I am so excited to share my experience cycling the Pacific Coast Highway and Baja California (The initial route in Mexico was off road known as the Baja Divide… but this got changed due to various problems....). This was an adventure I’ll never forget! Although it was freeing and a major accomplishment, I ran into a few roadblocks and setbacks along the way. I’m happy to share my discoveries, bike issues, and more with you.
Whether you’re planning your own PCH/Baja Divide trip or thinking of another adventure, I hope to inspire you to take off and savour all that a challenge has to offer.
I flew out to Vancouver on September 4, 2018 to begin my cycling journey along the Pacific Coast. I cycled over 4,000 km down the Pacific Coast Highway to San Diego, before crossing the border into Mexico to then cycle the Baja Divide to Cabo San Lucas.
Choosing a Bike
A few days before I began my trip, I purchased a bike in Vancouver to ride throughout the entire Pacific Coast Cycle adventure. After much research, I concluded I would experience smooth riding conditions along the entire route. I chose a road bike and added a bike rack, bell, lock, mirror, and a pump to it. As I left the shop with my new bike, it sunk in that I would be spending hours on end riding this bike through various weather and road conditions for 2,000 km.
I later realized that riding the Pacific Coast Highway and the Baja Divide were very separate challenges. They each needed a specific bike and unique gear. The Pacific Coast Highway’s smooth, road-like conditions were what I had prepared for. Whereas, the Baja Divide was an off-road, mountain biking route which required an off-road bike and sturdier gear. Luckily, a member of the Tough Girl Tribe (Thank you Ellen!) offered to let me borrow her off-road bike for my journey through Baja California. I picked up the bike as I passed through LA and continued on.
Dealing with Bike Issues
As I arrived in the deserts of Baja California, my chain suddenly snapped. I had no knowledge of how to fix it and was worried I couldn’t continue the ride without a chain. Luckily, one of my biking partners knew exactly what to do, spent a bit of time working on the chain, and we continued on our way. Three days later, my bike rack broke because of the weight of the belongings I was travelling with. Although I intentionally packed light, I still carried food, water, clothes, a tent, pillow, sleeping bag, and electrical gear.
Finding a Place to Stay
Throughout the challenge, I stayed in various types of places. Many campgrounds offered biker/hiker rates. Warm Showers, a hospitality exchange for bike tourists, was immensely helpful. Through the community, I met with host families along the route that provided a warm bed and shower. I often stayed in motels and occasionally spent the night in a hotel. I also stayed with people I’d become friends with online. Some of these sleeping arrangements I’d booked in advance, but most nights I would end my ride and find a place to stay nearby.
Meeting Fellow Adventurers
I enjoyed cycling and exploring, but especially loved meeting and travelling with a variety of people throughout the adventure. I not only met people in numerous towns along the route but many patrons from the Tough Girl Tribe! For someone who enjoys spending the majority of her time with herself, I realized that spending time with other adventurers excited and motivated me even more. I also discovered that I don’t have to be alone to be independent. I could utilize the knowledge and guidance of others to successfully achieve a personal goal instead of having to figure it out by myself.
In order to safely cross the border from America into Mexico, I arranged to ride with two other cyclists who I had connected with via a Baja Divide Facebook Group. At one point, we had climbed up a steep hill and as we were riding down, I started hearing a squeaking noise coming from my wheels. My bike came to a screeching halt and the pedals stopped moving. The bike rack had broken, fallen down and was caught in the back wheel.
My two partners kept going and didn’t know that I was stuck. After doing all I could to fix the bike, I couldn’t get it to work so I decided to walk with the bike. After walking for over four hours, hoping I would run into the other cyclists, I came across a family in a truck that graciously drove me to the nearest town.
As I arrived in the town I saw my partners and I was a little upset they’d left me stranded in the desert. With those emotions going through my mind, I settled down for the night and later decided to complete the journey alone.
Enjoying the Journey
I made sure to take time along the journey to pause, take in the view and appreciate the joy of travelling. I loved the freedom to get up, get on my bike, go for a ride and camp at the next spot. I relished cycling to new places and choosing where I wanted to stay each night whether that was on a beach, campground or in a friend’s home. I truly felt like I found freedom in this cycling challenge.
Although I ran into a few setbacks throughout the trip, I met wonderful people, saw beautiful views, accomplished a personal goal and experienced travelling on a bike. After the adventure, I decided that instead of travelling alone, I want to travel more often with friends. This was a huge learning experience and an incredible adventure. Thanks to the Tough Girl Tribe for supporting me every step of the way!
Listen to the podcast episodes - Planning and Preparation for the Pacific Coast Highway & the Baja Divide!
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& what happened during the challenge!
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Watch the vlogs!
(Don't forget to subscribe to the Tough Girl Youtube Channel!)