you in touch with my boyfriend who is more knowledgeable on motorcycles in Ecuador 🙂

      • David Etcheberry
        David Etcheberry | April 15, 2017

        Kelly, thank you for the response…that’s very kind of you. Yes, I would very much like to touch base with your boyfriend. Also, thank you for clarifying that there is no limitation on size.
        Regarding the bikes, I’m a big fan of the Suzuki V-Strom and the new 2017 650 looks absolutely perfect for Ecuador… can’t wait. Sounds like you and the boyfriend are very knowledgable…what’s the deal with importing a new bike from the States vs trying to purchase a bike inside Ecuador? It sounds like Ecuador is one of these countries with the crazy idea of imposing a 100% “luxury” tax on motorcycles…whereas maybe a 0% tax would greatly stimulate the motorcycle industry in Ecuador??? Anyway, what are your thoughts on obtaining a motorcycle in Ecuador? How did you go about buying your 500cc bikes? And finally, I apologize for not returning to this forum for the last 3 months. Thanks again, Dave.

  • David Etcheberry
    David Etcheberry | April 15, 2017

    I just now looked at your gallery of photos…FANTASTIC. Really good photography. What a beautiful country.

    • Kelly
      Kelly | June 2, 2017

      Thank you so much! SUCH a beautiful country, everywhere you turn!

  • From the Royal Enfield: How Traveling by Motorcycle will Take your Travel Experience to the Next Level – Wonder My Way | September 10, 2017

    […] our motorcycle travels throughout Ecuador we have met a community of fellow riders. Aside from official groups and social clubs, we have met and passed so many other moto travelers that are as crazy as we are. It is incredible […]

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