By Ibex Advocate Spencer Harding
This past January I embarked for a three-week stint on the new minted Baja Divide Mountain Bike Route from San Diego to the tip of the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Lael Wilcox and Nicholas Carmen had been working on refining the route for the past three years and invited a group of roughly 100 bikepackers to join them on January 2nd for a “grand depart.” The first day was one of the most monumental gatherings of the bike touring community that I have ever seen.
The route traverses a large variety of terrain and an even larger spectrum of tracks. A majority of the northern quarter of the ride utilizes portions of the Baja 1000 race route. Many of these sections have been quite torn up by years of use by every kind of off-road vehicle you can image. This makes riding slow but makes the route more technical than other popular long distance mountain bike routes.
I spent most of my time riding with a loosely organized group of twenty cyclists. With a group this large and the challenging terrain, our pace rarely allowed us to get more than 30 miles a day. We cooked on campfires every morning and evening. Small markets meant that we cooked with lots of fresh food which were mostly made into meals that could loosely be called tacos or burritos.
The weather surprised most of us on the route; we had wet mornings and cooler days than one would expect in Baja. I remember sitting in the parking lot the night before the grand depart holding a cotton shirt in one hand and my Ibex long sleeve base layer in the other trying to decide what to bring with me. In the end, I choose my long sleeve base layer and was so stoked, as I wore it almost every night as the desert temps quickly inverted. On the third day, we rode over the highest portion of the route and endured the rain all day as I stayed pretty darn cozy with my conductive liner gloves and bicicleta cycling cap. The wool layers were priceless for the variety of humidity and lack of opportunity to wash.
Some random advice if you are planning this amazing route:
- – Pack light, like really light. You’ll be pushing your bike a lot and anything to make that easier will make you very happy. The best way to save space is to only bring one outfit. Bring a pair of undershorts if ya have soft sit bones and just wear regular clothes. Having to carry a cycling outfit and camp outfit is bulky, so just ride in regular clothes.
- – Leave the stove at home. Cook on campfires because you won’t be able to find fuel down there. Bring a metal plate or bbq fish holder to cook tortilla concoctions over the fire.
– Bring some friends. This route is super remote and it was pretty rad to have campfire buddies. But maybe don’t bring 100 like we did.