Bang, flap-flap-flap an ominous sound emanated from our back tire… It had been a long three-day drive from my amigo’s house in Los Gatos when the rear tire of our typically trustworthy Chevy exploded down a dusty road only 25 minutes from our destination. Up to this point we took the long way around, blissfully cruising along to our destination. Our excitement for arriving immobilized the possibility of further breaking down. After a quick tire change and with only two miles between where we stood and our ending point, the Chevy ran on the fuel of our passion for this spot.
The Baja California Peninsula hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years that I’ve been going there—a comforting constant to my annual trip. While home to beautiful scenic deserts, it is not really known for its mountain biking. Nevertheless, for the last couple of months that I had been planning my trip the thought that kept arising in my mind was, “how will I get e-bikes there to enhance my exploration?”
This notion was sparked by the memory of my experience in each year prior- hauling down the old bicycle and trudging around a hot flat desert or the years in which we tried bringing the motorcycle only to create a dust bowl in the camping area or badgered to keep it down with the sound. Needless to say, neither of these was a memory I wished to repeat after almost three decades of the same. This year, all I could imagine was a quiet, pedal assist bike to blast up and down the unique terrain of the desert coastline.
After shopping around to investigate the different options, I decided on the Haibike SDuro. With the pedaling capacity of three times the normal output, the choice was a no brainer for the challenging landscape of Baja. With that, I purchased two of the exact same models, loaded them along with boards and sails into my truck and headed down to the windsurfing competition I attended each year – this time with new adventures to be had on the Haibike SDuro.
Though not a place that draws in the everyday cyclist, Punta San Carlos has had quite a few of mountain bike’s greats come down for some fun. Among these are Cam McCaul and Brian Lopes, who have been more than once, as well as several motorcycle pros who I’ve heard claim it to be pretty dang epic. With legendary windsurfing and surfing, a competition on the horizon, good company, and a new bike in tow, my week’s recipe was nothing short of delivering epic times.
The main purpose of the trip was to compete in a windsurfing competition, however, one caveat to windsurfing is that it is not always windy so most of the athletes that compete also find another activity to spend their time on—for me and a few others that activity is biking. Luckily for me two of my friends also attending the competition would prove to be invaluable to enhancing the biking portion of the trip. Ingrid Larouche, a 4 time American wavesailing champion, who also competed in the pro enduro mountain bike tour, would amplify our motivation to adventure in the region and Joey Sanchez, local pro windsurfer and fellow partner of Solo Sports Adventures, would give us the insider knowledge of someone who knows the trails inside and out.
As we wobbled up to the camp on our spare tire, our rim destroyed, we were greeted by a camp full of fun. My brother was there and his birthday wish was to break in the new Haibikes and head for the hills. We quickly unloaded the truck and blasted out to the trails. What a start to an epic week.
The best thing about Punta San Carlos for mountain biking is is the never-ending trails. .Literally. If you were ever to get tired of the trails, all you have to do is make a new one in sculpting adobe dirt that enables going pretty much anywhere you want to go. We road around the trails that they had mapped out and for a place three hours from nowhere, the trail system is pretty incredible. It has everything from super easy to rock drops, to untouched mountain carving like you see in the mountain bike movies. It was awesome.
We climbed nearly every hill in sight just powering up with the pedal assist getting us to places probably never really ridden before. The craziest thing about having the peddle assist is how quickly you can get out into the middle of nowhere. Being a three hour drive from any town or even any store that sells a simple Coca cola, when you start pedaling away from your base camp for an hour, you feel pretty small in hurry.
As we ventured farther and farther away from camp, the beauty of this place started to really show its magic. Cactus gardens, steep untouched sandy downhills, rock gardens, and a view of the ocean from about any vista we climbed up, made for unreal beauty. About 10 miles from camp there lies a cactus garden that overlooks the ocean in the background. All this magic basically still untouched by human development. The remoteness, the air, the lack of sound, not a cell phone receptor for miles, instantly takes you back to where we started, simplicity. If you need to disconnect this is the place.
Just down from the cactus garden, lies the badlands. An erosion of nature just perfect for making anything you want. Want a new trail? Get a shovel out, heck just ride it three or four times and you will have a new trail. The possibilities are endless. Having Joey guide the way around makes our lines pretty easy making for some fun and giggles from our crew. From the badlands you pedal back up a slight hill for the infamous downhill trail with some small jumps and turns and basic awesome riding all the way back to camp Solo Sports.
Solo Sports has been doing Baja for over 35 years now and they know how to do it right. Keven Trejo, a baja veteran started running camps down in the Nada bus before settling down and setting up a base camp at the end of the two hour dirt road. As things have progressed, now they have a landing strip capable of landing a King Air if you got the bucks. Solo Sports has now ditched the Nada Bus and is pretty much offering exclusive plane rides if you want to bypass the two hour dirt road. I myself have never flown as I enjoy the drive but that might change when I end up taking a 2 hour flight instead of a 8 hour drive from San Diego.
The camp has some legendary cooks, as well as their infamous Baja Fog that sets the day to an end quite nicely. A baja fog is a bottle of Corona, topped off with Tequilla, and a hit of lime juice to make it all go down oh so smooth. Just keep yourself in check after a long day on the bike and in the sun.
Our next few days consisted of surfing, biking, and windsurfing making the trip fly by. Not a moment went with out playing some sort of sport, and by the end of the day, you crawled into your tent, took a breath of ocean air and passed out to the ocean waves washing against the cliffs, dreaming of doing it all again the next day.
The highlight of the trip was looking at the tallest mountain closest to camp. Everyday I would get up, go for my morning rituals, viewing the cross on the top of the hill. It was a hiking trail they deemed “the top of the world”. I looked up there and as poetic as it sounds, don’t go where the trail leads, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail. I couldn’t keep my mind off going to the top of the world and bombing down a rocky sketchy downhill. I managed to convince Joey that it was a good idea and with the cameras rolling we bombed down it. Untouched downhill leaving a trail. I can’t say that I rode it well but I can tell you I made it down.
Moment after moment being filled by biking, waves, beers and good friends made for a warped sense of time as the end of the six-day trip came to what seemed like an abrupt end. I was left with the longing to return that I leave with year after year. Out there with just the land and ocean, out there with the return to enjoyment of human-to-human interaction, out there without limits, I was reminded to appreciate just how small I am in a world of such endless expanse. If you ever get a chance, this is one of the best places on earth, you just don’t know till you go….
For more information head to solosports.net
Words: Kevin Pritchard Photos: Kevin Pritchard, Casey Hauser, Clark Merritt