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Thread: Baja Mexico?

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    Baja Mexico?

    My girlfriend and I are thinking of doing some cycling in January to escape the winter of Northern Canada, and we were wondering where we should go. We were thinking a lot about Baja Mexico, then we read the reports of the shoulders (or lack there of) and the often and frequent close calls with trucks moving in excess of 100mph. Perhaps other people have been exaggerating, I was just wondering if anyone has any experience on this route? We are open to other ideas, but we like the idea of a cheap plane tickets (only $204 plus bikes and taxes to San Diego from Edmonton) and nice weather. We would like to go for about a month with a budget of $1500 each (not including flights). We would camp and make many meals to save money. Does anyone have any recommendations of good cycle routes?

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    Take a look at Jeff Kruys journal, he's been through Baja and writes a lot of useful info about the roads, conditions, and important stuff to know about the area.

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?..._id=1419&v=3YE

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    Leather and Canvas Fetish
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    Another GREAT write-up of Baja (and beyond) is Michal's journal:

    http://www.cyclingforacause.com/

    Cycling for a Cause Alaska to Panama

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    Just an FWIW from the surfing and spearfishing community, but recently there have been a lot of proplems with armed robberies in Northern Baja. I have no idea how bandits would treat cyclists, but if you look extremely out of place and don't speak Spanish, that's something to keep in mind.

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    I would fly to Cabo San Lucas to start the tour. Southern Baja is much safer with far less traffic. If you have knobby tires, nice low gearing and a sense of adventure, there are plenty of dirt roads along the Sea of Cortez up to La Paz. You can camp anywhere you like on pristine beaches with nobody in sight for miles. Beautiful.

    Actually a loop from Cabo to La Paz up the east side and then from La Paz to Cabo down the west side would make a good trip. Todos Santos on the Pacific side is a quaint surf town with a growing expat community.

    Enjoy the trip.

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    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Baja is awesome. The whole place is totally ridable and safe as anywhere else. This means sure a theft is possible, but I've spent months there and have not had a single problem. There are no shoulders and traffic will give you room. The only place I've had traffic issues is right around Cabo and even then it was just annoying not unsafe. Free camping is possible in most of Baja and lots of firewood so plan to cook on a fire. If I could get more time off I'd be heading there myself this winter.

    I'm from Calgary and was there last Dec/Jan. If you'd like to see some bike tour pics go to www.vik-approved.com and click on the Jan 2007 archives....go to the first January entry.

    Also feel free to PM if you'd like to talk more Baja touring details.

    You'll have an absolute blast. It is one of my favourite places on the planet, great people & great landscapes.
    safe riding - Vik
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    Senior Member DukeArcher's Avatar
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    My friend Gonz has travelled extesively around Baja Mexico. Check out his excellent website: http://bicimundista.com/

    He's in England right now, but his Mexico stuff is archived, just scroll down the page.

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    I would advise against this. I have spent over 20 years going back to my early childhood travelling in Baja. Family had a house in the south. Yes, the roads are awful, and definately unsafe for travel on a loaded bicycle. The people aren't bad, and it would be fun, but it's just not a safe place to do it. I'd be more afraid of the police than any civillian criminals.Once you get south of the main border cities, camping and provisions are few and far between. Travelling south down the gulf side might be doable, as the traffic is less and you'll be right along the coast, which means plenty of beach to camp on, but you are guaranteed some off roading and even worse roads.

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    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robertkat View Post
    I would advise against this. I have spent over 20 years going back to my early childhood travelling in Baja. Family had a house in the south. Yes, the roads are awful, and definately unsafe for travel on a loaded bicycle. The people aren't bad, and it would be fun, but it's just not a safe place to do it. I'd be more afraid of the police than any civillian criminals.Once you get south of the main border cities, camping and provisions are few and far between. Travelling south down the gulf side might be doable, as the traffic is less and you'll be right along the coast, which means plenty of beach to camp on, but you are guaranteed some off roading and even worse roads.
    Funny thing when we were touring in Baja last winter we had one American after another warn us about the same things. Then we'd go and have another today fun day of bike touring. By the end we'd cut people short and say"...for sure you can't get there from here, too dangerous, no shoulders, crazy drivers, bandits, no food or water..."

    The fact is Baja is full of friendly people, the drivers are courteous and there is enough food and water that we rarely carried more than 3L each and we mostly ate at roadside restaurants.

    In total I've spent over a year in Baja camping, kayaking and biking and I haven't had a single bad experience [except for TJ, but I don't advise hanging out in TJ for long]. I've traveled quite a bit internationally and Baja is one of my absolute favourite places to spend time.
    safe riding - Vik
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    It was rather nice when I was there with my brother some years ago. We did mostly off road and suffered lots pushing through sand, but really it wasn't that bad. Southern Baja is much better for touring, but you would lose boasting right for doing the whole Baja. And a month is plenty of time for the whole length.

    Another option would be to fly down to San Diego, then hook up with the Green Tortoise bus, ride with them until you're out of TJ or even Ensenada, or wherever you feel comfortable, and then jump off and start your tour. Voila, most of your problems solved

    Have a great time. Sure wish I had a girlfriend back then to do the Baja ride with me. Certainly would have been more fun, I think.

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    LMLN Turd Ferguson's Avatar
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    Vik,

    Did you fly into TJ and out of Cabo San Lucas and what airlines did you use? I've planned a trip to Florida although after doing some digging Baja seems a little safer and more cylist friendly. Was also thinking Amsterdam to London but it's a little chilly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mooncricket View Post
    ... Southern Baja is much better for touring.....Another option would be to fly down to San Diego, then hook up with the Green Tortoise bus, ride with them until you're out of TJ or even Ensenada, or wherever you feel comfortable, and then jump off and start your tour.
    Agreed, south of Ensenada is where you want to be.

    If you don't know any spanish, now is the time to start learning. Even a tiny bit is very helpful although not absolutely necessary.

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    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Turd Ferguson View Post
    Vik,

    Did you fly into TJ and out of Cabo San Lucas and what airlines did you use? I've planned a trip to Florida although after doing some digging Baja seems a little safer and more cylist friendly. Was also thinking Amsterdam to London but it's a little chilly.
    I read a tour report about the FL keys that was pretty nice.

    I flew into and out of LAX. There are two major bus lines that can get you from one end of Baja to the other.
    safe riding - Vik
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    LMLN Turd Ferguson's Avatar
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    Thanks...I'm okay with the keys, Miami to Key West (Ferry to Ft. Myers), it's riding to Tampa that concerns me. I would compare it to cycling to Pearson airport ..it can be done but it's a pain, especially during rush hour. It also seems to be raining all week and if I book the flight I leave next week it could also be rain ever day...decisions ...decisions. I spent all day yesterday planning the trip...and spent today planning another. If only I had a weather machine.
    Last edited by Turd Ferguson; 10-23-07 at 03:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tlorenz View Post
    My girlfriend and I are thinking of doing some cycling in January to escape the winter of Northern Canada, and we were wondering where we should go. We were thinking a lot about Baja Mexico . . . We would camp and make many meals to save money. Does anyone have any recommendations of good cycle routes?
    This is a very good book on cycling in Baja,

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listi...822178-1662012

    The author ran a small tour company specializing in Baja, and made a number of trips there.

    (Some of the information is probably a bit out of date, but much of it is still relevant.)

    ****
    It is amazing how different people's experiences are.

    It is also amazing how open one's options are, and how one can make of things (and places and people and experiences and time) an extraordinarily broad range of realized possibilities and potentials.

    ****
    This has been an interesting thread, with some good links.

    Good luck with your travels, and please post more if you feel like it.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 10-23-07 at 03:54 PM.

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    Thanks to all of the great responses...very appreciated. I think we have read just about every Baja blog we could find on the internet in the last few days, from what we can see overall people have had great experiences in Baja (yes...some crazy traffic but I guess that is the risk we take almost anywhere).
    We are leaning towards cycling from San Diego to the Tecate border crossing and then taking highway 3 which ends just before Ensenada, then travelling the rest on highway 1. Has anyone taken this highway 3? Does anyone know if this highway 3 section has less traffic than the highway 1 TJ to Ensenada section? So far we could not find any blogs that this route was taken.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robertkat View Post
    I would advise against this. I have spent over 20 years going back to my early childhood travelling in Baja. Family had a house in the south. Yes, the roads are awful, and definately unsafe for travel on a loaded bicycle. The people aren't bad, and it would be fun, but it's just not a safe place to do it. I'd be more afraid of the police than any civillian criminals.Once you get south of the main border cities, camping and provisions are few and far between. Travelling south down the gulf side might be doable, as the traffic is less and you'll be right along the coast, which means plenty of beach to camp on, but you are guaranteed some off roading and even worse roads.
    I am going to have to very strongly disagree with you. The roads in the Baja are actually quite good with roads in countries such as Nicaragua or even the Yukon in Canada. They are for the most part shoulderless, but they are by no means bad roads. The people are awesome, although it really helps if you know the language. You will pass by military checkpoints ever 100 km or so, but most of the time they just wave you through or make ask you a few questions because they're curious as to what the hell your doing here on a bike. The police are very friendly though.

    Crime I did not find to be a problem at all. You obviously have to be careful in the border towns, but other than that it is relatively safe. Camping is indeed few and far in between, but you can always simply ask at a roadside eatery (located every 10km or so) if you can pitch a tent there. If you eat there, or perhaps pay a few bucks, I'm sure noone will object, I did it a few times. Hotels are not extremely expensive, so I stayed in those when possible as they were generally the same price as a tent site.

    I road through the entire Baja with the exception of the south, which is supposedly much safer, and needless to say I loved it. There are 'dry' stretches where supplies are hard to find, but there are ALWAYS those nice roadside restaurants so you can buy cold drinks and hot food. Even in the worst spot the furthest I went between these was 40 km, but generally they occur every 10 km or so. I was there in late June, and it was hot as well. I was drinking 1.5 gallons of water a day, but it was still doable.

    As mentioned previously check out my journal. I have daily entires, so you can dig through and find those, I usually also mentioned where I stayed. I also have pictures so you can get a taste for things. I would suggest that you buy a very, very, very good and detailed map of just Baja California once you get down there, as it has even the smallest towns on it.

    www.cyclingforacause.com
    120 Days, 12000 Kilometers, 2 Wheels - Alaska to Panama for Charity - www.CyclingForACause.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by tlorenz View Post
    We are leaning towards cycling from San Diego to the Tecate border crossing and then taking highway 3 which ends just before Ensenada, then travelling the rest on highway 1. Has anyone taken this highway 3? Does anyone know if this highway 3 section has less traffic than the highway 1 TJ to Ensenada section? So far we could not find any blogs that this route was taken.
    I'm not sure about this stretch, but I hear temperatures can get quite vicious near Mexicali
    That top section of Highway 1 from Tijuana to Ensenada is absolutely horrendous, there was construction going on
    No shoulders, and a nice 1.5 ft drop off near the road, which cars blazing by you with no mercy, not fun
    I actually accidentally took the toll road, which I got kicked off of, but later snuck back onto
    That highway 3 may be a better idea though
    120 Days, 12000 Kilometers, 2 Wheels - Alaska to Panama for Charity - www.CyclingForACause.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by tlorenz View Post
    Thanks to all of the great responses...very appreciated. I think we have read just about every Baja blog we could find on the internet in the last few days, from what we can see overall people have had great experiences in Baja (yes...some crazy traffic but I guess that is the risk we take almost anywhere).
    We are leaning towards cycling from San Diego to the Tecate border crossing and then taking highway 3 which ends just before Ensenada, then travelling the rest on highway 1. Has anyone taken this highway 3? Does anyone know if this highway 3 section has less traffic than the highway 1 TJ to Ensenada section? So far we could not find any blogs that this route was taken.
    I like crossing at Tectate when I drive into Baja. Hwy 3 is not super busy [not like Hwy 1], but it is quite hilly. I've crossed by bike at TJ and ridden down to Ensenada. Not my favourite part of Baja, but it is okay.

    I haven't biked hwy 3 though. Should be fine as long as you don't mind starting with some climbing. OTOH if you cross at TJ you only have 1 day of high traffic to deal with and then you are south of Ensenada.

    Have an awesome time.... I'm jealous.
    safe riding - Vik
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    My girlfriend and I are also planning a trip to Baja (3 weeks in Dec/Jan) and are flying into/out of San Diego. We are considering riding south on Hwy 5 out of Mexicali and hooking up with Hwy 1 in Chapala. From there, we plan on continuing down Hwy 1, but we are definitely open to alternate routes. Dirt roads are fine. Does anybody have any touring experience on any of the minor roads? Vizcaino area? Bahia de los Angeles area? Coastal roads from Cabo back to La Paz? There seems to be potential for some interesting side trips and loops off of Hwy 1. We travel light and are in fine shape, but with our very brief vacation window we don't really have the time to lazily explore any old unknown road (although it seems Baja is ripe for this sort of travel).

    We'll be set up to camp and cook, but hope to eat roadside meals as often as possible and take advantage of the occasional room with shower. Warm coastal or desert camping preferred over cold, higher altitude desert camping.

    Although it sounds like the OP has probably read most Baja trip reports available online, this one is worth checking out.(http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...c_id=2180&v=9V)

    Also, Vik's pictures from his tour are amazing, and really jazzed me to pick the camera back up.

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    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by burkhrj View Post
    My girlfriend and I are also planning a trip to Baja (3 weeks in Dec/Jan) and are flying into/out of San Diego. We are considering riding south on Hwy 5 out of Mexicali and hooking up with Hwy 1 in Chapala. From there, we plan on continuing down Hwy 1, but we are definitely open to alternate routes. Dirt roads are fine. Does anybody have any touring experience on any of the minor roads? Vizcaino area? Bahia de los Angeles area? Coastal roads from Cabo back to La Paz? There seems to be potential for some interesting side trips and loops off of Hwy 1. We travel light and are in fine shape, but with our very brief vacation window we don't really have the time to lazily explore any old unknown road (although it seems Baja is ripe for this sort of travel).

    We'll be set up to camp and cook, but hope to eat roadside meals as often as possible and take advantage of the occasional room with shower. Warm coastal or desert camping preferred over cold, higher altitude desert camping.

    Although it sounds like the OP has probably read most Baja trip reports available online, this one is worth checking out.(http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...c_id=2180&v=9V)

    Also, Vik's pictures from his tour are amazing, and really jazzed me to pick the camera back up.
    Hola. I've traveled the road south of San Felipe and the coastal road from La Paz around the east cape to Cabo, but I was on a dual sport offroad motorcycle. The road between San Felipe and Hwy 1 was quite rocky, but definitely ridable. Just don't expect any services. The road around the east cape had some softer sandy sections. For both roads I'd run the widest tires you can. Keep in mind I haven't been on these roads since Jan 2000 so a lot could have changed.

    Baja Almanac makes great 1:50,000 scale topo maps of Baja. With them and a GPS you can pretty much explore with confidence.

    For three weeks, unless you are really into offroad touring I'd ride Hwy 1 all the way down and bus back. That will give you a taste of the whole Baja. Days will be warm in the north and hot in the south. Nights will be quite cold in the desert so bring good sleeping bags.

    All this talk of Baja is making me a little stir crazy. I just wish I had 2 more weeks off at Christmas and I'd be down there riding my bike!
    Last edited by vik; 10-26-07 at 05:18 PM.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

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    My tank takes chocolate. FlowerBlossom's Avatar
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    This baja trip sounds like a blast!

    Don't forget to check out the fire situation. Last map I looked at fires between San Diego and Mexico, some just across the border. If anything, pack extra face masks.
    Feminism is the profound notion that women are human beings.

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    Thanks for the map/almanac recommendation, Vik. They look to be all sold out though. Does anyone have an up-to-date map suggestion. I've been working with a 2003 map from International Travel Maps. It seems to be plenty detailed for our 3 weeks, but I would love a more current map.

    jb

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    Quote Originally Posted by burkhrj View Post
    Thanks for the map/almanac recommendation, Vik. They look to be all sold out though. Does anyone have an up-to-date map suggestion. I've been working with a 2003 map from International Travel Maps. It seems to be plenty detailed for our 3 weeks, but I would love a more current map.

    jb
    Sorry I didn't notice that. BTW - my copy of those maps is pre-Y2K and I also use a 2001 road map. Both of which are plenty up to date for riding a bike in Baja. Nothing much [shown on a map] has changed that will affect a bike tourer.
    safe riding - Vik
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