By Carla King
Updated April 2018
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 the companies I know about.
Have I missed anybody? If so, please let me know in the comments.
MOTORCYCLE RENTAL IN SAN DIEGO
You can rent a bike from 360 Motorcycle Adventures and cross the border into Baja, unsupervised. See their site for current bikes: BMW R 1200 GS, F800 GS, or 650 GS Serta, or a Suzuki V-Strom 650, Honda CRF 250L, or Piaggio MP3 250. My friend Sharon flew from Florida to rent a BMW from their facility near the airport for our ride to Mulegé with no hassle. The bike was in great condition, too.
Eagle Rider in San Diego will also let you cross the border with one of their Harleys, also unsupervised.
Both companies offer Baja tours as well.
SMALL BIKE DUAL-SPORT ADVENTURES
Enduro360 is led by ex-racer Chilli White who offers 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 off-road ride plan. You’ll be roughing it a bit, though a nightly bed, good food, and high spirits are also on the menu. Bring your own bike (consult with Chilli on setup and proper gear) or rent one of his KTM 450 EXCs.
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.
Did you know there was lush forest in Baja?
A 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 flown into Baja and 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.
Trail Boss Tours in Cardiff by the Sea (Greater San Diego area) has been offering off-road motorcycle adventures in the West and in Baja since 1993. You’ll ride a Yamaha WR 450 or 250. They use support trucks (“rolling workshops complete with all the tools, snacks and fuel, you will ever need…we have room for a friend that you may want to bring along for a four-wheel adventure”). Beaches are a thing, here.
Captain Baja Adventure Tours specialize in off-road motorcycle trips that are custom tailored for groups by gringos who actually live in Baja. You’ll ride KTM 450 SXFs. They offer “single-day rips” and standard tours of 3, 4, 5, and 6 days. All led by Captain Kirk, an experienced pro rider in the Baja racing world. Looks like he’s got a convert.
Baja Bound Moto offers off-road motorcycle and ATV tours in Baja (2-9 days) on Honda CRF 450X or 660R or Polaris RZR. A support truck hauls your luggage, equipment for repairs, and a spare bike. The rides start and finish in Tecate where you’ll leave the bikes and they’ll drive you across the border to your San Diego airport or hotel. Hey, check out this view!
Ad-Moto Tours offers an eight-day, 900-mile advanced off-road tour on a KTM or Suzuki. The tour “leads you through the fascinating scenery of northern peninsula Baja California in Mexico. The route takes you through Jeffrey pine and oak forests, high mountain meadows, desert chaparral and cactus forests, along the deep blue sea to heights of the Sierra de Juárez up to 5000ft above sea level. Does this look fun to you? Of course it does!
BIG-BIKE DUAL-SPORT TOURS
BajaVoyager, West38 Moto, and RawHyde lead dual-sport motorcycle 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.
West38 Moto was founded by my friend Dusty Wessels who has a long history of off-road motorcycle training and leading tours. A lot of the riders he trains follow him down to Baja on the 8-day Baja Discovery tour which circles to Bahia Los Angeles and back hitting both the coasts of Pacific and Sea of Cortez.
BlackSwanMoto in San Felipe offers fully-supported dual-sport adventure motorcycling tours with your own bike (or one from one of their rental partners).
BajaVoyager is a concierge service that “does everything from guided and supported, relaxed, scenic, “big bike” tours to SCORE, NORRA, BAJA 1000 Race support.”
RawHyde enjoys near-cult status with the big BMW dual-sport adventure motorcycle crowd. They run a seven-day fully-supported Big Bikes in Baja tour that goes as far south as San Quintin. The word on the dirt is that this is a testosterone-fueled tour with guys who have invested big bucks in these bikes and training and are determined to ride them to full capacity.
TIP TO TIP ROAD TRIPS
Eagle Rider, MotoDiscovery, MotoQuest, and California Motorcycle Tours all offer Baja road bike or dual-sport tours running the length of the peninsula.
Eagle Rider is widely known as a Harley tour operator but they also have dual-sport bikes in their fleet. They offer an 8-day northbound or southbound tour between Los Angeles and Cabo San Lucas one way or both ways.
MotoDiscovery offers a fully-supported 14-day, 1800 mile Baja and Copper Canyon road bike tour, all on paved roads. 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. 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 450 EXC. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook and sign up to get news via her website at www.CarlaKing.com.