This article first appeared in the May 2021 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
After spending months barely leaving the house because of COVID stay-at-home recommendations and because it was too hot to be outside anyway, we were happy to join in the call for the Bike Travel Weekend from Adventure Cycling Association and the Swift Equinox Campout from Swift Industries. We invited friends and the local community to come along for an overnight bike camping trip.
We shared a 130-kilometer circuit surrounding Hermosillo, Sonora, that my partner Daniel had traced and that we had explored during the summer. It’s about 70 percent dirt roads and 30 percent pavement with an easy level of difficulty and compacted gravel roads connecting small towns and ranches.
The route was split in two days since it was going to be the first bikepacking experience of our companions and because the heat would not allow us to move for a big part of the day. Hermosillo is a city with a desert landscape and a great diversity of endemic flora and fauna such as mesquite, palo verde, palo fierro, tortoises, reptiles, and others. This is the landscape that surrounded us during the two days of riding.
We created an event on Facebook and shared the route information that we considered to be important, and we also gave updates and shared advice that we thought could be of use for the people inexperienced in traveling by bike, such as what to bring and how to carry water, gear, food, or tools.
Fourteen people registered, from which six actually showed up and some others would join in along the route.
I liked the diversity of people and bicycles that gathered. Silvia is a women’s rights activist and performance artist. She decided to bring her hula hoop along with her Trek 820 Antelope. Denisse is a plastic artist and yoga instructor, and she brought her best adventure pants. An Ho is an outdoors enthusiast who practices slackline, and this was his first bike touring experience. He was the best example of DIY bikepacking. Javier is a bike messenger and brought his Bianchi with 700c x 32mm tires on dirt roads for two days. Arturo is a competitive cyclist who races mountain, road, and fixie; he used his Ibis Hakka MX in bikepacking mode for the first time. Miguel is a veterinarian from Colombia; he hauled his dog companion Kiwi because he wants to train her to travel by bike all the way to Colombia. Daniel decided to bring his first traveling bike back to life, a 26 x 2.0in. Univega Alpina 700, and I dusted off my 27.5 x 2.8in. Surly ECR that I had been using to explore the trails near home the last few months.
We left the meeting point at 6:00 AM, after which some people joined us along the road to the first regroup spot, where we had breakfast and hung out at a restaurant. Then we headed to the next spot where Amalia had prepared soy ceviche and nopales with chile colorado. We had asked her for a vegan-friendly menu because we had vegans and vegetarians in our group, so she mixed our dietary needs with traditional food from our region. In Hermosillo and its surroundings, it’s still hot even in late September, so we decided to spend the hottest hours of the day in a park under the shade of the trees. At 3:00 PM we continued on our way to the camping spot through one of the prettiest segments of the route. The sun was really hard on us and made me reduce the intensity of my pedaling, but as a group we stayed together throughout the ride.
Right at sunset, we made it to the last segment just before our camping spot. We came across gates and sandy patches, and we were also surprised by a group of cyclists who joined us to camp and hang out. We were all tired because of the heat more than because of the route itself; many of us didn’t bring a tent and just brought a tarp and a bed sheet instead. At 8:00 PM, we were each on our beds and ready to sleep. It was a quiet night full of stars, with fresh air although a bit of moisture.
We woke up before sunrise and prepared a diversity of breakfasts: peanut butter sandwiches, oats, bonfire-fried potatoes, and even eggs with corn tortillas. The group that had joined the previous evening departed after packing their stuff because they had work or things to do that day, and our friends Miguel and Kiwi left early because he had to go to work. The rest of us continued with the route on a steep, rocky downhill that made three riders fall down. After finishing this segment and before moving on to the next one, Arturo and Silvia decided to head back into town — the heat was already scorching — but Denisse, Daniel, Javier, An Ho, and I wanted to continue. After an hour of riding on a sandy road, the group decided to shorten the route as we didn’t have enough water or energy to finish the last 30 kilometers.
We ended up making 100 kilometers in total. The following days, we all had different levels of dehydration and heat exhaustion; some had to be treated with intravenous fluids to recover electrolytes. After recovering, we were already talking about a rematch with this route, maybe in the shape of a long day ride once the temperature is apt for it.
We wanted to say goodbye to summer in Hermosillo, but summer said goodbye to us.
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Thanks for sharing Ur adventure. Having never been to a desert I did not grasp what U do most everyday. Gave me a new insight into riding there. Sorry so late in wrting a comment.
Thanks again & I enjoyed the adventure.