Baja Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Q. What is this ride?

A. This is an invitation only dirt motorcycle ride the length of the Baja California peninsula. 

Q. Where does it start and end? 

A. It usually starts near Tecate, B.C.N. and runs South to the Southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. 

Q. How many miles is it? 

A. About 1,300 to 1,400 miles. The route varies every year. 

Q. How do I get on the ride?

A. You must be nominated and sponsored by a veteran. Begging, groveling and regularly hand waxing a vet's car are known to be successful paths to entry. 

Q. How many people go?

A. There are 60 riders and about 11 support team members. 

Q. Do I need to bring my own bike? 

A. There are rental bikes available for an additional fee. 

Q. Can my wife/girlfriend/significant other come along?

A. This is a guys only ride, but lots of the wives/girlfriends/significant others meet us at the end.

Q. How much does the ride cost? 

A. Not that much, but if you have to ask, this is probably not the event for you. 

Q. What's the deal about the orphanage?

A. The riders help to support an orphanage in Valle Trinidad in Baja. The kids are mostly from the streets of Tijuana. The ride and Malcolm Smith have contributed over $60,000, with individual riders also raising additional funds on their own and contributing labor and materials for special projects. 

Q. How much stuff do I need to bring? 

A. Don't bring a lot. I try to take out everything I didn't use in the previous year's ride and I still end up bringing things I don't need. 

Q. What do people wear for riding gear? 

A. The first day is usually pretty cold and wet, so most people wear an ISDE GoreTex jacket or equivalent. The rest of the way down you can usually start the day in a Pak Jak and then strip down to a jersey once things warm up. A lot of guys wear their GoreTex jackets the whole way down and open the vents for cooling. These GoreTex jackets can often pay off with greater protection in the inevitable falls, get-offs, cactus-huggings, etc. Chest protectors, body armor, pads, and high quality boots are a prerequisite. Don't scrimp on the riding gear. You will need quality gear for this ride. 

Q. What do I absolutely have to have in the way of riding gear?

A. Don't leave home without a GoreTex Pak Jak. It will keep you dry and seal out the wind. Extremely versatile, and if you ever get stranded overnight, you'll want to have one along. Just ask Bill Nichols. 

Q. If I bring my own bike, what do I need to do to it?

A. Follow the instructions in the pre-ride materials to the letter. You really do need to super-prep your bike. Buy the good tires, mount the super heavy duty tubes and use slime. Fill every open threaded orifice in the frame & forks with spare bolts, washers and nuts. Tighten every nut and bolt on the bike. Fix anything broken or worn. Count on marginal gas, so don't bring a high compression motor. Don't waste money on cosmetic do-dads. This ride is not about the bike, it's about the journey, the challenge and the camaraderie. 

Q. What do I need to know how to do?

  1. Change a tube in under 40 minutes
  2. Siphon gas
  3. Read a compass and a map
  4. Say "hello," "thank you," "which way to...,"  "how far to..." and "these are for the children" in Spanish. 
  5. Brush your teeth using your camelback
  6. Admire stunning scenery without riding off a cliff
  7. Smile

Q. How can I prepare?

A. Practice changing the tubes in both tires with only the tools you will be carrying. 

Q. How good of physical shape do I need to be in? 

A. I survived 2001 with zero physical preparation, but I wouldn't recommend it. The only way I got away with it is because I had done the ride before and I knew how to conserve my energy. There are sections where you need to stand on the pegs for a LONG time, so being in shape really helps out. Leg strength and endurance are the keys. 

Q. How good of a rider do I need to be? 

One of the incredible things about this ride is how MSA can put together an event that can accommodate everyone from a 2 to an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 in riding ability. Some of the older guys ride a low impact route and still have a great time. Mid-level riders will get all they want out of the normal course and the masochistic are happily served by Malcolm on his many hero routes throughout the week. 

Q. What if I don't know how to ride in deep sand and don't have anywhere to practice?

A. You'll survive. Follow some simple rules:

  1. Start out in 2nd gear
  2. Stand up
  3. Build up enough speed to plane the front tire up on top of the sand
  4. Add speed as required to keep the bike up on top of the sand. More is better. 
  5. Avoid the front brake, roll off the throttle and let the drag of the sand suck the speed off. 
  6. A constant speed is easier than trying to speed up and then slow down for the corners on twisty single tracks through the cactus. 
  7. Watch the fast guys and copy them. Guys like Malcolm literally never break a sweat. They let the bike do all the work and use technique to overcome obstacles. 

Q. What ages can go on the ride? 

A. You need to be 18. There are riders from 18 to their mid-70's. Most range from mid 30's to mid 40's. 

Q. Will I get hurt?

A. Well, first define "hurt." Bruises, abrasions, lacerations, puncture wounds, sprains, etc. are not really considered "hurt" on this ride. The ride motto, "just put me back on my bike" should be a good indication of the overall attitude at work here. In 2001, there were seven broken legs or ankles, four broken arms or wrists, plus various dislocations, rotator cuff and other injuries. Almost all of these guys rode to the finish. All of them got back on their bikes and rode out to the trucks. In 2001, Bob Mueller rode 50 miles out over some of the roughest terrain on the ride with a leg broken in three places and Rich Bancroft rode the last five days with a broken leg. In 1999 Mark Force rode 90 miles out with a leg fractured in 15 places. 

Bottom line: If you are are a premier rider and don't try to prove it, you'll probably be fine. If you are a mid pack guy and just ride your own pace and don't try to keep up with the fast movers, you'll probably be ok. I've gone four years with no major injuries, but I feel like a  10 month veteran in a 1942 Spitfire squadron that is suffering 180% attrition. It's only a matter of time when you're living on borrowed time. Baja is Baja, and the first second that your attention wanders or you start to feel comfortable, that's when it will happen. 

You can break your leg in the shower or on a rock in Baja. The Sons of Danger motto is applicable here: Risk, Reward. Be ready to take the risk or stay home with the remote. 

Q. Can I drink the water?

A. Malcolm says that most Baja water comes from wells, so they don't have the problems from the river derived drinking water on the mainland. I only use the water the support team provides or from sealed bottles.

Q. How do these guys know where to ride? 

A. Between Malcolm Smith, Jimmie Sones, Bill Nichols, Mark Johnson and the rest of the crew, there is probably two centuries of riding and racing in Baja experience. I don't think there is a road, trail or driveway these guys don't know about. 

Q. How much of the ride is pavement? 

A. Usually about 200 miles. The route varies every year.  

Q. If you've done this once, why go back? 

A. You'll be wondering that along about January. You'll know why within 15 minutes of leaving the start. There is nothing like being Southbound on a dirt bike, knowing that 1,300 miles lie between you and your destination, and nothing but 14 billion rocks, 600 million cactus and 2,000 fairly scary truck drivers stand in your way. 

Q. What if my roommate snores? 

For the moderate snorer, normal earplugs will do. For industrial strength snorers, the kind that sound like a dying water buffalo, complete with snorting, choking, gasping,  etc., you'll need the following recipe:
  1. Pick the side you want to sleep on about 9 months before the ride.
  2. Let ear wax build up in the non-pillow ear.
  3. Buy the best quality earplugs you can find. Get the custom made ones by a doctor if possible.
  4. Every night, have three quick margaritas, bang, bang, bang. Use the best Tequila they have, there's no need to suffer needlessly.
  5. Have a good dinner.
  6. Insert your earplugs and rotate the waxed ear skyward.
  7. Get to sleep first.