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Five Tips For Long Bike Rides, and The Rosarito to Ensenada Bike Ride (including Tijuana)

About ten years ago, during a brief residence in San Diego, I partook in a fun local tradition that dates back to 1971: The Rosarito to Ensenada bike ride, a 50 mile trek through northern Baja California. I snapped photos throughout the ride on a very rudimentary digital camera and posted them along with a writeup on one of my old sites (now available here). It was such a fun experience that I’ve decided to share it on the DOIT blog.

This bike ride is actually quite easy and well organized. I highly encourage everyone who has the chance to do it. But first…

Five simple but important tips for anyone embarking on a long bike ride:

  1. Map. Bring one. One of the great things about riding a bike is the freedom to take any path that catches your eye – but when you find yourself headed off the main road, you should make sure you know how to get back.
  2. Phone/charger. Amazing that cellphones weren’t very common little more than ten years ago. Keep it handy for emergencies. I keep mine switched off and tucked into the furthest part of my bag so I can enjoy the ride with that unplugged feeling.
  3. Food. A few Powerbars can make a huge distance when you realize you still have a couple hours before the next gas station.
  4. Water. Even riding at a slow pace is physical work. Keeping hydrated can not be overstated.
  5. Jacket. Shifting weather, setting sun, even entering a forested area can cause a big temperature drop. A lightweight biking jacket or windbreaker can be your best friend to keep you warm and dry.

And one bonus one:

  1. Training. If you know you have a ride coming up, even a few sessions around town can be a big help. If you can’t ride outside, use the exercise bike at the gym. You don’t have to go to Armstrong-esque levels, but being conditioned can make your ride much more enjoyable and is not that hard to do.


Rosarito to Ensenada Bicycle Bike Ride, including Tijuana

featuring Jason Sattler and Mike Senese

Jason and Mike woke up early, feeling the seemingly endless margaritas from the previous night. No time to waste, they geared up, ate some cereal and an orange before loading the car and heading south. A few important decisions were still up in the air, but everything would be sorted out before too long.

The Rosarito Ensenada bike ride is a 50 mile fun ride held twice a year, in April and September. It begins in Rosarito Mexico, about 18 miles south of the border. The first half of the course follows the coast, then cuts inland and upwards through some hills and curves for the second section. Finally the road heads back to the coast and into the city of Ensenada Mexico. A giant fiesta awaits the cyclists and their friends at the end of the ride . Approximately 10,000 riders participate and another 30,000 are present at the fiesta. It’s a fun time for everyone.

The morning Jason and Mike prepared for the ride, rain and drizzle lingered from the storm that had passed by the night before. Never ones to be held back, they barely gave the weather any thought. The more important problem was how to get to Rosarito by the 10:00 am start time. The choice was made to load the bikes in Mike’s car and drive to the border, and decide how to proceed from there.

When the guys reached the border, the options were A) driving to Rosarito and trying to find parking, or B) parking on the US side of the border and biking through Tijuana all the way to Rosarito. Through the wisdom of a coin-toss, the car was left in the US  and the bikes were pedaled through the gates into Mexico.

Biking through normally chaotic Tijuana in the early morning wasn’t too hard, but a series of hills at the outskirts proved to be a good warm-up for the rest of the ride. Although somewhat challenging, they were conquered regardless.

After a refreshing downhill, the guys reached the Rosarito city limits. Clouds lingered on the horizon and a slight drizzle turned into a steady rain as they reached the start line. The casual decision to bring jackets was looking smarter by the moment.

On the early part of the ride, children line the sides of the road with plastic bags and Halloween baskets yelling “Candy! Dulces!” The bikers on the ride throw handfuls of treats to them. After a quick run into one of the shops at the start of the ride, the guys were participating in this fun tradition as well.

Not long after the start, the clouds broke and a beatiful day warmed up the pedalers. Riding alongside the ocean in Mexico with the sun and waves gave the guys a few great photo opportunities.

The course eventually turns inland, passing through a small village. The road began to ascend a series of hills, culminating in one long incline that tests all riders’ endurance. A lot of work was needed, but Mike and Jason successfully powered through this section as well.

Once at the top of the plateau, a section of rolling hills and curves await the riders, leading to a rewarding downhill section that would be very scary for bikers if the road weren’t  blocked off to cars during the ride. At the bottom of the hill, the route reconnects with the coast. The city of Ensenada is very close at this point.

Finally, the guys reached the finish line, completing not only the ride from Rosarito to Ensenada, but from the US/Mexico border itself. The fiesta provided a bit of diversion and nourishment, then Jason and Mike loaded their bikes on the shuttle back to Rosarito and got to sit and relax for the easy ride back.