Brian tossed an idea at me while sitting on a couch, in a cabin, in Ohio. "We should do the Baja Divide," he posited in an unending list of epic adventure ideas. "Absolutely!" I ignorantly replied. "We can do it after Christmas." Then we moved on. We raced the Mohican 100 and the seed simply germinated beneath the top layer of a season full of epic adventures.
Now it's almost Christmas. The seed has not only sprung but there are bulbs hung on its mature limbs. The Baja Divide adventure is here and we must go.
Baja Divide Details
92,000' Elevation Gain
Starting in San Diego, CA, The Baja Divide 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.
Brian and I will start just outside our hotel room door in the Gaslamp area of downtown San Diego on the morning of 12/28 with the final destination as Solmar Resort in Cabo San Lucas on, or before, 1/27/2023. My 40th birthday.
Waiting for us in Cabo will be my wife, Abbe, and my closest family members. At that point in our trip, more importantly, a shower and an unending buffet of food. I'll try my hardest to give more attention to the former though I'm sure to be craving, exponentially so, that latter.
My 2015 Specialized Fatboy has remained in my bike quiver as a compliant, oft-neglected, sturdy workhorse. My love of fatbiking was short and furious. The nighttime races in the Leadville area brought life to my winter cycling months but the sport never fully grabbed my heart. I customized the rig with a 29+ wheelset and repurposed it an adventure rig. We've completed a self-supported, 2-day trip on the Kokopelli Trail and we've attempted, and failed, a self-supported adventure on the Colorado Trail. Convinced I am not a bikepacker, I deposited the Fatboy in my mom's garage in Iowa and it became my "Back Home Bike" for annual holiday trips. After reading numerous reports about ideal Baja Divide bike setups I knew the ol' monster had another trip in it so I brought the Fatboy back to Colorado this Thanksgiving.
Frame: XL 2015 Specialized Fatboy
Wheels: 29" Easton Arc 40 w/Hope 4 Hubs
Tires: WTB Ranger 29x3.0
Drivetrain: SRAM GX 1x10 w/Praxis Cassette (11-40)
Brakes: Shimano XT
Reliability, simplicity, and durability. Those became the paramount elements of my bike setup. I'll surely miss suspension at some point in the coming month and I'll most-definitely curse the weight of this pig somewhere between 30 and 80 thousand feet of elevation gained.
A bit like Mary Poppins, or my wife on her way out the door to 1 of her 3 gigs, I've got bags on bags on bags... and it's still probably not enough. My love/hate relationship with bikepacking has brought me some lessons learned and a primary one, for me, is to have all of my gear stowed away. The look of a titanium camp cup or solar powered inflatable light hanging off the side of a bag may give a cool look to the cover of an REI catalog but anything jangling, clanging, or bumbling about the bike drives me mad. In stowing my gear I wanted to keep things tight and secure. Here's how I managed to fit 30-days worth of gear on the bike:
All bags are from Revelate Designs. ( unsponsored, purchased at full retail :/ )
Handlebar Bag: Big Agnes Fly Creek H UL2 Tent, Nemo 30º Sleeping Bag, Therm-A-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad, Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Pillow. On Top: Goal Zero solar panel and flip flops.
Seat Bag: Clothes, Pack Towel, Woowind LP1 Tire Pump, Eyeglasses, Orange Mud Hydration Pack, 4 oz Orange Seal Sealant.
Frame Bag: Side 1 - Toiletries: toothbrush/paste, 30 pairs disposable contacts, UCO Spork, Lifestraw, Tent Poles/Stakes. Side 2 - Food, 70 oz bladder, collapsible 20 oz bottle.
Jerry Can Bag: Repair Kit - tool, plugs, Co2 x2, 2 master links, chain lube, spare bolts, Fly Pedal platforms, spare cleats. On bike repair materials: spare tube, Titan strap, and 4 spare spokes.
Gas Tank Bag: Food.
Handlebar Feed Bag 1: 22 oz bottle, USB Charging Bank, Charge Cables.
Handlebar Feed Bag 2: Food, SPOT X Tracking Device.
Hydration: 3 x 22 oz bottles on frame, 22 oz bottle in Handlebar Bag, 2x 48 oz Nalgenes on fork, 70 oz bladder in frame bag, backup 20 oz collapsible bottle. Total potential capacity: 274 oz. That's just over 17 lbs of water!
I made a giant leap forward this year in my "time-capsule wardrobe" evolution while living out of the van for weeks at a time which included fewer options, fewer redundancies, and higher per-use items (ie wool). Shifting from the van to the bike required another quantum leap in hyper-selection. Here's where I ended:
Pearl Izumi Expedition Cargo Bibs x2
Pearl Izumi Prospect Shirt (lightweight button up) x2
Pearl Izumi Merino Wool Socks x2
Junk Headband x2
Buff UV+ Headwear
Specialized Altered Trail Jacket
Icebreaker Merino Wool Base Layer: top, bottom, and socks.
Outerknown Board Shorts
This was a detailed way of saying I have 2 cycling kits, a set of base-layer wool to change into and sleep in each night, and some board shorts for a romp into the ocean and every freshwater pool we pass near. How's that for minimal?!
Our rough ride plan is to pedal 6 hours per day. Distance will vary as terrain varies and we understand that we cannot control every variable that may delay our ride such as mechanical issues or unrideable weather. We can control our time-on-bike. 180 hours of pedaling. In 30 days. That's a training block nearly double my best month-to-date. Fuel for that many pedaling hours, plus the necessary breakfast and dinner puts our caloric need between 4,000 and 6,000 calories per day, in an ideal situation. In the bikepacking situation we know we'll have some lean days and some gorge fests. My initial food load includes bars, waffles, gummies, and a variety of the sports fuel I'm accustomed to having on hand. I anticipate it lasting only a few days, stretched out, and intermixed with food we find along the way. From that point on we will be subject to getting what we can en route to Cabo. We'll entertain road-side food stands, restaurants, and in, most commonly, tiendas with a variety of supplies from bagged black beans and tortillas to junk food. Hmm...junk food. I haven't had junk food in more years than I can remember. Unlike many endurance athletes I can't bring myself to scarf down a Snickers or Oreos. It feels dirty. However, I've already admitted to wearing only 2 bibs for 30 days so dirty will become my standard. I'm prepared to fully fall into the role of dirtbag. Bring on the Takis!
Some of you who know me well may see a glaring omission in the Gear List. You are correct. Good catch. I do not have a stove or...coffee. I told you hyper-selection was critical and I've made the painful choice to let go fo my daily, er twice daily, er, um, 3-times-daily coffee routine. I will rely on coffee in villages, with passerby, and every possible chance between but I will not have my own supply. The thought of bringing the required stove, gas, mug, and coffee supply proved too much for my limited cargo space. I'll let you know how this bold strategy plays out. I hope, for Brian's sake, that my DTs don't get violent.
Off we go.
The coming month, this unknown adventure, is true terra incognita for the two of us. Bikepacking for this long is equally unknown. Being away from my wife, my dogs, my athletes, my world, will surely provide equal moments of liberty and isolation. Confidence and doubt. I've set this trip up as best I can and now, with my rig, bags, and partner, waiting for me in San Diego all I've got to do is prepare to pedal. Stay tuned to how it goes.