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Holly
September 16, 2016

Baja Blast

Posted by Holly

We’re not talking about the Mountain Dew flavor here, folks.

There are a few things we are stoked to talk about though: the route, the ride, and the scholarship.

The Route
So what is all this Baja buzz? In a short synopsis, it is a route developed by Lael Wilcox and Nicholas Carman during the winter of 2015-2016. With support from Revelate Designs and Advocate Cycles, it has turned into a robust mapping and bikepacking project. The Baja Divide is a backcountry route spanning the distance of the peninsula. Featuring a route that is 95% off pavement, it utilizes high quality graded dirt roads, sandy double track, as well as some roads that have been heavily eroded by strong storms in recent years. As mountain biking popularizes and a sustainable ecotourism model is expanding and providing useful resources necessary to make Baja a sought after bikepacking destination.

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This route connects the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, historic Spanish mission sites rich with shade and water, remote ranchos and fishing villages, bustling highway towns, and every major mountain range in Baja California on miles and miles of beautiful backcountry desert tracks. The Baja Divide is a free route resource for anyone to ride at any time, self-supported, and is best enjoyed from November to March, when most off-pavement routes in USA, Canada and Europe are closed for the season.

Sandy conditions necessitate wider tires– 3” tires are recommended– while frequent cactus thorns necessitate a tubeless wheel system. Backcountry touring experience is recommended. GPS navigation is required. GPX tracks are now available for download, you can find them here.

The Ride

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Life on the Baja Divide is defined by a rhythm of riding, camping, and resupply. Baja California is a mountainous desert and resources are limited, although the route is designed to encounter resupply frequently enough to make a self-supported tour possible. Riders may need to carry up to 2-3 days of food and 10 liters of water. A warm, dry climate minimizes equipment needs. Pack light, and leave room for food and water.

You may have also heard about the group start taking off from San Diego early January 2017. There has been a lot of interest in this group ride and it is now “closed” to registration. But don’t worry, you an still ride the route at any time! This new route is a great opportunity to drag your closest buds to Baja and have your own group ride.

The Scholarship

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“How do we get more women on bikes?” That is a question that route developers Lael and Nicholas have been wondering lately. Named in honor of Lael’s adventurous spirit, and her recent success in the Tour Divide and Trans Am Bike Race, the “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship is being offered to a woman of any age who plans to ride the Baja Divide during the 2016-2017 season (Nov-March). Women who have an interest in international travel and global cultures, some off-pavement bike-touring experience (or substantive paved touring, backpacking, or travel experience) are encouraged to apply. Willingness to share the ride on the Baja Divide through writing, photography, visual art, or music is a must. The generous scholarship package includes:

Applications must be submitted by November 11, 2016. Please spread the word and encourage the rad ladies in your life to apply! You can download the scholarship form here: Lael’s Globe of Adventure Scholarship Form.

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Other Resources

Official Baja Divide Website

Bikepacking.com 

The Map

Nicholas Carman

Lael Wilcox 

Baja Divide Interview (pro-tips!)

Photos by Nicholas Carman

Holly
August 16, 2016

Choosing the Right Seat Bag

Posted by Holly

Maybe you’re just starting to get into bikepacking, or perhaps you’re looking to upgrade your current setup. We get a lot of questions about which bag is the right bag for your bike. Of course we have lots of opinions over here and are always happy to help you set up your ride. But some of you just want to figure it out on your own, we get it. You can search forums, they have lots of opinions.. read reviews of available products, all of these roads may lead you back to us. We’ve been doing this a while. In an effort to limit your support to the postal service in returned packages and to Apple for drowned electronics, I’m just going to put this here. We want to make sure you get the right bag for your bike so we made this simple guide!

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Please note that the clearance measurements are minimums. This is the most important step in choosing a bag because not having enough room for you saddle bag can result in damage to the bag and you having a bad day. We like to keep it sunny side up.

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Our best day started really bad. It started with rain all night and the night before, us soaked from three hours in a temperate rain forest – both its old growth form and its scabby, hellish clear-cut 10-year old regrowth form – followed by a chilly crossing of a misty glacial stream called the White River.

“Oh man! I forgot my pearl snap shirt at camp!” complained Jebs, just as we were all about to ride off in the rain to warm up. He paddled back across while I watched a thumb-sized Winter Wren forage for bugs on a five foot diameter silver stump.

We headed off on a steep beach with a rising tide chasing us like sandpipers higher up the strand line. Steep beaches are loose beaches generally, and the going was not so good. The head-wind was there and the rain, and the taunting words on Andrew Skurka’s annotated maps we carried noting how nice it had been for him to get off the slanted beach and onto the gravel road.

I’d given up on the road. Largely because I’d led two fruitless searches the day before. That day had been the worst day. I started really good with fine riding, a shipwreck out of Planet of the Apes meets Mad Max, food frenzy at Yakataga’s conex, and even four miles of road. The fruitless search for Skurka’s road netted us many miles but no forward progress as well as Devil’s club spines in our knuckles.

Most impressive to me that day was Brat’s fine Class IV bushwacking lead along rain-soaked mossy logs perched high off an invisible forest floor. After picking around vertical branches he log-walked out to a broken base 20 feet above a creek bed, stepped across the yawning gap to a shattered stump (a 5.4 move I swear, but horribly exposed), down-climbed, stepped across another gap to yet another stump and then worked his way to an wall of impenetrable brambles of sweet juicy fruit.

That was some sort of weird mix of the best and the worst of the worst day.

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But the on best day that started bad, Brat and Jebs studied Brat’s iPhone GPS and the vegetation visible along the beach, hoping for respite from head-winds and heavy rain.

We found no road that morning. That afternoon, turned back by a high tide consuming the coast that once held Guyot Bay and Icy Cape, with Big River’s live trees floating downstream into crashing surf, we waited. Out of the wind in the lee of a forest buried in sand, the sun came out, we dried around a fire, ate ad libitum and even napped until low tide.

At low tide we crossed the Big River, the sprinted around the eroding mud cliffs. On the beach beyond we picked up an ATV trail and then six miles of road to an Icy Bay beach where we camped at a 100 foot waterfall with high hopes for the next day’s crossing.

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We hoped that the rise in air pressure would continue, but it didn’t. The sucker holes were swallowed up in gray clouds, then rain fell, winds blew and our camp at the moraine of the Malaspina Glacier, would be our last wild camp – this year.

“Yea dudes,” said Doom, “We’ll be back next year to complete our Lost Coast by traversing the Malaspina section and riding that bad boy with our wheels on ice.”

So once again we’ll visit Yakutat, a town that left us with this memory:

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“I’m not letting you guys on the plane until you take showers.”

The Alaska Airlines employee was so serious that he went to town, bought us towels and toiletry kits, used his employee card to open up the employee showers, even gave us detergent to wash our clothes.

That’s saying something in a remote, soggy bush-town known for fishermen and loggers.

But I have to say, I was a pretty stinky blend of old man funk, boating cat-piss, bike BO, and bad farts from freeze-dried food, soaked in five days of rain and fermented in a one-piece dry-suit.

“Thanks,” I said, “I really appreciate the opportunity. I wish Alaska Airlines supplied me with a post-trip shower after every trip.”

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Photos by Mike Curiak, more excellent photos available on his adventure journal.

If you’re just joining, make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.