IT’S NEAR MIDNIGHT on a cool, tranquil Tuesday evening in the rural Colombian Andes, and silence reigns. The weeknight calm of the countryside is shattered by the clattering rumble of a Detroit diesel in the distance. The muffled roar of the engine grows louder, creeping closer. A few moments more, and over the din of the exhaust, a melodically curious cacophony reigns. Salsa music? You peer out to see neon rope lights illuminating the evening, and coming into focus, the visage of a raucous party borne on a multi-colored bus. The mobile festival rolls past, fading into the dark, and you drift back into slumber, uncertain if what you’ve just witnessed was real or a curious apparition.
The next morning in the town square, the same bus greets you, lined up with several others. Now, it has a mountain of stuffed coffee bean sacks piled on the roof, and they’re each full of laborers about to head to work in the farms. Meet the Chiva bus, an enduring symbol of Colombian campesino culture.
WHAT’S A CHIVA?
First seen in Colombia in the first half of the 20th century, the Chiva came to symbolize the interrupted infrastructure of the agrarian countryside, where roads are rough and pavement is scarce. It’s built from wood and metal on a generic commercial truck platform, resembling something like a train car crossed with a lifted school bus, complete with a roof rack for cargo. It’s highly capable in the challenging terrain of the coffee region, and remains the primary mode of transportation for many who live there. While more modern buses and vans have sprung up in some areas of the Andean countryside, the venerable Chiva reigns supreme well into the 2020s, able to carry both farmer inside and goods atop its study mantle.
At night, many Chiva double as party buses - or, Chiva Rumbera. They roam the countryside and cities at night, rolling land-yacht booze cruises, blasting reggaeton, salsa, and cumbia until the wee hours of the morning. Revelers drink aguardiente and dance until their feet hurt, then get up at the crack of dawn, ready for work. The Chiva is a reflection of Colombian culture - a country characterized by a relentless work ethic juxtaposed with a dedication to savoring the good things. The contrast of work and life: Business in the light of day, party in the pitch of night.
Paired with the Chiva’s dual functional and celebratory purpose is its festive aesthetic. The Chiva is always painted in a dizzying array of colors, with fantastical designs that hew closely to an undefined style. Pinstripes lace around the bus, circling in on each other, creating colorful coronas around focal points equidistant from one another. Color palette selection defaults to “all of them”, but somehow, it nearly always works. The bus’ locale is usually painted on its marquee above the windshield, with its own name above it. Amusing monikers abound, typically dubbed by the Chiva operators themselves. There’s the ironic, like La Deportista (The Athlete), the personal commentary, La Celosa (The Jealous), and the suggestive, La Calentona (The…erm… Horny). On the back of the Chiva is often a traditional painting: A landscape, a religious portrait, or a forlorn love. The traditional Chiva is always painted by hand, and usually as the bus is being built. Outdoors, on-site, no matter the weather. Painting one is a labor of love and self-expression.
THE BUS AND THE BIKES.
Naturally, the quintessential Colombian identity and aesthetic of the Chiva bus inspired us. We desperately wanted, needed, their unique paint on our bikes. Through a few connections, we got in touch with one of the few individuals who still regularly paints buses Escalera (ladders), asked nicely, and he graciously agreed to partner with us on this special-edition collaboration. Thus, our newest paint scheme: CHIVA.
Painted like the buses in the open air, the detail work of the Chiva bike is all done by hand and by brush. The natural imperfections serve to pull the humanity out of the frame, reminding us that the bikes we build are all made by individuals, each with their own story. Iconic and stunning, every Chiva bike is painted according to the whims of the artist - as unique as their bus cousins are.
CHIVA NUMBER ONE.
For its debut, we felt it fitting to splash Chiva on the Páramo, our gravel bike. Much like the Chiva, the Páramo is designed to tackle varied, rugged terrain with an air of utility and a flash of flamboyance. This one in particular reflects our evolving approach toward gravel, going beyond simply a road bike with fat tires. In Colombia and at our US outpost in California, we often encounter dirt on drop bars that’s nearly mountain bike-worthy, but is so far out of the way we’d never want to take one. The ideal gravel bike? One that can handle technical off-road riding without making us miserable on the road. So, we’ve taken a page from modern progressive mountain bikes without compromising capability on pavement with this Páramo. The frame itself is longer, with a very low bottom bracket and slacker head tube angle, helping with stability and predictability off-road. This is balanced with a shorter stem and wider, flared handlebars, which increases steering speed. Finally, this bike also received a prototype of our new internal dropper routing, which seriously improves confidence on technical descents, especially for riders with longer legs.
THE NERDY BITS.
Build-wise, we set it up with the solid, simple, and clean SRAM eTap AXS 12s mullet setup. The 10-50t cassette has a ton of range, and we dug up an old Quarq 130BCD powermeter that received a new breath of life from a Garbaruk 42t ring. It’s rolling on a set of ENVE G23 gravel wheels, which, after a few months of testing, we’re sold on. They’re quite light (1300g) and spin up quickly, but the real party piece is their patented tire bead lip. The fat hookless lip cuts down significantly on flats caused by tire cuts, something we’re familiar with at the low pressures demanded by off-road riding.
Unfortunately, SRAM has yet to debut a 27.2mm Reverb AXS electronic dropper seatpost, so we chose a KS Lev, which we paired with the new PRO Discover dropper lever. It’s a really elegant, easy solution to drop-bar dropper triggers, and can be actuated from both the hoods and the drops. The cockpit is rounded out with an ENVE stem, Fizik Arione R1 Saddle, and Zipp’s new XPLR Service Course SL gravel bars. They’re a nice alternative to other gravel bars, offering a more vertical road-like hand position from the hoods, while the wide flare at the drops gives the control we look for on descents.
Finally, the astute observer will notice the copious amount of gold littering this Chiva Páramo. This is a nod to Colombia’s rich history with the precious metal, and when Wolf Tooth Components released special-edition gold anodized bottle cages, we immediately knew our accent color. Their headset, seatclamp, bottle cage bolts, and chainring bolts all round out the aurelian theme.
We’re introducing Chiva as an immediately available paint scheme, but like many things in life, there are a few caveats.
Each Chiva is unique, and the final design is entirely up to the artist. We do allow for selection of a base color.
Chiva paint adds approximately four weeks to our normally eight-week build timeline (12 weeks).
This special-edition paint is available on any bikes we build.
An additional cost of $500 is added to the final bike build pricing.
Per usual, our deepest gratitude for reading, and please email us with any questions about the new Chiva paint scheme!