A Bicycling Guide to the Baja California Peninsula
Sheila & Kai of 2cycle2gether.com in Baja.
I first encountered BajaInsider.com while searching for information about the quality of Baja roads beyond the reach of pavement. I needed information specific to two-wheeled travel and not of the motorized kind. You see, my chosen mode of transport for tackling Baja was the bicycle.
In the late winter of 2012, my partner Sheila and I were new to Baja but not to bicycle touring. We’d already crossed a good chunk of the United States by bicycle from our home in northern Vermont and were right in the midst of a self-supported, around-the-world cycling attempt. For the Baja leg of our trip, we were interested in breaking up our ride between less used roads and the familiar Highway 1. As I searched the online Baja-related forums for cycling-specific data, I found all to be pretty silent on the topic of bicycle touring in Baja.
We found ourselves increasingly relying on the trip-logs of other cyclists; touring folks whose own rides had preceded us. This worked fine, but I still found myself wishing that cycling had a presence on at least one of the online Baja forums, if for no other reason than to inform drivers of our presence. In order to further that cause and to benefit future cyclists and motorists alike, I wrote this article for BajaInsider.
Our Route in a Nutshell
After a long day of cycling we finally wrestled our fully loaded touring bicycles up over the mountains from San Diego and crossed into Baja, Mexico at Tecate. Our freewheeling route south from here would wind a circuitous route along Highway 3 to Highway 1 and Ensenada, then Highway 3 up over the mountains to connect with Highway 5 toward San Felipe and then onward to Bahia de Gonzaga, the remaining unpaved section taking us to Chapala where we would once again connect with Highway 1 toward La Paz and beyond. By the time of our arrival in the Baja California Sur city of Ciudad Constitucion we had experienced the best and worst that Baja has to offer the touring cyclist. Resting up here was when I finally felt qualified to provide some insight on the in’s and out’s of riding a heavy loaded touring bicycle along the Baja peninsula.
Ride a bike in Baja? Are you CRAZY?
Please allow me to clear up two myths:
First, with only a few exceptions that I detail below, cycling in Baja is totally feasible, quite safe and very worthwhile.
Second, for those unfamiliar with bicycle riding it might be helpful to note that cycling in general is an inherently safe and pleasurable way to get around.
I realize that this information may come as a surprise to many, particularly to those folks who might be scared of Mexico and who perhaps view the bicycle as something of a toy and/or the people who ride them as a menace. I can count on one hand, however, the number of folks we met in Baja who shook their heads at what they viewed as our recklessness and/or stupidity. Along these lines, the most memorable comment was uttered by a graying Caucasian gentleman who came right out and told us that it was, “…just a matter of time before we killed someone.” While he couldn’t have been further from the truth (the last we checked cyclists don’t kill people, motorists do) his comment points to the disconnect present in the minds of some people. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that cyclists were here before cars, we have every legal right to be on the road, and we’ll be around long after cars are gone. And, as such, we all have an obligation to show respect by sharing the road.
Readers should know too, that the vast majority of motorists we encountered were super respectful of us. Plus the people we met off of our bikes were also wonderfully caring and considerate. For all the bad rap that has been laid on Mexico recently (particularly regarding narco-related violence), we didn’t encounter any violence during our time in Baja.