All you need to know about biking Death Road Bolivia

death road 6Death Road Bolivia is the most dangerous road in the world, have you heard of it? Death Road was named the most dangerous road in the world by the Inter-American Development Bank. The report they wrote identified on average 26 vehicles a year disappeared over the side of this Bolivian road. The road is no longer used for cars, now mostly downhill mountain bikes frequent the slopes.

Not only is this road dangerous for cars, it is also quite dangerous on a bike. At least 15 tourists have died riding down the mountain and many get injured, myself being one of those injured. 

How to survive Death Road?

  • Choose a reputable company. For the sake of your safety it is smart to pay a little bit more for quality equipment  – full face helmets and full body pants and jacket are a must.

la paz biking

  • Compare companies, check safety equipment. Are the tyres worn? Is the equipment faulty? Is safety considered the top priority?

Take off

Check your equipment
  • Double check your equipment. On the day you are provided your bike, go for a ride on it, check the brakes. The biggest regret I have is no checking I was completely happy with my bike. The gears were not working so I had to change to a bike which was even worse. If I had spoken up to begin with, I may not have ended up with injuries.

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Double check your equipment

Recommended companies

  • Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking – the most expensive company. They are the best in La Paz and purchase all their bikes brand new
  • Barracuda – I also heard great things about this company. They purchase their bikes from Gravity second hand.

The warm up – before entering Death Road

The first part of the bike ride is along a sealed road, which personally for me was the highlight of the day. The scenery was gorgeous, and simply stunning.

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Death Road

Death Road is a rocky, windy road with many sharp corners, waterfalls and picturesque views. At some points the sharp drop off point is 400 metres. There is no guard rail. Your support vehicle follows the group to assist where needed but at times the group can be spread out so far the nearest support vehicle is some distance away.

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My stack

As I mentioned the brakes on my initial bike weren’t working very well, so I swapped bikes with one of the guides. The guide, a much larger man then me, had a very light bike built for him. I found I didn’t have the weight to slow down his bike. I came to a rocky corner, swerved to miss a big rock at speed and the next thing I knew, I was flying over my handle bars wondering where I would land.  Much to the shock of my Irish friend following close behind, I landed close to the side of the cliff, she watched me fly through the air thinking she was going to watch me go over the side! But I did land, face first into a pile of rocks (thank goodness for that full faced helmet!). My nose started to immediately run, my wrists hurt, my ribs hurt, my back hurt,  my knees hurt. I was hurting everywhere.

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My injuries

I moved very slowly with the help of friends and friendly people over the next few days – luckily I was only days away from coming home. I had a professional massage in Santiago, Chile before flying out and had my left wrist popped back into place. It was actually an amazing feeling to have had my wrist constantly ache for days and then once it went back into place… nothing, no pain! It also helped a lot of the pain in my back. After returning back to Australia I decided to see a chiropractor after a week of still experiencing pain… everywhere. It turned out I had a fractured rib and a number of my ribs had popped out of place. I also have my wrists and back checked.

Would I do it again?

Now that I have done it, no I wouldn’t. For me, Death Road is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. If/when I go back to Bolivia I will not be doing Death Road again. But I’m glad I have the experience and lived to tell the tale!

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