Tag Archives: Baja Divide

Baja Divide FKT

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On January 2, 2017, Nick and I met 96 riders in downtown San Diego to ride the Baja Divide, a 1700 mile dirt route that we mapped down the Baja peninsula. It was not a race, rather an opportunity to meet folks, make friends and explore magnificent terrain and culture. We rode for two months, leap frogging riders all down the way. In late February, we flew back north so that I could attempt the Baja Divide again, this time with the intention of riding the route as fast as possible to set the Baja Divide FKT, the fastest known time. 

This is how it went.

The idea started forming before I could put a finger on it. What would the Baja Divide be like as a race? How would I strategize? How would the riding feel? What would be the best bike set up? How much distance could I cover in a day, day after day? How fast could I get it done? Somehow, I felt committed to the challenge of attacking the Baja Divide before I even actually decided to do it. It just felt so natural. This is our route– mine and Nick’s. I’d already ridden it three times in 14 months. I knew it– knew the land and the culture and the feel. Attempting a fastest known time felt like the final chapter to my Baja Divide year.
Gearing up for the ride, Nick rebuilt my bike. He spent hours at my Aunt’s house in La Ventana and Cale’s house in San Diego cleaning and replacing parts, installing a new fork, rebuilding the front wheel with a dynamo hub, and mounting lights. We optimized the gear and I left a lot of things behind, including my sleeping bag. It was only while buying Ibuprofen at the store in San Diego that I had the memory of pain. The pain that happens during these long, intense rides– throbbing knees and hands and feet, aching sleep deprivation and a dull brain. In that moment, buying the pills, I accepted it. I accepted the pain. It’s just part of the experience. I would not call it suffering– suffering is something that happens to you, something you can not control. Riding miles and miles is something that I choose to do, something I choose to do to see what is humanly possible. 

While we were in San Diego it rained an inch and a half. In the rain, Nick and I took the bus to the border at Tecate, crossed the border, checked into a $13 a night motel room and waited two days for the roads to dry out. 

The dirt roads on the Baja Divide contain a high percentage of clay. When it rains, the clay turns into mud, mud that clings and cakes onto tires. Within a couple of revolutions, the tires are so coated with mud that the wheels can no longer clear the frame and as a rider, you are forced off of the bike. This mud is so thick that you can’t even roll the bike, but have to shoulder it and trudge on. And then, the heavy mud cakes to the bottom of your shoes. It’s a death march.

We watched the weather forecast obsessively. I wanted to start as soon as possible because it was starting to get really hot in southern Baja.
On the day before my projected depart, Salvador from FASS Bike drove 200 miles to visit us in Tecate to see my start. He held a mini press conference in a restaurant in Tecate and welcomed local mountain bikers to hear about my ride. Salvador Basurto III has shown amazing support to riders on the Baja Divide. This route is rugged and remote with few bicycle shops. In the first season, Salvador has helped countless riders all along the route source parts and repair their bicycles. When Jace cut a sidewall, Salvador sent him a new tire. When Ryan’s bike got stolen, Salvador helped track it down. When Nick and I couldn’t get cash in Vizcaino, Salvador arranged a money transfer. He has a wall sized map of the Baja Divide in his shop in Vicente Guerrero and has hosted parties for riders coming through. He is a fantastic guy with a great attitude and we really appreciate his support. Whenever we had a problem, Salvador always seemed to have a solution.

I dedicate my FKT ride to Colleen Welch. A mother of four boys, Colleen rode with us for the group start of the Baja Divide. We crossed paths a few times down the Baja Peninsula. Colleen was always up for everything. Spending time together in La Paz, I started telling her about my plans for Anchorage GRIT and the FKT and I broke down in tears. I was overwhelmed and broke. It all seemed so hard. The next day Colleen said,

“You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to give you two thousand dollars.”

“You can’t do that!”

“You bet I can!”

And she did! Colleen made my FKT attempt possible. I am overwhelmed by her generosity. She told me that the Baja Divide was a pretty inexpensive tour and about money, you can’t take it with you when you go.

I set the start for my FKT Baja Divide attempt for 5AM on March 2. A funny part about riding solo is that you can really start at any time. There are no other racers and there’s no official schedule. I actually roll out 5:12AM. 

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Exchange Rate

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On January 2, Nick and I met bikepackers from around the world in downtown San Diego to begin the group start on the Baja Divide. We met up with old and new friends, passed around GU Stroopwafels and started riding the route around 8:27AM. Day one on the Baja Divide includes a 3000 foot climb over Otay Mountain– the single longest climb on the whole route. We reconvened at Barrett Junction Cafe for a fish fry (thanks, Leon!) and camping. Though the ride was strenuous, everyone was smiling by the end of the day.

At Barrett Junction, Baja Divide riders screen printed their shirts with the Baja Divide logo (thanks, Holly!), helped each other with GPS problems (thanks, Rob!) and last minute bike issues. Riders received Revelate Designs peso pouches (thanks, Eric and Dusty!), an assortment of GU snacks (thanks, Magda!), and bottles full of Slime tubeless sealant (thanks, Joe!)

The Baja Divide route and group start are a gift– a gift to the bikepacking community and hopefully something that will benefit Baja California. Nick and I are very proud of this project and we are so grateful for all the help we’ve received!

On the 3rd of January, 97 riders rolled their bikes across the border into Mexico. Hector, from the tourism bureau in Tijuana, met us in the plaza in Tecate. He thanked us for making Baja California more visible to the bikepacking community and we took a group photo.

The exchange rate is good right now on the Baja Divide. We are all riding bikes, eating and sleeping, working hard and having fun, making friends and solving problems, speaking Spanish and English, and learning a lot.

Thanks Revelate Designs and Advocate Cycles for believing in us from the start. We really appreciate your support!

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Lavanya Pant receives the Baja Divide Women’s Scholarship

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Lavanya Pant got me laughing from the start. Her application was full of comedy and heart, adventurous exploits and profound insight. And then I saw her photography. She’s talented, she’s young and she’s committed to bicycle adventure. I see her as capable of uplifting others— inspiring people to try new things, to follow their hearts and be kind to one another. In a word, I fell in love with Lavanya Pant and I think you will too.  Please donate to the community-supported travel grant that we have established for Lavanya on Generosity.com. 

Lavanya Pant is 26 years old. This is her story, in her words.

I was born in India and lived there till I was 13. For 3 years my family lived in the remote towns and settlements of Bikaner and Barmer in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan where heat and power outages often forced us to sleep outside and I first developed an affinity for doing so. I taught myself to ride on my neighbor’s bicycle in New Delhi when I was 10. In exchange, I’d ‘let her play’ with my well-liked and not manipulative little sister. My parents migrated to Australia in 2003. Retrospectively, I am very grateful. I don’t think I would be riding around the world if we hadn’t. At the age of 13, in Australia I got my first bike. I rode to school everyday.

My first solo travel experience was when I turned 19. I saved up to go to Cuba, Mexico and the US for 2 months. In Isla Mujeres, I gave my neighbors 250 pesos to borrow their daughter’s bike for a day.  I rode the 13km perimeter of the island four times. I saw baby turtles, swam in pristine waters, and was joined on one leg by seventy-something Vietnam vet Jerry or ‘Captain Bananas’ from Florida who showed me Mayan ruins I thought had only existed on the mainland. I spoke to so many locals and had the time of my life. On returning from this trip, I took out an academic loan for a study tour to South Africa and Rwanda for 4 weeks. We met many genocide survivors, heard their heartbreaking stories and were amazed at how Rwandans couldn’t stop beaming with huge smiles and warm hearts despite their recent history. I hope to revisit Cuba, Mexico, Rwanda and USA on my bike one day.

My partner Alistair and his friends got me into riding longer distances. In 2012, Al lent me his 3-speed Raleigh Twenty and I did my first overnight and off road ride on the Warrnambool-Port Fairy rail trail on the Victorian coast. I loved every bit of it, even my rattly Raleigh. The following year, we built a Surly Disc Trucker. I was suddenly so much faster and capable of riding dirt! But still unable to keep up with Al and his friends. Frustrated but inspired, I started a girls riding group called The Winona Riders. I was surprised at how many women were interested in riding and traveling by bike.  Al and I held a bicycle mechanics workshop and ten Winonas did our first dirt overnighter in January 2014 – 45kms into the Warburton ranges. We squeezed ten people into four small tents by the river, ate kangaroo burgers, giggled hysterically. Our title offset any danger of getting down or taking things seriously.

In the 2014-15 holiday period, me and 8 friends (including two Winonas), slow rolled through dirt roads and fire trails cutting through the middle of Tasmania. It was hard, hilly, remote and so much fun! We had a 3-day stretch with no resupply. One memorable day was when the Winona Riders beat all the boys to the top of the biggest climb of the route owing to good navigation and stocking up lots of Tasmanian cheese.

In July 2015, Al and I quit our jobs and bought a one-way ticket to Denmark. We rode dirt and pavement from Copenhagen to Athens. I got a real taste for riding dirt in France, Montenegro and Albania and want to progress to riding desert roads and more technical trails. This was my first experience travelling internationally by bike. The gradual process of breaking down physical and mental barriers between my environment and me was invigorating. Some things I learnt – people and animals are not scary, rain and snow is not bad and often fun, cleanliness and smelling good is not essential to making great friends, language barriers inspire creative interaction and can fasten ties better than strings of familiar words, gracefully accepting relentless hospitality is an important skill to hone, and caring for my body and things I own is essential but worrying about them unnecessary. Also, not to fall for government travel advisories and political hearsay about how dangerous the world is. And definitely not to believe self-imposed advisories on what I can and can’t do. Bike touring is one of few ways of travelling where I am constantly reminded of these facts. The more openly I interact with the people and places around me, the better I feel about the world and myself in it.

Now, I live and work in Tokyo and commute as much as possible and ride into the mountains on weekends. I did my first solo overnighter into the Okutama mountains from Tokyo in July. At the local izakaya, the other patrons bought me a round of beer and pickled plums (for ‘fatigue recovery’) when they heard I rode out there alone. This winter I plan to get to Shikoku or Okinawa islands and do a longer solo bike tour.

I have native proficiency in Hindi, Urdu and English. Recently, I started learning the Urdu script for a gateway to Arabic and Farsi. In the last 7 months in Japan I have gained intermediate proficiency in speaking Japanese and can orient myself in many situations. I can read the phonic scripts and love deciphering the forever evasive Kanji, which are hieroglyphics, that I don’t think I will ever master. In Montenegro last year, 15yo Selma from Berane taught me some of her favourite songs in Serbski. These songs are great lightweight souvenirs and ever since I have collected them in Hindi, Marwari and Japanese.

For the last 6 months I have been working in Tokyo and saving to buy a hardtail with plus size tires and bikepacking gear so I can travel through the Mongolian desert next year and hopefully meet Kazakh eagle hunters! The latter I have fantasised about since I was 16. I want to roll over sand and riverbeds and it seems like this is a necessary step in my riding evolution. I pay student loans in Australia and am enrolled in a mandatory Japanese pension scheme so currently I couldn’t have made it to Baja this year without the scholarship.

It is a thrill to feel supported and rewarded for adventure. Earlier this year I was in India, where some people did not approve of my bike travels. It was seen as irresponsible and rebellious. These attitudes are not surprising but hurtful and discouraging nonetheless. My younger female cousins were most supportive and I feel grateful for them….

A scholarship that supports women in doing what they love and giving them a platform to share those experiences will have a domino effect in inspiring courage and creativity in more women and potentially changing the attitudes of others.

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Lavanya will ride the Baja Divide this February and March with Alistair and any Winona Riders and friends that can join.  She will ride an extra small Advocate Cycles Seldom Seen with Revelate Designs luggage, and will also be awarded with additional new equipment and support from Big Agnes, Specialized, and Adventure Cycling Association.  I really hope I get to meet her.

Follow Lavanya on Instagram: @lavlavish

 

 

 

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“Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship for the Baja Divide 2016-17

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The Baja Divide route is complete and the website is live!

The “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship is an opportunity and a challenge to get more women on bikes. Be brave, be open and do your best.

This is the best I can do to encourage and help someone ride the Baja Divide this year. I’m so excited that Advocate Cycles and Revelate Designs think it’s a great idea and are generously donating a bike and gear to make this happen.

From my experiences traveling and racing I’ve been overwhelmed with positive energy– from people telling me how inspired they were to take on new challenges, to get outside, to ride their bikes. People share my experience and make it their own. I’m trying my hardest, I’m doing my best and I’m happy. Let’s extend that to another woman. Let’s give her the opportunity to work for something, to push the pedals through Baja California, meet the people, camp in the desert, eat ceviche, swim in the Sea of Cortez, speak some Spanish, coast along the wild Pacific, get tired and dirty and dreamy. And then she can tell us about it.

The details:

The “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship is available to one female rider who intends to ride most or all of the Baja Divide in the 2016-2017 season.  Named for Lael Wilcox and her adventurous exploits by bike, the applicant should possess an interest in international travel and global cultures, have some off-pavement bicycle touring experience (or substantive paved touring, bikepacking, or travel experience), and be willing to share her ride on the Baja Divide through writing, photography, visual art, or music. Thanks to the generous support of Advocate Cycles and Revelate Designs, the recipient of this scholarship will receive:

–Advocate Cycles 27.5+ Hayduke or Seldom Seen

-Revelate Designs luggage kit including Ranger framebag, Sweetroll and Pocket handlebar system, Viscacha seatbag, and Gas Tank top tube bag

-$1000 community-funded travel stipend (minimum amount)

-Additional lightweight camping equipment

The recipient will be expected to provide one substantial written piece to Advocate Cycles, Revelate Designs, and the Baja Divide website. The application deadline is November 11, 2016. The recipient will be announced on November 18, 2016.

If you know of a place to share this opportunity, spread the word!

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2016 so far

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Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Bikecentennial in Missoula, Montana, July 16, 2016.

January

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Baja Divide route research

 

February

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Bus back to Tijuana and ride it all again.

 

March

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We flew home to Alaska from Mexico and rode fatbikes around the state.

 

April

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We worked at The Bicycle Shop in Anchorage, built the Ruby and got 50 third graders on bikes.

 

May

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I rode from Anchorage to Haines, ferried from Haines to Bellingham and rode to Astoria.

 

June

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I won the Trans Am Bike Race from Astoria to Yorktown.

 

July

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Bike-train-plane trips in the east coast and the Montana Bicycle Celebration and then I turned thirty.

Now we’re back in New York planning to publish the Baja Divide route this month and then…

Colorado Trail? 

The 1000 Mile Adventure Route in Czech and Slovakia?

Ride dirt in Georgia and Turkey?

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The people of Baja California

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Baja is diverse and mixed. It is California in Mexico. It is a mountainous desert dotted with oases and surrounded by the sea. The beating hearts of this land reflect its warmth through kindness. They seem to know us before we arrive.

Read my story about our friend Pancho on the Revelate Designs blog.

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