The Desert del Vizcaino is a vast and sandy place. Lael will pass this junction this morning en route to San Ignacio.
Lael called this morning while riding the pavement out of Vizcaino. She sounds good, and since I’m always listening for that raspy voice that gasps for air, I listen closely. I don’t hear it, but I can tell she has suffered. Her voice is that of an aged woman, but her energy is high this morning. She is proud to report that her most recent strategy is to sleep at any time of night, even early in the evening, and set her alarm for 4 or 5 hours later. Since there are a requisite number of dark hours she will ride every night, it is more efficient and more rewarding to rest early and tackle the night riding after a few hours of sleep. She has done this several night consecutively and last night she bedded down at 8:15PM and awoke at 1:45AM, a total of about 5 hours of sleep. Last night was the first night that it wasn’t truly cold. Most other nights have left her shivering, forced to curl up into a ball despite tight joints and muscles. Lael says that it would be more restful to be able to stretch out at night. She wishes she had brought her sleeping bag after all. At some point in the last few days she bought a pair of sweatpants and a plastic garbage bag for more insulation. Days and nights will be warming as she continues south. However, she said yesterday was really hot.
Passing El Arco last night puts Lael into the southern state, Baja California Sur, and into the Mountain time zone. This morning, just beyond Vizcaino, she crossed the half-way point of her ride. Thus, the greatest hurdle has been met and the remainder of her ride will be framed as a countdown to the end. No less effort will be required, but mentally, Lael should soon be able to envision her finish at the plaza in San Jose del Cabo.
Trail conditions are surprising in some places. Compared to January and February when we toured the length of the route, most sandy sections are now very soft. Aside from some heavy rains in the north around the first of the month, the south has been dry for weeks. Once the sand becomes dry, it only takes several vehicles to loosen up the sediments and make them very challenging to ride. By lowering her tire pressure, even on somewhat narrower 2.6” tires, she is able to ride most of it, but not without great effort. From years of riding in the snow in Alaska and in deserts around the world, riding in soft conditions is a strength. Oddly, the sandiest section on route from El Arco to Vizcaino wasn’t bad, she said. This is a famous 7-10 mile track of deep sand along a perfectly straight line. Apparently it was mostly rideable.
Lael also reports that her bike is awesome— especially with the 100mm RockShox SID fork and the BodyFloat seatpost. Both pieces of equipment were chosen to provide an efficient and capable platform. The SID fork is highly active, and does well will the high frequency-low amplitude obstacles found on much of the route such as washboard roads and dirt tracks strewn with cobbles. However, the newest SID also features a Charger damper, borrowed from the Pike fork, and provides extremely controlled suspension for those more technical sections. For instance, riding at night takes a certain amount of faith in your skills and equipment, and Lael trusts this fork for those times. She toured the route recently on the Lauf fork, a simple and extremely lightweight carbon fiber leaf-spring design. For fast riding on average quality dirt roads, she loved it. For the rough stuff, it would not have been the best choice for this particular type of ride, especially considering how much night riding she would be doing. Lael will likely to ride the Lauf on longer tours in the future, and would surely use it on something like the Great Divide Route or if racing the Tour Divide. The Baja Divide is substantially more rough and technical than the Great Divide.
The BodyFloat seatpost is a new take on the suspension seatpost concept. Rather than a vertical telescopic suspension post, it shares the parallelogram concept of a Thudbuster, but is unique is most other ways. Whereas the Thudbuster often has loose bushings right out of the box, the BodyFloat does not have any play, yet moves very freely as intended. Rather than using one of two elastomers to tune the ride, the Bodyfloat comes with four different spring options coded in different colors. The design actually uses two springs in concert, and of the four available spring rates, those can even be mixed and matched for further tuning. A tool free adjustment dial is also included to adjust the travel and feel of the post on the fly. Mostly, once it is set, you leave it. But for greatly different terrain, a rider can make minor adjustments while on a ride.
So what is a suspension seatpost for? Surely, comport is paramount in almost all kinds of riding, and keeping your butt and your body happy while pushing close to 150 miles a day on rough terrain is important, but there is an even greater reason. By isolating the rider’s weight from the rear wheel, suspension losses which result from each impact are reduced. Lael can also focus more on pedaling the bike forward, rather than managing the impacts which are translated through her frame to her body. In theory, there are merits to having a full-suspension bike for this ride, as well as a standard hardtail. Our best estimate for this particular endeavor is this bike, where the simplicity and efficiency of a hardtail is preserved but rider comfort is maximized and suspension losses are minimized with the BodyFloat. Considering the amount of food and water that Lael is carrying on many sections, the framebag space on her hardtail Fuse is very important. She packs a up to 6L of water in a bladder in the framebag, along with as much food as can fit. Overflow food is packed into the Mag Tank, oversize Jerry Can, and the Viscacha seatbag.
I caught up with Lavanya yesterday, who is the recipient of the “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship for the Baja Divide. Lavanya and her partner Al, along with their friend Derryn from Australia will greet Lael in San Ignacio today. Lael and Lavanya have never met. Another Baja Divide rider from Guadalajara named Agus is also in town waiting for a replacement fatbike tire from Ensenada. The second half of the ride from Vizcaino to San Ignacio is very sandy right now, and finishes with a two mile ride/hike through the date palm oasis that makes this town famous. Lael will be happy to get to San Ignacio, which is followed by the longest section of pavement on route, a pleasant 25 mile pedal on a quiet secondary road to Laguna San Ignacio, a shallow lagoon on the Pacific coast. Lael reports that her knees hurt at times— it comes and goes, she says— and often there is something that hurts enough to conceal other aches and pains. For no particular reason, Lael also says she is bleeding everywhere. Scratches from cactus and perhaps the occasional tumble, along with daily nosebleeds from the dry air, have left her looking a little uncivilized. She arrived in Misson San Borja a few days ago and while filling water in the plaza, a man began asking her questions. He finally pointed out that she was bleeding from both of her legs, unbeknownst to her.
At the time of writing, Lael has ridden 800 miles on route with less than 750 miles to go. Aside from a few miles of pavement beyond San Ignacio, she will also look forward to miles and miles of fast flat riding on the dry lake beds from Laguna San Ignacio though El Datil, assuming the winds are working in her favor.