Abe and his friend Vic spent two weeks in early March 2016 riding from San Diego to Cataviña on the Baja Divide. Everyone’s approach is different, but we hope this helps you refine your ride.
Name: Abraham Taylor
Bike: Surly ECR
Previous bike and touring experience: Mostly rack and pannier setups on Salsa Fargos and some other bikes. On my first tour I towed a BOB trailer behind my dirt jumper. I only did that once. All tours have been a mix of pavement, dirt roads, and trails. Multiple tours on the Pacific Coast Route.
Wheels/Tires: 29+ Surly Rabbit Holes and 27tpi Surly Knards
Tubeless notes: Stan’s sealant. Gorilla tape over original rim liner across the entire rim valley and up over the hook, trimmed with a razor at the peak of the hook. It required two wraps of normal width Gorilla tape. Vic was able to use one wrap of 3 inch wide Gorilla tape. Also notable would be that I drilled the rims and used threaded Schrader valves cut from Specialized inner tubes, for a few reasons:
- No need for valve adapters.
- Definitely helps initial seating of such a large tire on such a wide rim as Schrader valves allow the passage of more compressed air with the core removed (used one valve cap that is a valve core remover).
- Easier to add sealant without disturbing the bead.
We watched our tubeless setups heal countless punctures without any issues. Neither of our tires required any repair during our 500 miles on the Baja Divide.
Luggage, water capacity, and packing strategies: Revelate seatbag containing light compressible gear (sleeping bag & pad, down vest). Water bottles in cages on fork legs. Surly 6 pack front rack carrying shelter gear and extra clothes in a compression sack. It is a heavy rack, but very sturdy and keeps the gear well secured with no bouncing or movement. Also doesn’t interfere with cables & housing, handlebar mounted accessories, or available hand positions.
An Anything Cage on the bottom of the down tube carrying a 64oz Klean Kanteen. Framebag with everything else. Osprey Synchro 15 backpack which was kept as empty as possible, but otherwise used for light items, overflow and a 4 liter MSR reservoir when water was needed for long stretches. This was the first time I have ever carried a backpack on a bicycle tour. I just really wanted to always have space available and somewhere for more delicate or valuable items if needed.
Shelter: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. Not my ideal shelter, but what I have and very light. I was glad I brought it too, as we ended up in some inclement weather. Poles were strapped to the left side of the down tube of the frame.
Navigation: Garmin Edge Explore 1000 with the E32 Cartografía map installed via micro SD card. I’ll admit I’m no tech whiz, but I tried all day to load the E32 map to the Garmin the way they initially suggest with no success. After enough emails and questions I was informed that they could send me a different kind of file that I could basically “drag & drop” onto a micro SD card and just plug into the Garmin. That took me about 10 minutes and the map does not use the memory on the Garmin. Definitely simpler.
Equipment recommendations for the Baja Divide:
- Plus tires are definitely the best option.
- Suspension would be a welcome luxury, but rigid steel worked well and kept the setup simpler, less expensive, and more durable/abusable
- Vic & I both had the recommended 8 liters of water capacity. It worked for me. Vic was running out of water crossing Valle de los Cirios (Nueva Odisea to Cataviña).
- Next year I plan to bring more sun coverage clothing like long sleeved/legged light/thin white base layers. I’m not a sunscreen person, especially in hot dusty settings with little bathing opportunities. The helmbrero is brilliant.
- A handkerchief would be nice for neck sun coverage and/or a dust mask (we had a very windy/dusty day approaching San Quintín that bombarded us with dust storms like ones we’ve experienced at Burning Man. I was very glad to have my riding glasses that day.
- Neither Vic nor I speak Spanish. We got by just fine, but both of us were wishing we did. The more you know, the easier communicating will be.
- I will aim to not carry a backpack.
Vic & I bought our ECRs and prepared for this trip in about 3 weeks. We already owned most of the gear, but we didn’t have plus bikes or frame bags for them. Some of the things we bought were based on price and immediate availability (9 speed ECRs, Salsa branded Revelate frame bags made for size large Fargos, GPS, solar charger etc) With more money and more time to plan, our setups could have been very different.
Vic & I were covering less distance daily than I expected (about 35 miles a day), partly because of our “we’re on vacation” approach, but the terrain was admittedly challenging. We did two days over 50 miles when we had to and it wasn’t hard to do, we just had to keep moving. I would expect the Baja Divide to take me about 6 weeks to complete comfortably with some rest days along the way, but I’m not a racer.
I would prefer a dynamo hub setup (assuming it would produce all the electricity I needed), but I used a Goal Zero solar charger and backup battery for charging electronics. It was a kinda bulky setup, but it was immediately available and I knew there would be plenty of sunlight in Baja. I could keep the electronics or backup battery charging anytime the sun was out rather than only when we were moving like a dynamo hub setup. It kept all of our equipment charged while on the road.
Platform pedals and a single pair of shoes make a lot of sense, but I opted to use clipless pedals as I cannot imagine doing long rides or big climbs without them. I used Giro Rumble VR shoes for riding and relative walkability and carried Merrel trail running shoes (which actually strap down pretty flat) for off the bike. I will use clipless pedals again, but may strive to rely on just one pair of shoes or do what Vic did, which was use combo clipless/platform pedals and carry sandals (good for the water crossings).