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  1. #1
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    cycling in mexico

    hi guys,

    i am planning to cycle up to Houston -TX using the Southern Tier route and from there planning to cross Mexico.

    Is it a crazy idea? should i continue to Antilope Wells or Mexicali or all the way to the pasific coast?

    thanks in advance for all the info

    elif

  2. #2
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Not crazy at all. Do the Baja area (south of Mexicali to Cabo San Lucas.) It is highly recommended due to its amazing scenery, friendly people, beautiful weather November-February and relatively little traffic south of San Felipe. Everything is really peaceful there and it will give you a good taste of Mexico. These past few months (after the elections), all of a sudden, things have really quieted down in most parts of Mexico. There are many daily flights from the beach resort of Cabo San Lucas back to the U.S. Baja takes about one month to complete.
    Last edited by Chris Pringle; 09-26-12 at 04:51 PM.

  3. #3
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    I'm also planning a tour through Mexico; I live in Guatemala and plan to bike north to the US. I read elsewhere that biking north through Baja isn't recommended. Anyone agree or disagree? Why? I wanted to bike Baja since it seems like the safest option in the northern part of the country.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by udisku View Post
    I'm also planning a tour through Mexico; I live in Guatemala and plan to bike north to the US. I read elsewhere that biking north through Baja isn't recommended. Anyone agree or disagree? Why? I wanted to bike Baja since it seems like the safest option in the northern part of the country.
    Where did you read that? Baja has been the preferred route among cyclists for decades (and still is.) 9 out of 10 cyclists I've met go through Baja. The alternatve is Sinaloa-Sonora-Arizona which I've driven many times. Traffic is horrible with lots of commercial trucks and lots of military checkpoints. Sure it's doable, but Baja is overall safer and nicer.

  5. #5
    weirdo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
    Where did you read that? Baja has been the preferred route among cyclists for decades (and still is.) 9 out of 10 cyclists I've met go through Baja. The alternatve is Sinaloa-Sonora-Arizona which I've driven many times. Traffic is horrible with lots of commercial trucks and lots of military checkpoints. Sure it's doable, but Baja is overall safer and nicer.
    I could be wrong, but I think that "riding north" in Baja is what he was getting at, rather than about Baja riding in general. At least, that`s how I read it. Udisku, it`s widely reported that the prevailing winds along the US portion of the Pacific coast make north-to-south riding much easier than the other way around. I imagine that holds true for Baja also.

    CP, is there some reason you wouldn`t consider going straight down the middle from El Paso/Juarez through Chihuahua and Torreon to wherever? I`ve always wondered why the majority of people who cross Mexico end to end take the Pacific side route, at least for the top part. I`ve read a few reports of people continuing down the continental divide, but not many, and I don`t recall ever reading of any long routes along the upper and middle parts of the gulf coast. Just wondering.

    To both of you, I`m envious and I wish you nice trips. I`m a devoted Mexiphile, planning to do my first SOB ride (a short one) next spring from Puerto Vallarta to GDL, so Mexico threads always draw my attention.

  6. #6
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    Juarez.. you nuts? Cant say I have been there (just looked at it from El Paso, didn't look inviting) but I have heard nothing but bad things about that town. I also cant speak of the whole baja mexico but fair warning cabo is crazy expensive.

    I'm generally not too fond of Mexico if you cant tell. Maybe its just the American media that makes me think cycling Mexico is crazy?

  7. #7
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swix View Post
    Juarez.. you nuts? Cant say I have been there (just looked at it from El Paso, didn't look inviting) but I have heard nothing but bad things about that town. I also cant speak of the whole baja mexico but fair warning cabo is crazy expensive.

    I'm generally not too fond of Mexico if you cant tell. Maybe its just the American media that makes me think cycling Mexico is crazy?
    LA, Detroit, Chicago, Houston...you nuts?

    You're more likely to be killed in the States than in Mexico. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blog/201...-than-at-home/

  8. #8
    Member swix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    LA, Detroit, Chicago, Houston...you nuts?

    You're more likely to be killed in the States than in Mexico. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blog/201...-than-at-home/
    Sarcasm, that will teach the dumb interweb guy..

    Good read though thanks, Had no idea they have cleaned Juarez up so much the last couple years. The news likes to report when things are terrible but not when things are looking up in the world.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swix View Post
    Sarcasm, that will teach the dumb interweb guy..

    Good read though thanks, Had no idea they have cleaned Juarez up so much the last couple years. The news likes to report when things are terrible but not when things are looking up in the world.
    I was a student at UTEP twenty years ago, and to save money I lived across the border in Juárez. It was no picnic, even then, but just like in American cities, if you took precautions you were unlikely to get hurt. I really doubt a cycle tourist is going to be attacked if s/he's just passing through.

    Yeah, the media tend to accentuate the negative.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    I could be wrong, but I think that "riding north" in Baja is what he was getting at, rather than about Baja riding in general. At least, that`s how I read it. Udisku, it`s widely reported that the prevailing winds along the US portion of the Pacific coast make north-to-south riding much easier than the other way around. I imagine that holds true for Baja also.

    CP, is there some reason you wouldn`t consider going straight down the middle from El Paso/Juarez through Chihuahua and Torreon to wherever? I`ve always wondered why the majority of people who cross Mexico end to end take the Pacific side route, at least for the top part. I`ve read a few reports of people continuing down the continental divide, but not many, and I don`t recall ever reading of any long routes along the upper and middle parts of the gulf coast. Just wondering.

    To both of you, I`m envious and I wish you nice trips. I`m a devoted Mexiphile, planning to do my first SOB ride (a short one) next spring from Puerto Vallarta to GDL, so Mexico threads always draw my attention.
    For cyclists, I have only read one report of one going through the area of Chihuahua. It was almost a couple of years ago and this guy described it to me as eerie. No issues though. Yeah, almost everyone rides the Baja portion almost north to south. In some areas of the peninsula (the road goes through most of its part on the eastern portion of the peninsula), I have read reports that the winds change directions, so it's not entirely guaranteed you'll get those nice tailwinds.

    Baja is crazy expensive if you hit the beach resorts. In general, it's not too bad but you pay a little more than in mainland Mexico.

    Rodar y Rodar: Be careful on Route 200 from PV. It is considered among cyclists as one of the most dangerous roads in Mexico. It's a two-lane hwy with tons of traffic, no shoulder, hilly, blind curves, lots of trucks servicing the beach resorts, etc. Better to head inland (very mountainous though) and south. If you want to skip PV I can give you some ideas for nice bike tours from GDL. PM me.

  11. #11
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    I would still use caution in Juarez or in most border crossings, regardless of which way you´re heading.

    For Swix: if you haven´t figured out that the US media just looooves to print nothing but bad about Mexico, then it´s a good idea that you never come visit. Stay home, keep your doors locked, and continue watching some nice, safe cooking shows.

    For Ekdog: +1!!!

    While Mexico has some serious drug gang problems, I still feel safer here than I do in most US cities. Like anywhere you go, use common sense. If a situation doesn´t appear "right," then run, don´t walk, away. Don´t go looking for trouble (ie, leave your unique smoking preferences at home) or walk into a place where you stand out.

    The one downside I´ve found is that there are no real maps/guidebooks for biking in Mexico. You have to wing it. Yes, you can read what others have done, but there is nothing like Adventure Cycling here. I´m going to try to do a trip with some friends in January and have drawn up a temp map based on Google and the Guia Roji. Even so, I have a feeling we´ll be doing a lot of changes as we go. While there are a lot of bicyclists here, there aren´t always a lot of bike-friendly roads outside of the larger city (and even those are no guarantee).

  12. #12
    weirdo
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    CD Juarez: I had to go to the US consolate there a few times for immigration issues, just about the time it was starting to take over Laredo`s role as the scary part of the border. I didn`t like it then, and its likely worse now, but it`s only a tiny piece of the overall route. If I were doing it, I`d just grit my teeth and get through it, same as any border crossing. I love Mexico, hate the border zone.

    Lonely Planet article: Interresting, thanks for the link.

    Route 200: Thanks for the warning Chris, but I`m going "up and over". I`m not sure yet of my exact route, but it`ll more or less follow a route I drove several years ago through Mascota, Talpa, and Ameca.

  13. #13
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    Thanks for the advice everybody. I've been living in Guatemala for the past 3 years so I'm pretty familiar with the safety concerns. I don't think Mexico is going to be too much worse, but one of the major safety tips that I've learned here is knowing which places to avoid. Most of the country is wonderfully friendly and hospitable, and you just avoid the small percentage of areas where there is heavy presence of gangs. Unfortunately I think most of the border towns/Northern chunk of Mexico are the type that you'd like to avoid. And I'm not saying that from reading the news but from personal experience knowing a lot of Guatemalans who migrate north. So Baja seems like the safer option.

    But yes, I did mean I'd heard it's not advisable to bike NORTH through Baja rather than south from the US border down to Cabo, which is what everyone seems to do. I'd rather not be fighting headwinds all the way up Baja and the Pacific coast of the US once I get there. So I'm considering just turning the other way and biking south to Panama City instead. My plans are still super flexible so I'd love any advice on routes passing through Guatemala in either direction.

    I did find a good resource for maps of Mexico- some of you have probably seen these before but for those who haven't, you can download detailed PDFs by state, here: http://www.longwaysomewhere.com/reso...xico-sct-maps/

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Sorry if this is a bit off the original topic...

    How much is language a problem for non Spanish speaking bike tourists on the Baja peninsula? I have considered touring there but only know a few dozen words of Spanish. Obviously I could spend some time learning a bit more Spanish, but fear my Spanish will always be pretty poor.

  15. #15
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by udisku View Post
    So I'm considering just turning the other way and biking south to Panama City instead. My plans are still super flexible so I'd love any advice on routes passing through Guatemala in either direction.
    I rode through Guatemala three years ago on down to Panama City. Fantastic trip. We entered Guatemala at Livingston on a ferry from Punta Gorda, Belize, then up the Rio Dulce river to the town of Rio Dulce. Rode from there through Zacapa, Chiquimula, Esquipulas, into Honduras, El Salvador, Honduras again, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and then Panama. Good times, zero trouble with people, inexpensive food and lodging. CA-9 to Zacapa was the worst road ever for traffic, though.
    Last edited by simplygib; 10-02-12 at 01:29 PM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Sorry if this is a bit off the original topic...

    How much is language a problem for non Spanish speaking bike tourists on the Baja peninsula? I have considered touring there but only know a few dozen words of Spanish. Obviously I could spend some time learning a bit more Spanish, but fear my Spanish will always be pretty poor.
    My mother has lived south of San Felipe, BCN, for the past twenty years or so and, in spite of her efforts to learn the language of Cervantes, she is still unable to put more than a few words together. Nor are the other gringos (mostly retired, college-educated Canadians and Americans) that live near her any different. There are only a few that are proficient in Spanish, yet the rest have no problem communicating with the Mexicans. Why? Because the poor Mexicans that live around them, many of whom are illiterate, have managed to learn spoken English!

    So don't worry. Mexicans are used to gabachos who know little or no Spanish. Even if you are only able to say buenos días, buenas tardes and buenas noches, most of them will treat you well and will make an effort to communicate with you in English, with sign language or whatever. Notice the difference: Mexicans who are not proficient in English and who dare cross the northern border are so often treated like animals, but linguistically-challenged Anglos venturing south are treated with respect.

    My advice: learn as much of the language as you can before you start your tour, but even if your progress is slow, do not worry. You will be surprised at how graciously you are received.
    Last edited by Ekdog; 10-02-12 at 03:18 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    My mother has lived south of San Felipe, BCN, for the past twenty years or so and, in spite of her efforts to learn the language of Cervantes, she is still unable to put more than a few words together. Nor are the other gringos (mostly retired, college-educated Canadians and Americans) that live near her any different. There are only a few that are proficient in Spanish, yet the rest have no problem communicating with the Mexicans. Why? Because the poor Mexicans that live around them, many of whom are illiterate, have managed to learn spoken English!

    So don't worry. Mexicans are used to gabachos who know little or no Spanish. Even if you are only able to say buenos días, buenas tardes and buenas noches, most of them will treat you well and will make an effort to communicate with you in English, with sign language or whatever. Notice the difference: Mexicans who are not proficient in English and who dare cross the northern border are so often treated like animals, but linguistically-challenged Anglos venturing south are treated with respect.

    My advice: learn as much of the language as you can before you start your tour, but even if your progress is slow, do not worry. You will be surprised at how graciously you are received.
    Thanks.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Thanks.
    De nada.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    Notice the difference: Mexicans who are not proficient in English and who dare cross the northern border are so often treated like animals, but linguistically-challenged Anglos venturing south are treated with respect. .
    I really doubt that would be true if they came up here all glam on bikes with 4K of gear, money, passports, and and open and accepting attitude. With the intention of going back.

    If they come with nothing, illegally, they get an interpreter, free medical, dental, and drugs, free lawyer, and probably citizenship. There could be some attitude though.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
    I really doubt that would be true if they came up here all glam on bikes with 4K of gear, money, passports, and and open and accepting attitude. With the intention of going back.

    If they come with nothing, illegally, they get an interpreter, free medical, dental, and drugs, free lawyer, and probably citizenship. There could be some attitude though.
    Spread hate much?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by udisku View Post
    Thanks for the advice everybody. I've been living in Guatemala for the past 3 years so I'm pretty familiar with the safety concerns. I don't think Mexico is going to be too much worse, but one of the major safety tips that I've learned here is knowing which places to avoid. Most of the country is wonderfully friendly and hospitable, and you just avoid the small percentage of areas where there is heavy presence of gangs. Unfortunately I think most of the border towns/Northern chunk of Mexico are the type that you'd like to avoid. And I'm not saying that from reading the news but from personal experience knowing a lot of Guatemalans who migrate north. So Baja seems like the safer option.

    But yes, I did mean I'd heard it's not advisable to bike NORTH through Baja rather than south from the US border down to Cabo, which is what everyone seems to do. I'd rather not be fighting headwinds all the way up Baja and the Pacific coast of the US once I get there. So I'm considering just turning the other way and biking south to Panama City instead. My plans are still super flexible so I'd love any advice on routes passing through Guatemala in either direction.

    I did find a good resource for maps of Mexico- some of you have probably seen these before but for those who haven't, you can download detailed PDFs by state, here: http://www.longwaysomewhere.com/reso...xico-sct-maps/
    THANK YOU for giving that link!!!! You have no idea how hard I´ve tried to find some better road info that the Guia Roji and Google. It´s still going to be a crap shoot to plan a route, but this is sure better than what I´d found on my own.

  22. #22
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    hey udisku,

    thanks for the maps it is a great help!

    safe travels

    elif

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