Baja Divide project timeline and update

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Los Hornitos, after a successful crossing of Bahia Concepion with some local fishermen.

Baja Divide route research is complete.  In three months, from December 8th to March 6th, a team of riders connected unpaved route from the US-Mexico border down to the southern end of Baja California, twice.  Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox conceived the route while touring Baja California back in December 2015, at which time the project took shape, and route research was completed with the assistance and input of several other riders including Alex Dunn, Erin Nugent, Christina Grande, and Betsy Welch. Montana Miller and Colleen O’Neil were bikepacking in Baja contemporaneously and agreed to assist the project by sharing GPX tracks and scouting new routes.  In total, route research included over 4000 miles of riding (plus Montana and Colleen’s time and miles) in just less than three months, including a number of breakthrough routes, several dead ends, and lots of detailed questioning of local people along the route.  Below are a series of updates and notes to establish an approximate timeline for the project and to clarify some details of the route for those that are planning to ride some part of the Baja Divide this winter.  Many of the points below relate to frequently asked questions which I’ve received via e-mail in the past two months.  We have received overwhelming interest in the Baja Divide.  Thank you!  It inspires us to complete the project to the best of our ability.

Lael and I, or one of the Baja Divide team members, have ridden every inch of the route and we now possess all the relevant GPS data required to complete a clean digital track.  With a digital list of resupply points and services along the route, along with our riding notes, we will compile detailed route narratives and a resupply guide, divided into segments bounded by major resupply points.  Guides to selecting bikes and equipment for the route, as well as other planning topics will follow.  All of this information will be freely available via the Baja Divide website.  Finally, a printed pocketable resource is projected, the details of which have not yet been decided.  This will be the capstone to the project, although the printed resource will not be necessary to engage the route.

Answers to frequently asked questions:

The route will be simple to follow via GPS, and a GPS is required to follow the route.  Online guides and route narratives will provide all the remaining information required for a successful self-supported tour of the route.  There is no cost required to ride the Baja Divide.  It is strongly recommended to ride the route from north to south, reflecting prevailing winds from the north during much of the season.  Three inch “plus” tires are recommended and tubeless wheel systems are effectively required to resist the many puncture threats in the desert.  Riding the Baja Divide requires a great amount of vigor.  Mountainous stages, technical riding, strong winds, deep sand, and sun exposure are the most common physical challenges along the route, along with the occasional burden of 8 liters of water and 2-3 days of food  Riders are expected to be in good physical condition.  Spanish language skills are helpful, although not strictly necessary.  Baja California, including the border region near the projected crossing at Tecate, is safe.  Ask anyone who has travelled there.  No, a Surly Cross Check is not an appropriate bike for this route, and a Salsa Fargo is a questionable choice as well, even though it can be adapted to meet the 2.3” minimum tire recommendation.   A 2.3” tire provides the minimum flotation, comfort, and safety to enjoy most of the route (with some walking), but is not the optimal tire size, especially for a loaded tour of the route.  Drop bars are not recommended, and suspension forks are a great choice for those that wish to use them.  There are many rough 4×4 roads along the way.

The group start next January 2, 2017 in San Diego, CA, is meant to be a fully self-supported endeavor.  For those that choose to participate, riders will start at the same time on that morning.  We plan to arrange a group camp on the first night in Barrett Junction, about 40 miles from San Diego, which will allow riders a final chance to meet before crossing the border the following morning  Riders gain the relative comfort of crossing the border around the same time on the same day— not that there is anything to be worried about— although it seems to concern quite a number of people.  Thereafter, all riders are on their own.  Make friends, ride with others, ride alone, bring a friend.  After the group start on the morning of January 2, and the group camp that evening, the Baja Divide team provides no organization save for the free GPS track and route guides published to the Baja Divide website.  We intend only to provide the information which will allow riders to enjoy an off-pavement tour in Baja California, from San Diego, CA, USA to San Jose del Cabo, BCS, MX.  The Baja Divide is not a race, nor a guided tour or a supported tour.  The Baja Divide route will be open to ride at any time of year, although the recommended season is between November and March.  The group start in January may strain a few resupply resources along the route and riders will be expected to carry extra food between several major resupply points.  Those riding during the rest of the season will use these smaller resupply points freely.  Expect the complete route from San Diego to San Jose del Cabo to take about six weeks.  An optional loop back north to La Paz along the west cape will take an additional 3-4 days.

Yes, the official route includes a short panga ride from Mulege to a small fish camp called Los Hornitos across Bahia Concepcion, to connect a little used dirt road on the east side of the bay.  It will be each rider’s responsibility to arrange a boat and negotiate a price.  This segment of the journey is weather dependent (mornings and evening are less windy), and some flexibility may be required to work with the schedules of the local fishermen.  Expect to pay about $12-$20 per person to cross the bay.  If for any reason the crossing is not possible when you arrive in Mulege, there is a stunning alternate route along the west side of Bahia Concepcion on paved MEX 1.

For a taste of what your Baja Divide experience may look like explore #bajadivide on Instagram.  Two riders have travelled the first two weeks of the route this past month, from San Diego to Cataviña.  Check out Abraham Taylor on Instagram at @silvermedium.

Baja Divide project timeline, 2016:

Preliminary GPX track and digital map, route stats- May 1

Guides, route narratives, image gallery- June 1

Details of the group start- June 1

Printed pocketable resource- Fall 2016

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21 thoughts on “Baja Divide project timeline and update

  1. Thanks for the update. Whets my appetite. Trust All’s well. Bill Fordyce Polebridge, MT



  2. Great work. In an earlier post, you mentioned a 7-10 day loop on the southern end for those who ride the entire route. Hopefully, that’s still a ‘go’. I hope to meet you guys in the south and who knows, I may drive over to SD for the send-off too on Jan. 2. Best wishes for happy trails!

    1. All the information you need to make a loop in the south will be published with the GPX track and the new website in the next month or two. The loop with serve two functions, to allow a week+ too in the southern cape for those that have less time, and to provide a route back to La Paz for those that are flying/sailing from La Paz back home to to continue southward on a longer trip.

  3. Interesting comment about drop bars. Seems like a bike like the Salsa Deadwood would be great for the route.
    Also it would be great to hear your final solutions to carrying 8 liters of water on the bike.

    1. The 3.0″ tires are well suited to this route, but I don’t think that the drop bar is the best choice. There are enough technical sections on rough, eroded jeep tracks, and with the burden of food and water, a drop bar bike would not provide the best control and handling. I’m not quite sure why the Salsa Deadwood exists anyway. It look like fun, but isn’t really ideal for anything. Too bad Salsa didn’t release a 27.5+ or 29+ hardtail this past year. For many other parts of the route which use well travelled dirt roads, the Deadwood would do well.

  4. Hey, I just heard that somebody had this project called the Baja Divide that’s supposed to be an extension of the Pacific Crest Trail. When can I buy my hiking guide? Which form do I need to import a camel?

  5. So glad you guys are mapping a new adventure! Thank you for doing the real hard work of identifying what’s possible. ..

    So I’ve watched a YouTube video of someone riding through Baja and it seemed very windy the entire time. Was that the case for you during your trip? Did you notice a constant head wind/tail wind, etc ?

  6. Could you please provide a list of what gear you brought, and where/how it was stored. Just wondering what should be included or left behind. In lieu of a dynamo system, would a Goal Zero suffice?

    Thanks, Mat

  7. Being an international trip, perhaps a word or two about documents, some local do’s and dont’s, etc. Passports will be necessary I believe.
    Military checkpoints exist, but probably not on the dirt roads.
    Please do your best to be respectful to locals and fellow riders. This includes NOT SHITTING wherever you please. Pack out your garbage, LNT practices, etc. We will be ambassadors of our sport, in an area that is not accustomed to this type of travel. Be nice. Buy stuff at stores, and learn a few words of Spanish.

  8. Thinkin’ the 2017 Troll update to 3″ tires would be a great bike for this and future South American travel.
    What are the temperature ranges and altitudes?

    How’s the route planning going,

    Hope to join you all,

    Thanks for your initiative


  9. Any update on route mapping/route sharing? I’m among the curious contemplating the January grand departe. Thanks for your work on this.

    1. Hey Mike, Lael and I are working to finish the project this month while visiting my folks in northern NY. I had hoped to do much of this work while in AK this spring and summer, but the bike season is busy up north, and Lael was off at the races. We will have all the writing finished this week, and I’m waiting on some final track edits as well as an essential connection just outside of San Diego to complete the GPX track. The complete guide will be published around Sept 1 once the track is complete. We will be at Interbike and should be scheduled for a mini-presentation at some point during the show at the Revelate booth.

  10. I’m a 60 yr old South African male on world tour, 26″ Morewood Shova full suss and BoB trailer carrying +- 20kg. Already planning on riding through Baja, would it be in any way feasible to join the Grand Depart on 2 Jan and then ride selected sections? Because of my plans thereafter I can’t really slim down to bikepack.

    1. Jan, Registration for the Jan 2, 2017 group start is full, which has been decided in order to limit the impact of a large group of riders and also to ensure that riders do not deplete resources in small towns. You are welcome to ride the route, or parts of the route, at any time during your tour. The GPX track and other resources are available for download from the Mapping page on the site.

  11. Ideas on transporting a bike on the airlines from La Paz or San Jose de Cabo back to the US? Are bike boxes able to be acquired in these cities?

    1. There are a few shops but I have not heard of anyone acquired a bike box. Most people pack their bikes in found cardboard, packing tape, and or plastic wrap. Some airlines will provide large bike boxes for a price, or oversize plastic bags for large items like strollers, bikes, etc. Call your airline to see if they can help with something like that.

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