Fortress of Fun

Not the average school playground, especially in Bolivia, but one that allows for as much freedom as it does confidence building. Thomas Vanderham and Scotty Laughland survey the yard with only a tinge of jealousy.

Fortress of Fun Learning Life Skills at Campo Bici

At first glance, the thick concrete walls and tall metal gate surrounding Campo Bici don’t give much away.

They suggest more fortress than fun, and it’s hard to believe we’re about to visit a bike school. As we approach the entrance, though, the unmistakable sound of children’s laughter fills the air, softening the compound’s hard exterior. One step onto the property and it feels as if we’ve been transported to a different time and place, a bicycle oasis gradually revealing itself.

Perched on a hill at the outskirts of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, the property overlooks the city center and all the sprawling density we passed through to get here. It seems as though we are woven tightly into the fabric of the city, yet somehow isolated in our own little bubble. Chickens and dogs patrol the grounds, which feature an orchard of citrus trees and a bountiful vegetable garden. And then there is the main attraction: a large, well-manicured pumptrack, complete with dirt jumps. We eagerly grab our bikes for a few laps before the sun drops behind the surrounding mountains.

One of the people lucky enough to call this place home is Jose Ricardo, who is guiding us during our time in this diverse South American country. Four years ago, Ricardo and a few friends had the ambitious idea to turn this property into a bike school—a place where kids could come to have fun, feel safe and discover the power of bikes.

“It all started with the big dream of building a pumptrack, but we had only seen those kinds of tracks in movies and magazines,” Ricardo says. “We had no idea where to start and no money to pay anyone else to help. After a lot of persistence, we found a local construction site manager that agreed to donate the dirt to us. When the dump trucks showed up, we realized that they would not fit through the gate, so we broke down a large section of the wall to get 100 loads of dirt in here. From there, it was about six months of moving the dirt around before we had a working track.”

This article is for our Subscribers and Plus Members.

Gain access by purchasing an online or print subscription.

Basic Free Subscription
$0 / Year

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

Sign Up

Plus Online Subscription
$19.95 | Year

  • Online access to the latest print issues the day they hit newsstands

  • Download print articles and take them with you on the go for offline reading

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

 Get Plus 
Free Trial

Premium Print Subscription
$34.95 | Year*

  • 4 Issues/year of our print magazine mailed directly to your front door

  • Online access to the latest print issues the day they hit newsstands

  • Download print articles and take them with you on the go for offline reading

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

Go Premium

Already a Member?

Login