Baja Divide Rider Profile: Alex Dunn

Alex investigated the Baja Divide with Nicholas and Lael from January to March, 2016.  His facility with the Spanish language was invaluable while working to solve routing challenges.  He is famous for inventing the Helmbrero– a modified helmet with a sombrero brim– and for carrying a guitar on his bike.  Note, Alex lists two bikes below as he switched bikes in the middle of the trip during a brief layover in San Diego to begin our second routefinding ride down the peninsula. Header images by Alex Dunn, all others Nicholas Carman.

Name: Alex Dunn

Age: 31

Instagram: @malexdunn

Bike: overbuilt Surly Pugsley Necromancer with belt drive Rolloff, switched to very awesome and much more apt Advocate Cycles Hayduke with suspension fork and 1×11 SRAM drivetrain

Previous touring experience: Riding the west coast a couple times (1989 Trek 520 and Surly Pugsley 29), Baja Hwy 1 (Surly Big Dummy), and a tour around Denmark, as well as many weekend off-pavement campouts in Colorado and Wyoming and Washington.

Luggage/packing strategies: Carradice Camper saddlebag; Revelate Designs framebag, Sweetroll, Pocket, and Gas Tank; Anything Cage and 64 oz. Klean Kanteen under the donwtube and water bottles on the fork.

I carried my camera in a chest strap bag which was beneficial for quick access but kind of a burden since it couldn’t really be tightened enough to keep it from swinging about without squeezing my chest too much.  My favorite piece of gear was obviously the Helmbrero.  Trail running shoes are ideal in my book for traction on and off the bike, helpful when pushing up sandy climbs.

I strapped my guitar to the rear rack with ratchet straps and wrapped the guitar with a large trash bag inside the stock soft case.

Wheels/Tires: WTB Scraper rims (45mm internal diameter), 27.5×3.0″ Maxxis Chronicle tires with EXO casing

Shelter: None, but Nick Carman’s pyramid tent.  I picked up some plastic in San Diego for a groundcloth.

Navigation: Mostly I navigated by the stars, but sometimes I followed Nick and Lael.

What would I change?  I would develop a better easy-access weatherproof guitar bag to be mounted to the rear rack.  A better camera bag.  And better custom attachments for the Carradice from the bottom of the bag to the rack, to reduce swinging about.  I would also like a stouter fork like a Pike, carbon rims and a generator hub to power my own navigation system and lights.


7 thoughts on “Baja Divide Rider Profile: Alex Dunn

  1. I have HED carbon rims and 4″ maxis tires, and Schmidt generator hub on a Framed Alaskan. I used them in the DRC last Feb when you were doing this trip. Rims and tubeless low pressure wide tires were great as I had zero problems for thirty days (I didn’t even have to add air). I wasn’t satisfied with the performance of the generator hub to power my devices. It’s a great no drag hub, but the generator couldn’t reliably keep my Anker battery charged, and with just the iPhone plugged it bleeped on and off without sustained power. I’m still tinkering with this. I’m going to try using a different brand of battery if I do Baja in 2017. BTW, I used Salsa downbars rather than flat bars, which I prefer over flat bars. Flat bars give me wrist problems on a long day. I was also able to use dual chain ring and shifter up front as well as wide range cluster in back, without problems. I had Old Man Mountain up front and rear racks. I had to carry more gear than you guys because I was traveling away from any possible repair facilities for more than 30 days. Baja is remote but not as remote as the DRC rainforest of Mai Ndombe Province (check the link below for more details of my equipment and journal for the trip). Nice webpage.

  2. What did you do about food? Any cooking? Just Power Bars, nuts, foraging, fishing, McDonalds? It is Mexico after all but Baja’s pretty remote.

    1. We cooked some food, but mostly we resupplied with free food and ready to eat foods from small markets. Out main diet included tortillas, dry cheeses, beans (precooked like canned beans, but in a sealed bag), fresh vegetables, fruits, cookies, nuts, chips. Baja is often remote, but there are many small towns along the route.

  3. I was planning on riding this route on a 29+ with a Gates/Rohloff drive train. What was it about your Pugsley setup that didn’t work for you?

    1. Mark, I’ll let Alex chime in later, but I know he is out of range for a bit. The Gates belt drive creaks and squeaks when in dry dusty conditions, which became to a joke to all of us riding together. The sound is loudest when cranking on the pedals, such as when climbing a hill or pedaling through sand. The Rolloff is a fine hub– certainly a matter of preference, as I don’t like the feel of riding one– but for long distance tours, especially in dry conditions, I’d stick to a standard chain drive. Aside, the Pugsley complete with 26×4.0″ tires, Rolloff, steel Surly rack and other parts resulted in an extremely heavy bike, even when unloaded.

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