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BAJA BICI ADVENTURE
With BRIAN LOPES
and RICHIE SCHLEY
WORDS Stephanie Nitsch PHOTOS Ian Hylands

It doesn’t rain much at Punta San Carlos, and when it does, every small ditch along the 60 kilometer dirt road becomes a river of flash floods that can leave any car – or caravan, in our case – stranded for longer than you want to imagine. We pulled off Highway 1 in Baja, Mexico and debated our predicament: turn around and stay the night in a town some 40 kilometers in the opposite direction, or gun it through the sloppy road and hope we don’t get stuck. Camp was too close to give up, and the thought of waking up to a bounty of private singletrack was enough of a reason to try our luck. Tequila-fueled shouts of encouragement drowned out the sound of giant mud puddles that curled over the top of our vans as we crept closer to PSC. If Kevin was hesitant about our decision, he didn’t show it.

Kevin Trejo has operated SoloSports Adventure Holidays at the PSC alcove since 1987, when he and a few friends stumbled upon a plot of oceanfront land in Baja Norte. Originally conceived as a remote windsurfing outpost, PSC has attracted windsurfers and kiteboarders to its famous breaks for years. Now in its 25th year, Kevin has started hosting shreducational camps for mountain bikers who want to polish their riding skills alongside a few pros, like during the Brian Lopes’ Baja Bici Adventure last November.

First night at Punta San Carlos is also the first night at the bar.
  Tired travelers happily arrive after a long drive and are greeted with fresh margaritas at the Solosports cantina

Neil mixes up perfect margaritas every night at Punta San Carlos.
Neil mixes up perfect margaritas every night at Punta San Carlos.
Neil mixes up perfect margaritas every night at Punta San Carlos.

An elixir of salty air, ocean breeze and a blazing, yellow sun woke me from my canvas tent at 6am the next morning. Whatever grey, drizzly weather that had been chasing us the night before cleared up when we arrived at camp. This little outpost had been spared most of the previous day’s squall and saw just enough rainfall to turn the desert Baja talc into smooth, grippy soil – if only for a day or two before drying back up.

Sunrise over the ocean at Punta San Carlos.
Sunrise at Punta San Carlos
A rack full of bikes waiting in the early morning sun.
Pelicans at sunrise at Punta San Carlos

We headed out on a group ride that morning – our first real chance at feeling out everyone’s personalities and riding styles. Group dynamics were nothing short of eclectic and random. Between the 15 of us, we covered the spectrum of skill levels, from pro-level crushers to occasional weekend warriors and every style in between. On and off the bikes, entertaining didn’t begin to describe it.

Brian, along with Richie Schley, Leigh Donovan and PSC’s Joey Sanchez, took to the front, while the rest of us fell into a steady riding order, working our way to the Top of the World. From our vantage point atop this trail, Kevin pointed out the confines of the property – bound by the Pacific on the west and south; barricaded by the 2,000-foot mesa to the east; and limited only by your physical endurance to the hazy north. Whatever this little world was that we had traveled to, we definitely seemed to be standing on top of it.

Brian Lopes carries his bike up the long trail to the top of the mesa at Punta San Carlos.
Ouch definitely need to watch out for the cactus
Leigh Donovan on top of he mesa at Punta San Carlos
  Punta San Carlos has it's own hazards, the main one is probably cactus. From the top of the Top of the World trail it's a long hike to the top of the mesa overlooking the camp, but once you're there you're greeted with amazing views of the surrounding countryside. Leigh Donovan, stoked to actually be on top of the world.

Richie Schley and Joey Sanchez ride down the mesa trail at Punta San Carlos.
Brian Lopes and Richie Schley ride the mesa trail down through the cactus garden at Punta San Carlos.
Brian Lopes and Richie Schley ride the mesa trail down through the cactus garden at Punta San Carlos.
Leigh Donovan rides through the cactus garden on the trail down from the mesa at Punta San Carlos
Richie Schley Joey Sanchez and Leigh Donovan ride down the mesa trail at Punta San Carlos.
Brian Lopes Richie Schley and Joey Sanchez ride through the cactus at Punta San Carlos.
Leigh Donovan and Joe Bettitina ride through the cactus at Punta San Carlos.
  From the top of the mesa it's an epic rip down to the Top of the World, and then a choice of which way to go. Whichever way you choose to descend, be wary of the cactus...

Brian Lopes rides through the cactus at Punta San Carlos.

The geography at PSC is unique. Vast, deserted and parched. Desert life is depended on the unique micro-climate that rolls into the U-shaped cove at PSC. Arroyos are eroded by years of muddy flash floods and continue to etch out geographic features that invite scorpions, tarantulas, coyotes and mountain bikers to explore the hoodoos and other curiosities within the dried creek beds.

Brian Lopes in Punta San Carlos Baja Mexico
Richie Schley rides his bicycle near the Solosports Camp at Punta San Carlos Baja Mexico.
Brian Lopes in Punta San Carlos Baja Mexico
Brian Lopes in Punta San Carlos Baja Mexico
Brian Lopes in Punta San Carlos Baja Mexico
Richie Schley rides his bicycle near the Solosports Camp at Punta San Carlos Baja Mexico.

Altogether, nearly 100 miles of handbuilt, private singletrack are up for grabs at PSC. The terrain isn’t extreme, but it’s far from dull. Climb a little. Descend a little more. Flowy and fast. Loose and playful. Whatever swooping, low-angle trail you choose, you’ll eventually funnel back towards PSC, where the camp meets the rhythmic waters of the Pacific and a cold Baja Fog is waiting at the bar. If you don’t like any of your options, there’s no IMBA to stop you from blazing a new trail. If you do, bring a shovel and carve your own line, Rampage style. “It’s like the Wild Wild West out here,” Brian said to me. “No one’s gonna tell you what you can and can’t ride.”

Brian Lopes and Richie Schley ride along the coastline trail at Punta San Carlos in early morning light.
Brian Lopes and Richie Schley ride along the coastline trail at Punta San Carlos in early morning light.
Richie Schley and Brian Lopes having fun on a trail near the Solosports camp at Punta San Carlos.
Richie Schley and Brian Lopes having fun on a trail near the Solosports camp at Punta San Carlos.
Richie Schley and Brian Lopes having fun on a trail near the Solosports camp at Punta San Carlos.
Brian Lopes in Punta San Carlos Baja Mexico
Richie Schley rides his bicycle near the Solosports Camp at Punta San Carlos Baja Mexico.
Brain Lopes leads Richie Schley down a trail at Punta San Carlos.

But we didn’t come here to film or throw down serious tricks. In fact, few of us had anything to prove on a bike. We were just there to ride – and maybe learn a thing or two from Brian, himself. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure here at the PSC camp, and that includes learning (or lounging) at your own pace.

Throughout five days, we flowed trails like Dad’s and carved huge slalom turns on the sandy Snake trail, picking up a few riding tips along the way. Whatever idea of “progression camp” I had, this wasn’t it. No structure. No scheduled group sessions. No unsolicited advice on improving your style. Simply put, it was the Baja way. But ask for some help on powering through technical switchbacks or balancing your flow on the pumptrack at basecamp and Brian would break it down, step by step.

Brian Lopes teaches a pumptrack clinic at the Solosports camp at Punta San Carlos.
Brian Lopes teaches a pumptrack clinic at the Solosports camp at Punta San Carlos.
Brian Lopes teaches a pumptrack clinic at the Solosports camp at Punta San Carlos.
Brian Lopes teaches a pumptrack clinic at the Solosports camp at Punta San Carlos. Here he demonstrates for the participants.
Brian Lopes gives a clinic on cornering at Punta San Carlos.
Brian Lopes gives a clinic on cornering at Punta San Carlos.

Between rides, most down time was spent exploring tidepools on kayaks, standup paddleboarding among curious seals or gorging on whatever homemade Mexican feast the senoritas de la cocina whipped up three times a day. Tamales, enchiladas, lobster tacos, pozole soup and huevos rancheros induced pre- and post-ride food comas every few hours. And the friendly fisherman from the village two miles down the road were happy to exchange their catch of the day for some cervezas and a few laughs.

Richie and Joey thinking about a mid morning paddle session.
Brian Lopes teaches the group how to properly bunny hop and demonstrates over his wife Paula.
Paula Lopes with a freshly baked gluten free pizza at Punta San Carlos.
Campers feast on some fresh crab at the Solosports camp at Punta San Carlos
Stephanie helps herself to an amazing home cooked Mexican meal at Solosports.
Another day done another great dinner. Cheers to that
Kevin Trejo with fresh Lobster for dinner
Lobster

Free-flowing Baja Fogs only added to our comatose state. This regional beverage is known to result in rowdy nights and haggard mornings. Its recipe is simple. Corona, tequila and lime. But it’s a mind-erasing mix of a generous shot with a built-in chaser that quietly picks off its victims, one at a time, until this little slice of paradiso shuts down for the night, only to reopen for business a few hours later.

Two Baja Fogs coming right up The Baja Fog is made by filling the neck of a Corona with tequila then adding lime juice to create the fog
The Baja Fog tip it all the way back and drink the neck in the first shot or else you ll be sipping a tequiza for the next little while...
evening at Solosports centers around the bar.
Brian Lopes

Getting there:
Brian Lopes will return this November for the second annual Baja Bici Adventure, November 10-17. Punta San Carlos is located 250 miles south of the California-Baja border, and about 20 feet from the Pacific Ocean. Arrive to PSC by either van or plane via San Diego. Expect a 10-hour drive with a few pit stops along the way in the van. Or cut significantly down on your travel time and fly along the Pacific coastline in a single-propeller plane. You’ll pay a little more, but the extra time on the ground and the views from the plane are worth it.

Check out www.solosports.net for more info on the Baja Bici Adventure and to book your spot, or email baja@solosports.net
Must Read This Week

41 Comments

  • + 3
 Why does everyone think hes a DBAG lol? Hes such a chill guy lol. U can stoop and chat with him in laguna and hed be glad to give u pointers. Man I gotta go back to mexico. trade in a seat of a prerunner for a bike.
  • + 2
 gotta admit, he looks a lot less dickish in this feature
  • + 1
 Yeah I'd have to agree, while taking the time to point out that looks can be very deceiving. Dbags can be goofy lookin' too you know Wink .
[Reply]
  • + 3
 I went last year and had a blast (I''m, the guy with the cactus stuck to his leg). Can't wait to go back. Can't make it this year though, baja...Fog Me Frown
  • + 3
 Smiling with several pointy things stabbing into your flesh. I salute you, sir. And keep on truckin' with them socks!
  • + 1
 I think those are Kappa socks.. and those things really hurt when you take them off, they open like arrows inside your skin... we ride on the other side of the Golfo, in San Carlos, Sonora, but we don't have anything like that here yet.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 amazing photos! and pretty sick riding, would give lopes shit for not wearing a helmet but honestly he's brian lopes he's not going to crash and if he does the helmet wouldn't be needed anyway
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Been to Punta San Carlos once for 10 days before anyone had really started mountain biking there. Epic place, great surf and kitesurfing, brutal camping if you don't stay in the campo, but one hell of an adventure!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 That is excellent photography. I could foresee alot of those photos being PODs. excellent: possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Gee let me think, if I had to fly overseas for an event, would it be that boring race across Mongolia or this??

This!

In fact, I think it just pushed the BC Bike race down into second.
  • + 7
 I'd love to fly to BC for an event called "new life, a don't look back" Big Grin
  • + 1
 surfing and windsurfing there is superb - although for an Aussie perhaps like coals to Newscastle
[Reply]
  • + 2
 been there a couple of time and great riding epic place , and the camping well if you brig all the kit , it is just fine...
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Stupendous story and purely beautiful pictures! Every image is surreal! RideOn!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Were you guys hiking your bikes to the top? I don't remember many roads going up those hills when I went there years ago.
  • + 1
 Yes, to get to the top of the mesa the only way up is the same as the way down. There is a road, but it starts a long ways away and the shuttle would take hours...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Balls!! Cactus Balls!!!

The riding looks epic. Bet it's scorching hot there by 10:00am though..
  • + 2
 Actually in November it's quite nice all day, and cool enough in the evening that everyone was wearing puffies or sweaters...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Amazing Ian. This is an incredible set of images.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Nothing like bajaa!!!!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 that just looks amazing
  • + 1
 Yes It does!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Haha now i want a Corona to.

Awesome update! Smile
[Reply]
  • + 1
 ahahhaha lopes an his bottle water cage mythic !
  • + 1
 that't the only place to put one on an IBIS, ... you always drink, dirt first!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Just a great day!Big Grin
[Reply]
  • + 1
 PODs spawning
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Yeah so want to do this!
[Reply]
  • - 1
 I like how they water down the beer right in front of you.
[Reply]
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