By Carla King
January brought a stream of motorcycling friends to my doorstep near Mulegé, a few leisurely days south of the border. Some arrived on road bikes, others on big dual-sport bikes, one on a Harley, and there were also a few on little 250s and 450s.
All started out in ones or twos but remarked on the vortex of camaraderie here in Baja, finding other riders at lunch stops, gas stations, campgrounds, and hotels. After all, there are just two roads here – Highway 1 and Highway 5. You’re likely to meet your new best friend at common stops like San Quintín, Cataviña, El Rosario, and the Mulegé beaches.
So 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 with your own bike, though rental bikes are available, unless otherwise noted.
MOTORCYCLE RENTAL IN SAN DIEGO
To the best of my knowledge 360 Motorcycle Adventures is the only bike rental company in San Diego that allows you to take their bikes, unsupervised, into Baja. My friend Sharon Faith flew from Florida to rent a BMW F650GS from their facility near the airport for our ride to Mulegé.
360’s fleet also includes the Yamaha Super Tenere, KTM 1190, KLR 650, V-Strom 1000, and Yamaha XT225.
Phillip, the owner, can lead an off-road weekend adventure for you and your friends (your bikes or his) to Mike’s Sky Ranch starting at $389, and he plans a Cabo San Lucas tour later in the year. Contact him for bike availability and to organize a custom tour for your group.
SMALL BIKE DUAL-SPORT ADVENTURES
Enduro360 is led by ex-racer Chilli White who offers KTM dual-sport motorcycle tours with a “backpack and sense of adventure” as the only requirements. His self-supported tours don’t have a chase truck or crew, and there’s an open itinerary based upon a general overall ride plan touring in dirt. You’ll be roughing it a bit though a nightly bed, good food and spirits are also on the menu. Bring your own bike (consult with Chilli on setup and proper gear) or rent one of his KTMs. Next tour dates are March 18 and April 8, 2016.
TIP! If you are planning an off-road or dual-sport ride on your own, you’ll benefit from reading Chilli’s Need to Know page.
While I’m on the subject, here’s cautionary note about off-road Baja tours. I’ve heard from people I trust that Chilli’s tours are awesome, and I can’t wait to go on one! But I’ve heard horror stories from riders who have used tour companies whose bikes constantly break down, or who don’t screen their riders (so the group is held up by the lowest common denominator, whether untrained or reckless), or who take too many people at one time, which makes it a dust (or mud) fest. So please do a thorough job of researching any company you plan to ride with before booking.
MEDIUM-SIZED BIKE DUAL-SPORT ADVENTURES
As mentioned above, 360 Motorcycle Adventures offers various sizes of bikes for rent for solo rides into Baja as well as for organized tours.
4YourAdventure uses a fleet of classic BMW R100GS dual-sport motorcycles (a great bike!) for tours from San Diego to Loreto and back. The tour is led by founder/owner Jan Vykoukal, who promises an “alternative” travel experience, with accommodation a mixture of motels, cabins, and camping and cookouts. The ride includes pavement, graded roads, and a somewhat technical section across the middle of the peninsula. His support van carries tools and spares along with camping gear and inflatable paddleboards…and you’re going to want to paddleboard on the beaches south of Mulegé!
Jan and I met at Horizons Unlimited in Yosemite last year, and several mutual friends know him and highly recommend his tours. The 14-day tour, including rental, costs $4120.
Jan Vykoukal of 4YourAdventure stops by for a quick hello.
BIG-BIKE DUAL-SPORT TOURS
BlackSwanMoto, BajaVoyager, and RawHyde lead tours from San Diego to San Felipe and halfway down the peninsula to Loreto and beyond on dual-sport bikes like the BMW 1200 GSA, the KTM 1190, and the classic BMW R100GS.
BlackSwanMoto in San Felipe offers fully-supported dual-sport adventure motorcycling tours with your own bike (or one from one of their rental partners).
Coming up March 4-7 is their Baja Explorer Tour of the North featuring the infamous Lisa and Simon Thomas of 2 Ride The World. This lively couple has been on the road continuously for 12 years now, traveling all over the world, and Baja is their latest conquest. Cost is an affordable $1495.
April 11th they come my way with their 12-day Baja Backcountry Tour for $4995. Later this year, BlackSwanMoto comes down my way with a 12-day dual-sport tour for $4995.
Ride with Lisa and Simon Thomas on BlackSwanMoto’s Tour in March.
BajaVoyager just popped onto my radar as a concierge service that “does everything from guided and supported, relaxed, scenic, “big bike” tours to SCORE, NORRA, BAJA 1000 Race support.”
Strangely, their site doesn’t provide details on tours, but my friend Brad Barker recommends them and passed me this flyer on their fully-supported tour from Ensenada to San Quintin March 25-April 2 for $1950.
BajaVoyager’s 9 Day Tour from Ensenada to San Ignacio.
RawHyde enjoys near-cult status with the big BMW dual-sport adventure motorcycle crowd. They run a 7-day, fully-supported Big Bikes in Baja tour that goes as far south as San Quintin for $2995, date not yet announced. The word on the dirt is that this is an testosterone-fueled tour with guys who have invested big bucks in these bikes and training, and are determined to ride them to full capacity.
Rawhyde Adventures Tour is Reviewed in MotoUSA Magazine.
TIP TO TIP ROAD TRIPS
Eagle Rider, MotoDiscovery, and MotoQuest all offer Baja road bike and dual-sport tours running the length of the peninsula.
Eagle Rider is widely known as a Harley tour operator but in December, I learned at the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show that they’ve had dual-sport bikes in their fleet for quite a while. They offer an 8-day northbound or southbound tour between Los Angeles and Cabo San Lucas starting at $1899 per person riding 2-up one way, or both ways starting at $3334. Rental bikes are available. The next date is southbound on April 9, 2016.
MotoDiscovery offers a fully-supported 14-day, 1800 mile Baja and Copper Canyon road bike tour for $4847, all on paved roads. Dates are Feb 20 and Nov 5. Bring your own bike to the starting line in Nogales, Arizona for the tour that ends in Tecate, California. Motorcycle rentals are not available. I’ve known and respected this company for years, have talked with them at industry events and have heard good things about them from riders I know. I also know them via friends like Christopher Baker, who leads their Cuba tours.
MotoQuest leads a 9-day, all-pavement guided tour southbound or northbound between Long Beach and Cabo with bike rental included starting at $4500. I know and respect this company from meeting them at industry events, word of mouth, and via friends like Sarah Shilke who leads their Alaska women’s tour.
YOUR QUESTIONS AND EXPERIENCES?
I know there must be more tour operators who run trips to Baja, and I’d love to hear about them. I’d especially like to hear about your experiences with any tour–good and bad–via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Much appreciated!
Carla King is an adventure travel journalist and author of the Motorcycle Misadventures series of realtime online dispatches and books about her travels around the world. She’s based just south of Mulegé, an oasis town on the Sea of Cortez, and San Diego. She rides anything but is currently enjoying a Kawasaki KLR650, BMW R100GS Bumble Bee, and a KTM 350 EXC. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook and sign up to get news via her website at www.CarlaKing.com.