Bob Congdon, Mike Loomis mountain bike 680 miles of Baja Divide
September 3, 2018
From the editor: The following is excerpted from the Summer 2018 issue of Steamboat Living magazine, highlighting locals' top adventures from 2017.
While the rest of us were praying for snow on Mount Werner in January, locals Mike Loomis and Bob Congdon were pedaling through sand while biking 680 miles of the 1,700-mile Baja Divide Trail, to be exact.
Loomis and Congdon joined four other former bike tour guides they worked with at Berkeley's Backroads Adventures 25 years ago, with the seed for the trip planted when the official Baja Divide route was released in fall 2016.
This article is from the summer issue of Steamboat Living magazine.
Developed by Nicholas Carmon and Lael Wilcox after two consecutive rides down the peninsula, the bike-packing route crisscrosses Mexico's Baja Peninsula, ranging from dirt roads to singletrack with nominal pavement.
"We all pinged each other and said, 'Hey, I’m doing this … want to go?'" said Loomis, who works for local bike manufacturer Moots. "We felt it was an opportunity that wouldn’t come along again, getting all of us with a three-week window at the same time."
The key was the logistics provided by fellow riders David and Jennifer MacKay, who live in Alamos, Mexico, and run a small hotel and bird guiding business. They speak Spanish, know the area and organize trips for a living.
"We staged at a friend’s house in Encinitas, where we reassembled and rigged the bikes over New Year’s Eve," said Loomis, who with Congdon rode a Moots Mountaineer mountain bike. "On Jan. 2, we shuttled 100 miles to the small town of Ojos Negros, where we picked up the Baja Divide trail."
With two of the riders returning home after two weeks, in all Loomis and Congdon spent 19 days on the trail, riding more than 680 miles and gaining 50,000 feet of elevation. A typical day would see them roll out of camp around 8:30 a.m., ride all day and finish up just before dark.
"But we did have to ride with our headlamps on several times," Loomis said.
They each carried 14 liters of water when fully supplied, which combined with food and camping supplies, made the bikes weight more than 80 pounds. The longest stretch they rode without resupplying was 130 miles along the coast, while their toughest day saw them humping up washboard-filled hills and negotiating sand well past darkness.
"We could see the lights of a town in the distance, but it never seemed to get any closer," Loomis said. "We finally stumbled into Santa Rosalilita to find only one store, where we bought out the last of their burritos and a 12-pack of cold Tecate. Then we sat on a trashy beach to share the camaraderie built from our shared suffering."
Staying in motels five nights and camping the rest, their only mechanicals were a few derailleur adjustments and broken cages — but not one flat.
"It's a challenging tour, with heavy bikes on rough, rocky, sandy and washboard roads," Loomis said. "And it's very remote. Food was a challenge to find. We'd gorge ourselves at restaurants, then have them package up burritos for the trail."
Nearly 700 miles later, after riding three coastal sections — two along the Pacific and one along the Gulf — they finished in the town of Vizcaino, where they bused to Loreto and caught a plane back to Los Angeles. David and Jennifer continued another week to La Paz.
"It's bike touring, but in the total wilderness," said Congdon, a regular on his backyard Emerald Mountain trails. "Each day, we'd ride until we decided we were done, then pull over and camp. Sometimes, this was at a beautiful spot in the desert and others at a great beach.
"But it's a spectacular spot," he said. "I was down there for two days and was already figuring out how to come back. If that area was in the U.S., it'd be a national park."
As for highlights besides the setting and camaraderie?
"Lobster burritos on the beach in El Faro," he said. "We should have ordered twice as many."
To reach Eugene Buchanan, call 970-871-4276 or email ebuchanan@SteamboatToday.com