Cjell and Corbin rode the Baja Divide beginning November 1, traveling from San Diego, CA, USA to La Paz, BCS, MX in about 30 days, designed to fit their busy schedules. Cjell is one of the preeminent singlespeed bikepacking racers in America and has traveled extensively around the globe by bike and on foot. Cjell has thru-hiked the PCT and the Colorado Trail; raced the Tour Divide and the Arizona Trail; toured by bike in Mexico, India, and New Zealand. He has built bicycle frames, ultralight bikepacking bags, and an ingenious ultralight thru-hiking pack which doubles as part of a sleep system. Cjell has also penned what Lael and I consider to be one of the greatest narratives from a bikepacking race, titled “Tour Divide 2013, Ballin Halls”. Mostly, he’s good at pretending that he doesn’t give a fuck. But he does, I’m sure, as Cjell recently donated his Baja Divide bike to a local bike club in La Paz to be provided to a Mexican rider who plans to ride the route.
Images provided by Corbin Brady and Cjell Monē. Find Corbin’s profile here.
Name: Cjell Monē
Bike: singlespeed Kona Unit 26” with 3.0” Gazzaloddi tires
Which sections did you ride? San Diego to La Paz* (*DNF)
Favorite ride or section? Tie: Ojos Negros to Ejido Uruapan (riding), Ciudad Constitucion to La Paz (scenery)
Hardest ride on the Baja Divide? El Cardon to Santa Rosalillita – shitty loose washboard. All other challenges, tough as they were, seemed to be shorter on hopelessness than this section.
Describe your wheel and tire system (tire size and model, tubeless features, etc.). Did it work well for you? I appreciate this techy question very much because of all the things to nerd out on, this stands the best chance of actually enhancing your experience, choosing a good tire-wheel setup that is. Air in your tires day after day is key to enjoying the route and not sweating flats.
From our own experience and the experience of others, we were very fortunate in this department experiencing zero real flats on the route apart from low tire pressure saved by Stans and air.
My setup was whatever narrow 26er machine-sidewall WTB rim came on the bike, ghetto tubeless with Stans tape followed by thicker rubber rim strips wrapped in NOS Nokian Gazzaloddi 3.0 DH tires from the late 90’s. For those of you who don’t know, these tires were the first ‘fat tire’ out…showing up on Iditarod bikes before the Pugsley era. They were originally constructed for a select number of DH frames that had enough clearance to run them. I got a killer deal from a tiny back-alley bike shop in Queenstown called The Bike Fix who sold them to me for a song. Beat my frame and fork with a small sledge and a tow ball to redirect blows and make clearance. Poor man’s plus is what I called it.
Ended up working the treat. Heavy and slow but held air the entire way save for one night when Corbin saved my ass with a quick shot of Stan’s and a couple pumps of air. The key is to not lose your tubeless setup at all costs. If your tubeless is ghetto, make sure it’s reliable.
1. Make all tire and rim choices with reliability as the goal. Tough Sidewall>Reliable Tubeless>Weight
2. A setup that could be aired up without a compressor would be ideal. Keeping a tubeless setup alive and running is the goal. Once the bead seat is broken, you’ll be way sadder. Tubes+Baja=Sadness
3. We didn’t run the low low pressures we enjoy at home in lieu of reliability at slightly higher pressures. There are many sandy/rocky/(insert challenging desert surface here) sections that would be nice at 13 psi but we felt like reliability over the long haul was better at like 18 or 20… ‘touring’ or ‘rim friendly’ pressure is what we called it.
4. Nick writes in the guide narrative many times ‘3.0 or larger recommended’…you might read ‘sand, sadness and babyheads likely’. To mitigate this sadness fatter tires are recommended. To really mitigate hopelessness on the Baja Divide one might consider rolling 4.0″ or 5.0″ tires. They have their trade-offs but I wouldn’t flinch at running 4.0” tires on a chill tour down there. 29+ is hard to beat but a 3.8″ would be nice, A LOT.
5. Be liberal with the Stan’s. Put more in and bring more along.
What did you use for navigation? Corbin and his tire tracks + Gaia on the phone.
Shelter? I carried a 2 man tarpy tent thing as a worst case shelter for Corbin and I but only set it up once. The stars are too good to let desert stingy things scare you into a tent.
Anything else you would like to share? Carry water. Don’t skimp, it’s not fun to be thirsty. Figure out good reliable ways to carry a lot. We dry camped almost every night, don’t underestimate the amount of water it takes to do so. Use the same strategy with chain lube…we carried very little and ended up using olive oil cause we’re raw. Use the opposite strategy with clothing.
What would you do differently next time? Not much. Bring a chair…maybe.
What surprised you most? How fast Corbin is.