Here we go, My name is Burt “Bling” Neal and I am going to try and remember the trip and give you guys some insight as to what we see through our goggles over 8 days and 1400+ miles of Baja. This is all off of memory and it’s been almost a month since we ended the ride, so I’ll do my best to remember details and highlights. I’m not a professional writer by any means so try to move past the errors and ill structured sentences.
Day 1- Tecate to Ensenada (Horsepower Ranch)
Like last year I was lucky enough to represent Bulletproof Diesel on this adventure and this year I was super grateful to have received the same support. Ken Neal of Bulletproof Diesel provides chase and stellar pit support to the #14 and #16 DA/Monster Energy trophy trucks piloted by Cameron Steele in several different races throughout the year so to have their boys chasing us with 3 of their set-up trucks always puts your mind at ease because they bring their A game every time. BPD including myself is located in Mesa, AZ so we decided to get up way too early and make the trek to the Tecate Border the day of the ride. We didn’t run into any issues and made it on time at the USA side of Tecate, which is typically where we stage every year. Seeing all of the boys, vets and fresh fish, is always a great feeling especially anticipating the adventure that was upon us.
We spend a lot of time before the trip making sure that our equipment, mind and body are up for the task at hand. This isn’t your normal weekend ride around the local hotspot. We line up at the border crossing and end up in Cabo eight days later. For the super talented or elite that’s not a problem, for the quazi fat guy (myself) weekend warrior it’s a gauntlet of epic proportions. Bike prep, mental prep and body prep is the main focus so hydrating weeks before along with ensuring that your bike is in tip-top shape before you line up is really important to a successful ride. If there is anything loose or jenky on your bike, believe me, it will fail in Baja. This year after putting 2 Rip to Cabo rides, A Hellride, multiple local desert races and a few other rides on this tired 2006 Honda CRF450x I decided to rebuild the motor top to bottom as she was beat. Having a fresh set-up was a nice feeling for sure. Next was suspension, I firmly believe that this is one of the most overlooked and important things to do to your bike. AS-Racing out of CA has been a company that I have heard good things about over the years so I decided to send off my boingers to Paul and to try it out for myself. Service was unbelievable, a super quick turnaround time, since I was an idiot and waited to the last minute to send it over, and constant communication via text, facebook or phone was something that I didn’t expect, but was very assuring that I had made the right decision. We resprung and fully revalved the fork and shock. Riding the bike with it set up correctly was also a welcoming change, the harder I charged the better it worked, A+ stuff coming out of there for sure. Normal consumables, such as, tires, Mousse bibs (foam inserts instead of inner tubes), sprockets and chain were installed along with a rad new plastic and graphic kit from BPD to set the bike and myself apart from the rest of the riders.
In years past I had been running the 8” Baja Designs HID light, which is an amazing light. The downfall was the weight and fatigue that was felt over the long ride. I had been seeing the new trend of LED lights in the market and the desert races that I attend and it so happens that Rigid Industries is located in my backyard a few miles from my home. A buddy had a connection there so I thought this trip would be a great way for Rigid Industries to diversify into the bike market with their plethora of LED offerings. My buddy connected Taylor Anderson and I and over lunch we hit it off so we decided to build a bracket using OEM mounting points and we chose a SRQ2 6 led driving light set up to mount up and put through the ringer.
The nice thing about the set up is that it’s way lighter, very bright and the mounting bracket allows you to use a wide variety of LED offerings that Rigid has in stock. The light worked flawlessly by the way. Super satisfied and excited to mount up some of the other light options on my truck and other toys.
Ok, on to the riding! We do a quick riders meeting led by Cameron Steele and ended with a prayer delivered by Mr. “11-Time” Johnny Campbell. Gear up, bring the bikes up to temperature and we single file towards the border crossing. It’s such an experience to cross the border on the bike. An overwhelming sense of fear, uncertainty, excitement and anticipation is what is filling my mind. Whose bike is going to get the first flat, who’s going to be the first candidate for the coveted donkey award, I hope it isn’t me! We head down the hill and group up at a park to make sure everyone is accounted for and slab it towards our destination for the night, Horsepower Ranch just outside of Ensenada. Let’s talk weather, we had rain during the prior week and it was a possibility that there would be rain on this day, well, there was. Coming from hot and dry into rain was a welcoming surprise, that and I get to wear my cold weather riding gloves and jacket that have collected dust over the last few years. We tear off the road and on to the dirt towards the pine trees where we were greeted with fresh chocolate cake due to the recent rains.
Epic! Enduro 360’s Chilly White led the trail this day and he led it right into a little moto heaven. Some smooth cakey two-track the led us higher into elevation where we all stopped for our first gas fill up and snow! Yes, it was snowing on us for a short while and I was so glad I opted to set up my roll off goggle system the night before, it paid off tremendously. I believe a few miles before this point we had our first bike malfunction. Cameron was super adamant that we all run Mousse Bib foam tire inserts in our tires to remove the risk of running a flat, which is warranted. I ran a front bib and a tube in the rear because, 1) I’ve never blown a rear tube with a UHD tube and Slime and 2) I don’t like the feel of the bib on the rear, a bit sloppy once it breaks down. Well, the first malfunction was a tire blowing off the bead. Anyone that’s installed a bib knows how much of a “B” it is to do and it’s pretty easy to break the inner bead of the tire while trying to mount it to the tire, which renders it useless. So it could have been a broken bead on the tire or a mis-sized tire and bib combination that caused the issue, who knows, but it was a bummer and could’ve been a bad deal if it sent the rider off the bike into harms way. It ended up all was good and we moved on down the trail towards Ensenada. I vaguely remember some single track that had some miniature rock climb sections that were kinda fun to watch some riders flail out on. Then the trail went a little wet as we followed a small stream for a few miles that had a pretty gnarly boulder climb that was about a 4ft vertical face that you had to trials to get up and over. To add to the difficulty it was soaking wet so when it was my turn I was hoping that I wouldn’t give anyone a show, especially because the camera crew was there to witness the chaos. A guy in front of me misses the climb and take a digger back down the face and I’m psyching myself out already. I planned on just splatting the face with my rear tire and bouncing up the rest of the hill with ease, well, in my mind it went that way. With it being wet my bike didn’t want to lift the front tire so I hit it as straight as possible and I slipped the clutch with a bit too much throttle and it sent me airborne superman style up and over. I ended up off the bike, but landed on my feet to the right side of the bike and I had the bars still in my hand so I played it off pretty good by just walking it down a few feet and jumping back on the bike like nothing happened, ha-ha. Definitely sent my heart rate a little higher than I like it! Here is a brother cleaning it the right way.
into Horsepower Ranch.
We parked and immediately went to the grass area where there were some typical Desert Assassins shenanigans lined up. Last year we had split up all the riders into 3 “squads” so that there could be competition or “fray” battles done every day for bragging rights. Team captains had to be picked so the “Desert Bull”, Tim Sanchez, has 3 of our on-bike Fire Fighter/Paramedics strip down to tighty whiteys put on a dress and run an obstacle course where they had to put themselves through a dirt tire, run to the end, turn around back through the tire and to the finish line. Here’s the battle scene.
First place got to pick team members first and so on and so forth down the line until there were 3 complete teams. It was definitely some comedy to finish out the night. Dinner and a few beers rounds out the night as we head to bed in anticipation of what was to come on day 2. Here is yours truly ending the day with an ice cold cerveza.
Day 2: Horsepower Ranch to Gonzaga Bay
More to come…….