Route 1 | The Historic Centre
Dodging the cruise passengers, fruit vendors and traffic jams during the week can make cycling in the old town slightly challenging but it’s an unrivaled treat on Sundays.
Rent your ride near Plaza de Santo Domingo in Colombia es Asi, a coffee shop next to Santo Domingo Church that rents bikes at COP$6,000 (USD$3.50) per hour.
Get to grips with Fernando Botero's La Gorda 'Gertrudis' and take off in the direction of San Pedro Claver along Calle Santo Domingo and the Calle San Juan de Dios filled with colourful bags and accessories weaved by Indians from the Guajira peninsular.
Weave through the pigeons in the Plaza San Pedro towards Plaza de la Aduana where thousands of slaves were auctioned in the early years of Spanish colonial rule before turning left at legendary salsa joint, Donde Fidel.
Don't be distracted by the sweets sold under the overpass, but instead look right at the Torre del Reloj and follow the flow of horse-drawn carriages towards Parque de Fernandez Madrid and take some refreshment at La Sandwicheria.
For the full route check here.
This quaint little place tucked away on the corner of Parque Fernandez de Madrid has a reasonably prized set menu, with Arabic and Mediterranean inspired dishes and fresh fruit juice for thirsty cyclists.
La Sandwicheria is decorated with European style photos and painting and the French music and jazz creates a laid-back atmosphere that will give you plenty of reason to break the voyage.
Vegetarians will love the falafel, which comes with a lemony humus and pita bread.
The kofta hits the spot for meat lovers too. Add some of the spicy sauce which they serve on request - it will make your eyes water and wash it all down with a refreshing fruit juice.
Iglesia Señora de las Mercedes
If you’ve got no time to sit down then weave right and then left up Calle Tumbamuertos working your way from Parque Fernandez de Madrid to Plaza San Diego.
Here you will find Dora's - one of Cartagena's best fritos stands. Replenish your thirst with a fresh fruit juice and add some ballast with an arepa de huevo y chorizo or a ball of potato filled with meat then fried - it tastes better than it sounds.
Head north in search of the city walls and a sea breeze. Exit the walled city at the gate on the left of the Exito San Diego supermarket and bike to the gothic Iglesia Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes and the house where Rafael Nuñez, the only Colombian president to have hailed from the Caribbean coast.
Every workday at 18.00 there is a mass, and on Sunday they are open from 9.30 to 5.30. This small church and the surrounding park will not only charm but also provide you with the necessary shade and breeze to continue the tour.
Going back to the Centre, it may be better to take the sidewalk (watch out for unexpected ditches though). Pass through the gate at la Boquetilla and continue with the wall to your right. Take a left at the Teatro Adolfro Mejia (go in if the doors are open) or continue in the direction of the Cathedral to find yourself back where you started.
If your legs are feeling up to it or you really need to burn off the after affects of that Arepa de Huevo then keep going putting yourself between the sea and the city walls en route to Bocagrande.
If the buses make you nervous then hitch the bike up onto the sidewalk to Cartagena's most popular stretch of beach. Cycle past the beach and admire the horizon on the one hand and the shiny white high-rises on the other.
Keep going to Kisko 'El Bony', the infamous beach hut owned by the former boxer in front of the 1950s hotel, El Caribe.
Grab a bucket of ceviche at el Submarino or throw back a few cold beers and trade hard-knock life stories with El Bony and his rowdy crew.
There aren't many reasons to head into Laguito but El Muelle on Laguito beach provides a more leisurely vibe to the overcrowded beach scenes in Bocagrande.
This mixed-vibes place is next to the kite surfing school and has been around for more than a decade. They play funky house music, which you can listen to while lying on one of the beach loungers on the balcony upstairs. A beer costs COL$4000 (USD$2.25), but the view's free.
After catching some rays, tollow the pedestrian zone in a loop around the strip towards the Hilton Hotel before looping back on yourself to the softball pitch where you can stop for an ice-cream (the arequipe flavored was ranked 10 out of 10 by Ben) at La Caramelo. If you take this route in the evning or at weekends you can catch softball practice.
Homeward bound, cut across Castillogrande to join up with the pedestrian walkway that runs along the bay with its view of the port and the towers of Castillogrande and Bocagrande.
While biking, watch out for unexpected speed bumps, dogs and low hanging palm trees.
Route 2 | Get Set for Jet-Set-Mani
Pimp your ride at Roda Bici Tour bike rental in Getsemani on Callejon Ancho. The friendly owner Ruben Dario will provide you with a bicycle with a Harley Davidson and Gangsta’ rap feel.
Roda Bici Tour is one of the cheapest options in town, renting bikes for COP$3,000 (USD$1.75) an hour
In this heat it's much better to follow the tortoise than the rabbit's example, it's more about cruising than racing so just sit back and enjoy the ride on one of the L.A. style beach cruisers in Ruben's rapidly expanding fleet of bicycles.
Take in the tour of Getsemani, including the small picturesque streets around La Plaza de la Trinidad.
Forget about the one-way system (the rules really don't apply to bikes in this rebellious barrio) just make sure you stay close to the curb when going against the flow.
Don't miss the graffiti on Calle La Sierpe painted on to the abandoned walls of an 18th century soap factory. UK-based street artists, Fin DAC recently add his tags to the inspired collection.
For the full route look here.
Turn Right at the Castle
Kicking on we skirt around Getsemani towards the San Felipe Castle and the leafy barrio of Manga.
To reach Manga we followed the traffic up to the Conference
Centre caught a glimpse of the Clock Tower and then headed back on
ourselves to the sprightly Calle de la Media Luna, the nocturnal
spinal chord of this busy barrio.
Stop for a photo opportunity at San Felipe Castle or chuck a right onto Avenida El Lago and follow the water into the tree-lined streets of Manga, where giant Mango, Ceibas, Almond and Rubber trees dominate the landscape giving their names to its picturesque streets and residential complexes.
Head over the bridge towards the bay, with the Castle behind you and while keeping the walled city to your right, and follow the road under the famous Puente Roman, which takes its name from the prestigious Cartagena family.
The inventors of the city's pink version of Coca-Cola also own the finest example of Moorish-influenced Andalusian architecture in the city, the Casa Roman on Calle Real (Calle 25) next to the Colegio Montessori.
Club de Pesca
Moving under the bridge and following the road around we arrived at our first pit stop, Club de Pesca, one of the most picturesque watering posts you are likely to find in the world.
Why not split the journey up with a well-deserved treat? Stopping for a drink at Club the Pesca is just that, and more. Enjoy the blend of jazz and birds chirping with a light breeze while the sunsets over the old town in the distance.
Divine places like these remind us that there is nothing wrong with clichés. Within a minute you will have forgotten you were sweaty and thirsty from your bike ride. If you want to be sure you can get up the bridge to go back to Getsemani, try the non-alcoholic coconut lemonade, a heavenly blend of sugary coconut cream, ice and freshly squeezed lime juice.
Don't be afraid to let the romantic vibe get the better of you and stay for dinner but remember the clock's ticking on the bike and you will have to ride back in the dark!
Hang a Left at Manga
Suitably refreshed, the journey continues along the bay taking in the sea view, towering condominiums and the floating gin palaces and yachts of those locals with a seafaring bent that line the waterline.
On the way back to Getsemani zig-zag through the tree-lined avenues that take you from the beachfront cycle route to Calle 26, better known as Avenida Jimenez, which will bring you back with the traffic to the Puente Roman, the gateway to the old city and the stiffest climb in Cartagena.
Named after the distinguished family, the bridge is a test of your own physical condition, it also tests the bike! Make sure you pick up speed at the bottom to keep you going over the hump.
All the effort is worthwhile as you pick up momentum coming back in to Getsemani. At the bottom of the hill throw a right in Calle La Aguada to take you back full circle to Roda Bici Tour.
Park your trusty steed and take a well-earned cold beer in the Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad.