All About Motorcycling and Other Adventures in Baja
Where to Stop in Bahia Concepción
Bahía Concepción (Conception Bay) is a bay within a bay on the Sea of Cortez about halfway down the peninsula. Many travelers who were planning on making the grand tour of Baja get kind of stuck here–and not in a bad way–deciding that La Paz, Cabo, and Todos Santos can wait for mañana. I agree! This rugged paradise is the real “old” Baja suitable for exploration by bicycle, motorcycle, 4×4, RV, car, and boat.
But Bahía Concepción isn’t for everybody. If you like glitter and glam, fancy clothes, staying up all night, and hotels with room service, keep on going down the road. Local restaurants provide entertainment with their rotating music and movie nights, but everything pretty much shuts down at 9:00. We call it Baja midnight.
If you’re heading to Baja to slow down your life, you’ll be happy here. Bring your kayak, or hire one, to do a little island hopping, dig your toes in the sand, sip a cerveza con lima and watch the dolphins emerge from the dark blue-green sea in lazy arcs… read on for details about the beaches, restaurants, campgrounds, palapas, hostels, and homestays on our bay. Read more.
If you live far from the border or ride smaller dual-sport or dirt bikes, you may want to trailer your bikes to Baja. Jonathan bought his trailer about 30 years ago and has modified it to perfection for hauling bikes, an inflatable boat, outboard motor, and kayaks or paddleboards. He started with a Big Tex 6×8 utility trailer with a 3500 lb.-rated axel, but there are plenty of other brands to choose from. You should be able to find a basic trailer for about $1,000, and you can get the welding done for a few hundred dollars. Read more.
Prepping the Baja Dual-Sport Expedition KTM 450 EXC
My goal for 2017 is to explore the trails of Baja Sud by motorcycle, especially to scout out and map a trail from our Sea of Cortez paradise on Bahía Concepción west over the mountains to Scorpion Bay (San Juanico) on the Pacific side. I’ve found a KTM EXC and building it out to make it the Baja dream bike with options that make it more stable, durable, tourable, and easier to ride (lowering!). Includes steering stabilizer, footpegs, skid plate, foldable mirrors, tires and inner tubes, lowering, custom seat, Reklus clutch, high-capacity flue tank, cargo rack, duffel/pannier system. See it here.
What to Expect from a Motorcycle Ride in Baja
I want to share some blogs and forum posts from other riders that will give you a good idea about what to expect when you ride independently in Baja. I’ve included reports from bloggers who ride different kinds of bikes. I can’t stress enough that you can bring any bike–whether it’s a 250 dual-sport or your big road cruiser and anything in between. Speeds are slower here, and so is life. You can hurry up again when you get home. That would be mañana, or maybe the day after.
But before we start, I want to address border crossings. Where to cross is the number one question riders ask me. There are three crossings in the San Diego area. Which to choose? Read it here.
Motorcycle Tours and Rentals in Baja
Don’t be afraid to hop across the border on your own bike or to get a rental and come on down on your own. For those who prefer the certainty of a tour, whether for an assurance of safety or companionship, here’s a list. And yes, I’m planning to lead a tour or two (stay tuned!) but, for now, I’d like to point you to companies I know and which have been recommended by friends. Prices quoted are
Prices quoted are with your own bike, though rental bikes are available unless otherwise noted. Get the details here.
Sea of Cortez: My Whale Shark Magic Carpet Ride
It revealed itself to be indeed, a brown and black spotted whale shark, its head wider than the length of my 14-foot board. I laughed aloud as it glided slowly beneath me. It came almost to a stop and then rose under the board, taking me for gentle magic carpet ride.
Its back was dappled like leopard skin and flat, a squat rectangle before tapering off at the end to the tail, and was about the size of a train car. I no longer had the impression of floating, but of being borne atop the water. I had unconsciously raised my paddle like a tightrope walker so as not to touch it. Was it pushing me along with its dorsal fin? There was no bump or jolt, just a smooth little ride. Then, after a friendly nudge, it was gone. Read the whole story.
My First Solo Motorcycle Adventure in Baja
About a day’s ride south of San Diego my chain went slack. Foolishly, I hadn’t packed my chain-tightening tool. Limping and scraping into El Rosario at dusk, I checked in at one of the town’s two motels and went looking for el mecánico. There’s always a mechanic in these little towns and they always have the right tools, especially along the route of the famous Baja 1000 off-road race. Even if I couldn’t find the mechanic, I knew I’d be able to count on the owner of at least one of the dozen or so bikes parked outside of the motel. A few steps later I spotted them at Mama Espinoza’s. I grinned when I recognized my friend Joe. It’s a small world along Highway 1. We had a great dinner and my 10 newest best friends formed an enthusiastic pit crew to tighten the chain. Read about it here.
How it is to Motorcycle Baja: Voices of Experience
I invited some motorcycling friends to contribute to my Discover Baja column to provide perspective, advice, and favorite rides from their recent forays into “The Baja.” I also suffered through a week of Semana Santa, Mexico’s busiest holiday, a must-miss for road-trippers. And a little spill in a town called Jesus Maria. Oops!
Mike Colyar is out on the trails so often, he’s become our unofficial trail scout here in the Mulege area. Who better to ask for a favorite ride? If you’re lucky, you may be here on a day there’s a group ride; a mix of Jeeps, Land Cruisers, and bikes, often leaving from Daniel Bukovecz’s Automotive and motorcycle shop at the north end of town on the highway. You can follow Mike (handle Gulliver) on the Baja Nomad forum.
Off the Beaten Path: Getting into Trouble, Getting Found, and Getting Home
As an adventure motorcyclist, I am often asked how I make sure I’m found, transported to medical services and eventually back home to the US if needed. Whether you’re staying on the well-traveled routes or wandering off onto the dirt tracks to fishing camps, missions, and oasis, here’s what you need to know. This post is for anybody on two or four wheels, boating, hiking, diving or flying in Baja.
But first, an observation. Mostly, I’ve seen people get hurt when they’re following friends where they shouldn’t, like the three guys I wrote about in an earlier post, one of whom had the wrong kind of bike for dirt track but followed his friends on big dual-sport bikes, anyway. He would have been smarter to meet them on the highway further south where the trail meets the road. He barely managed to limp out with broken bones and a broken bike. His trip was over.
Accidents can happen anywhere, but that doesn’t mean they’re common. Baja is generally safe with friendly people, spectacular nature, and considerable opportunity for exploration.
Read on for information about personal satellite messengers, emergency medical, travel insurance, search and rescue, and getting back home. Find the story here.
Cool Destinations for Summer in Baja
Temperatures in Central and Southern Baja soar to over 100 degrees in the summer so stick to the north until the mercury drops in October. Here are some cool—in both senses of the word—destinations.
- Guadalupe Valley
- Playas de Rosarito
- Sierra San Pedro Martir
- Meling Ranch
Destination: Whatever, Whoever, Whenever
Plan to let plans change for a companionable adventure
I’ve heard it said that there are two kinds of motorcyclists; those who ride for the sake of riding, and those who ride for the experience of where it takes them and who they meet. If you’re the latter type of rider, or if you aspire to that mode of travel, this post is for you.
By all means, scour the Discover Baja website for things to do and places to go and make plans. But plans are made to be broken. Once on the road, many of us are surprised to find that we have fallen in with another rider, or group of riders or overlanders at the obvious places–taco stands and gas stations, beach motels and campgrounds. Have you ever pressed on to complete your plan or meet your goal, only to feel empty inside, realizing that it didn’t mean as much as you thought it would? If only you had stuck around to get to know those people who were heading off to find a secluded beach. Maybe it would have been more fun to go with that group who hired a boat for island hopping and clam digging. Perhaps you might have spent the time and money to recharge your internal batteries at those beachside cabanas with a pool? Let Baja teach you about the joys of living in the moment.