Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean south of California, west of Mexico, the Baja Peninsula encompasses four deserts, roughly 3,000 kilometers of coastline, and the right mix of challenge and remoteness to attract intrepid travelers of all kinds. For those of the bikepacking variety, a relatively new route has quickly become a must-ride: the 2,692-kilometer Baja Divide. Those with schedules to keep may take on the Divide in sections, riding for a week or two before hopping on a bus back to where they started. And then there’s Sònia Colomo.
“This past December, I decided to quit my job and start a project with my partner Eloi to ride the best mountain bike routes in the world. So, we sold everything we had, and with that, we started this trip.”
Speaking over unreliable internet from a rented room in Oyon, Peru half a year into an open-ended cycling adventure, Sònia explains the couple’s big life change.
“The idea had been in my head for a while, but after Covid, when we had to spend almost two years at home, we said, ‘Ok, it’s either now or never.’”
Working as both a pediatric physiotherapist and university teacher in Catalunya, Sònia credits a busy schedule with providing the appropriate push for the pair to follow their current path—that and a desire to do something together they both love.
“We just wanted to spend more time outdoors riding our bikes. Back home when we were both working so many hours, we only saw each other nights—or weekends, if I didn’t work. At some point we said, ‘Ok, we need to make a change.’”
And change they did, selling or putting into storage everything that couldn’t fit on their bikes and trading the comforts of home for a nomadic life on the road. First stop: California.
“We stopped working in January, and our flight was on the 11th, so we didn’t have much time to prepare. Once we landed in the States, we said, ‘Ok, do we have everything because this is going to be our life from now on.’ We didn’t even know if we’d packed everything we’d need.”
Feeling underprepared, but not inexperienced, the sudden shift in lifestyle may have been new for the pair, but extreme journeys by bike were more familiar, having competed in ultra-endurance races in locations around the world. Of course, there are considerable differences between getting ready for a race and taking off on a months-long journey.
“With a race, you know that it’s going to be three days of suffering, and then you’re going to be back home recovering. Here, it’s more like, I want to be able to enjoy the process. If I ride 40 KM, it’s fine. If I ride 60, it’s fine. If I ride 20 because I’ve arrived in a place that’s beautiful, that’s fine, as well. Whereas in an ultra-race, I have to ride 270 KM in a day non-stop, sleep one hour, then keep going if I want to win.”
Packing is another area that called for a different approach. After all, how do you bring everything you need to maintain a healthy, comfortable daily routine in just a few small bikepacking bags?
“Because we weren’t going with typical, big panniers, we couldn’t pack too many things. We had to choose and say, ‘What do we think is essential?’ So, a down jacket, raincoat, a couple of bib shorts and t-shirts for riding, and long leggings and a long-sleeve shirt for sleeping in. There’s not much clothing in our bags because the rest of the space is for food, tools for our bikes, sleeping bags, our cooking set, everything. We don’t have much, but we have the basics, and there’s nothing missing.”
Yet despite the major shift to a minimalist lifestyle, Sònia and Eloi felt ready to embrace their expedition, departing San Diego and riding south to the US/Mexico border and the beginning of the Baja Divide.
“The first day when we started riding, both Eloi and I weren’t talking to each other. We were just trying to move our bikes; they were so heavy. It was like, ‘Ok, this is going to be our home for the next I-don’t-know-how-many months.’”
“We camped that first night at the top of Otay Mountain in the United States. The next day, we crossed the border, and from one meter to the next, it was a completely different reality.”
Heavy bikes, rough roads, and a new routine—add that to the knowledge that each challenge came as the result of a conscious decision to change, and the first few days presented a conundrum for the pair: Why does this new, more simplified life feel harder than the hectic, yet familiar schedule found back home?
“Everything was hard in the beginning. It meant trying to get used to a completely different life in which you don’t have any routine; the routine comes later. But in the beginning, it’s only about getting food, finding a place to sleep, and how many kilometers you’ll ride that day.”
“Being a person who usually gets up at six, goes to work, deals with all the kids, goes to uni, comes home, corrects exams, goes to sleep for a few hours—and suddenly, I had nothing to do. It was really a big change. At some point, you start thinking, ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’”
However, with each passing kilometer, the pair began to fall into the rhythm of life on the road. Before long, what once seemed difficult became just another part of the day, while pressures and expectations of what they’d left behind were replaced by an embrace of a slower, simpler schedule.
Yet, it’s one thing to leave behind a lifestyle, something else to leave those you love. For this, the pair had a plan: stay connected to friends and family back home through social media.
“We started an Instagram account together and a YouTube channel on which we post different video blogs. It’s a way to keep connected with our friends back home. It’s going to be a long time before we see them again, and for us, our friendship is important.”
Another benefit of their social accounts is staying in touch with those they meet throughout their travels.
“Baja Divide is a really popular route for people from the United States. You don’t always find them riding, but in the small towns, you meet other cyclists. And as soon as you do, you add them on your Instagram and keep in touch to see how they’re doing. The community in bikepacking, whether in Baja or somewhere else, is amazing. You make friends everywhere. We haven’t met anyone who’s a bad person. Everyone is really friendly; everyone wants to be riding. Everyone is just like you.”
Of course, fellow bikepackers aren’t the only travelers Sònia and Eloi encountered while riding. In fact, one of their favorite memories came from a chance encounter with adventurers of a different kind.
“Near the Pacific coast, there was one section that was three days with no towns, nothing. We found a place that was a bit off route, but super nice to camp. There was a group of surfers who were staying there, and they invited us to stay, too. We spent the whole day with them surfing. It was dreamy—amazing waves—I could have cried. I could have lived there. I had everything I wanted: my bike and a surfboard and the perfect waves.”
Another fond memory for Sònia came courtesy of the Divide’s unfamiliar landscapes.
“We were on the coast and started climbing one of the biggest mountains we’d been on. It was almost dark, so we decided to camp. The next morning, we woke up, and we were in the middle of the Valle de los Cirios, surrounded by massive cirios (a tree in the ocotillo family) and super huge cacti. It was amazing. We’d ride for 100 meters and stop to take a picture, then another 100 meters and stop to take a picture—it was so beautiful.”
As the couple worked their way further south, temperatures rose—as did their resolve. Instead of growing disheartened or frustrated as they may have in the beginning, they simply adjusted their schedule and carried on.
“In the southern section, it was so hot during the days, that we had to stop for a couple of hours at midday because it was too warm to ride. We’d start really early in the morning, ride some hours, and stop for lunch. And in the afternoon, we’d start riding again.”
Even when the trail turned into a washed out—or worse, washboarded—mess, and going was slow, Sònia and Eloi kept pedaling, knowing that so long as they continued, eventually they’d reach the end of the peninsula.
“From the beginning, we knew we’d get there at some point. We’re really stubborn, so if we want to do it, we’re going to do it. There were so many days, though, where you’re dying. You’re super tired thinking, ‘We’re never going to get anywhere. There’s no place to camp. We have no food. This is shit.’ But then you just camp wherever you can. The next morning, you get a bit of sun, you eat something, and you see things differently again.”
Hard work met reward when, after 42 days of riding, Sònia and Eloi reached San Jose del Cabo and the end of the Baja Divide. For most, this would mark the conclusion of one epic adventure. For these two, though, it was an ellipses on the final page of a first chapter. So how did they mark the occasion?
“We had a huge ice cream, and for the next three days, we just rested a bit, and then we got the ferry to mainland Mexico.”
The significance of their accomplishment was not lost on the pair, however—even if their journey was only just beginning.
“It was a release. We had done it. It was the first adventure, and it went well. The bikes worked. The bags worked. Everything was ok. If we could do this, we were prepared for the next part. And that felt great.”
You can follow Sònia and Eloi’s ongoing travels on Instagram at Wheelprint Stories and discover highlights from their Baja Divide ride on Komoot.
This article is part of a sponsored partnership with Komoot. We’ll always disclose when content is sponsored to ensure our journalistic integrity.