The Great Winter Escape: Fat Bikes in Baja
At the start of 2016, long-distance riders Nicholas Carmen and Lael Wilcox pioneered an unthinkably cool 1,700-mile mountain bike route. The ride begins in San Diego and finishes at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Dubbed the Baja Divide, the route has gained some traction among intrepid souls—including me and my friend Jordan Carr—looking to escape the grips of a cold winter.
Leaving behind one of the best Rocky Mountain winters in recent history, we traded ski boots for fat bikes in February and headed south. Twelve days, 283 miles, and more than a few beach beers later, we completed a section of the Baja Divide called the Cape Loop, which we started at San José del Cabo. Here are some highlights from our trip.
Photographs by Dylan Stucki.
Stucki: Carr goes out for a pre-coffee spin down the beach near Todos Santos, on the west coast of the Baja Peninsula. Moments before, a stray dog stumbled across our camp and wolfed down our entire breakfast while we were taking in the sunrise. So we made our way into town to resupply for the mountainous days ahead.
We chose to ride fat bikes with four-inch-wide tires for our adventure, with the intention of getting in some serious beach miles. Although Carr’s setup was a bit overkill for most of the riding we did, the beach riding was a great way to mix things up. He used a Trek Farley fitted with Defiant pack bags. The seat bag carried clothes and up to three days’ worth of food at a time, while the custom-made frame bag housed a three-liter bladder, a jacket for quick access, flip-flops, and a book. The rolltop feed bag contained a mix of cookies, a knife, and our state-of-the-art navigating device: Carr’s iPhone.
Our first day on the bikes was a solid 50 miles through the Sierra de la Laguna range. We had a rude awakening halfway through the day when temperatures soared upwards of 100 degrees with hardly a breeze. Running dangerously low on water and flirting on the edge of heatstroke, we were relieved to stumble across the Tsegyalgar West Buddhist Sanctuary, where we evaded the dry heat and refilled our water. With the climbing out of the way for the day, we descended the incredible Las Naranjas mountain road into Todos Santos.
We rolled into El Triunfo, located in the middle of the peninsula, south of La Paz, shortly after dark with a few friends we’d met earlier in the day. Starving, fixated on tacos, and with nothing open, we made our own dinner using some questionable ingredients, highlighted by oddly colored chorizo, from the corner store. But cold beer trumps all.
The remote route of the Cape Loop allowed us to travel desolate back roads rather than bustling highways.
Carr soaks up the morning sun after a sunrise mission to ride the beach about 16 miles from La Ventana to Bahía de Los Muertos. After almost ten miles of beach riding on the eastern coast, we stopped here for breakfast and to enjoy the incredible views and tranquility. The beach had become impassable due to variable conditions, so after a quick cold coffee and makeshift quesadilla, we set our sights on Los Barriles, 34 miles to the south.
Although we had a general goal of riding our bikes around the southern tip of Baja, the real mission was to enjoy as many mouthwatering tacos and fresh ceviche dishes as we possibly could.
The inevitable long stretches of shoulderless highway were stressful, but a little sip of adventure holy water helped calm the nerves. We actually found that many local drivers were respectful of cyclists on the road, turning on their hazard blinkers as they slowed to safely pass.
Carr out on a dawn-patrol mission on Cabo Pulmo’s locally developed singletrack, with about ten miles of well-marked trails. We were pleasantly surprised by how sweet the trail system is.
Waking up on the beach to watch the sunrise over the ocean was something we looked forward to every morning. With nobody in sight for miles and only the sound of crashing waves, we enjoyed a peaceful start to each day.