Monday, January 16, 2017

How to plan a mountain bike trip to Mexico. Racing in Mexico with Trail Quest - Worldwide Mountain Bike Tour

Traveling, touring and racing in Mexico was an amazing experience.  For those who may be interested in creating a similar trip, I have documented what I really enjoyed, who to contact and ways I could have been better prepared. ...since I really didn't prepare at all, that last step wouldn't take much.

With a three week break in my race/event/clinic schedule, I was able to head to Mexico Oct 24th-Nov 17th to race two enduro races and play tourist. With no time or knowledge with which to plan, I depended on Trail Quest to sort out all the details and guide me on great trails.

Tour Guides 
As a mountain bike vacation for any mountain biker, Trail Quest - Worldwide Mountain Bike Tours is highly recommended. Their local knowledge and skill level along with a flexible structure allows them to offer pre-built or custom packages.

My Plans 
Race these two 2016 races
Oct 29th and 30th Day-of-the-Dead-Enduro outside Oaxaca, Mexico 
Nov 12th and13th BME Sierra Madre Enduro in Moscato, Mexico

As most of the USA BME racers would vacation in Sayulita before flying home, I planned to fly into Oaxaca and out of Puerto Vallarta. Trail Quest would provide all transportation from Oaxaca to Mascota (Oct 24th-Nov 8th). USA racers were to be at the BME race so I planned to travel with them for the rest of the trip.  

My Trip 

Only a few hours after finishing up the three-day TORCA Pachanga Festival in Tucson, AZ I packed my bike and headed to the airport on a 3am shuttle not knowing what to expect. I would be traveling alone until the second race.

Flying a new-to-me airline is always interesting, Interjet from Mexico City to Oaxaca was extremely impressive, clean and new, no bike bag fee and free tequila. Trail Quest hired a driver to pick me up at the Oaxaca airport. It was a one hour drive out of the city and up a narrow winding dirt road to a little village where the rest of the folks were staying in cabins. I can't speak Spanish and the driver didn't speak English so we listened to each other and smiled. 

It was a lot colder than I had expected, riding temperatures were perfect with a jacket, but night temperatures were very cold. I used as many Mexican blankets as I could and we built fires in the cabins to stay warm at 2,000-3,000 meters above sea level. I had expected a town, a place to buy anything I forgot to pack, or in this case a warmer jacket. We were in a little village of ecotourism, a self-sufficient little village without typical stores.

Trail Quality: Each tour is built to accommodate the style of bike, terrain, and trail you prefer. The enduro trails we rode in the Oaxaca, Mexico area were amazing. We were shown trail systems in three different areas, moving lodging each day and only riding each trail once. As our group was comprised mostly of enduro racers, we were shuttled to trails with minimum pedaling.  Only on the third day did we pre-ride the Oaxaca Day-of-the-Dead Enduro Race trails, on the fourth day we raced. 

Photo Credit: @diegosebastianmt
Non-race trail that finished at our cabins at the finish of Tour Day 2

Expert Guides 
Alvero, Mauricio and Santiago are very skilled riders with great personalities.  The tour felt more like an outing with friends. Chasing each other down the trail, following them off jumps, working on bikes together and celebrating with dinner and drinks at night was much more exciting than a typical mountain bike tour.

It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to put together this experience alone.  Had we been able to find maps of the trails, hire drivers, plan routes, hire guides and acquire lodging, it would have been much more expensive and taken many times as long to execute, not to mention the time required for planning prior to travel.

The cost is extremely reasonable so my recommendation is not to skimp on the fees, comfortable accommodations after long days on the bike are worth it. Relaxing and letting someone else figure it all out is worth every penny.

If you prefer your own space, climate controlled hotel rooms with warm showers, etc. then I would recommend paying more for comfortable accommodations. 

However, there are budget plans available for someone such as myself. For those who like roughing it, sharing rooms with other clients and living in mountain cabins with smoky wood fireplaces, this is the route to go. Bottom line, you can plan the trip to your comfort level. 

The key is to fully understand what you desire and to discuss your expectations in detail with the Trail Quest guides ahead of time, they are more than helpful in designing a trip to fit your budget and needs.


The flexibility Trail Quest offers its clients means they may not have specific details on addresses or trail routes too far ahead of time. With so many options for trails and accommodations they try to remain fluid, enabling them to make changes based on the client’s skills and preferences.

For the detailed planner, this may be a little hard to grasp so talk with your guides. Every evening ask for the next day’s plans while realizing they may change due to weather, everyone’s energy level, etc. It was amazing to have local skilled riders as guides, not only show us the local trails but also the local culture. I would love to go back and ride each of those trails again and meet up with all the friends I made. It was not your typical tourist vacation, but something special.

Race #1

 Race Finish, Tired and Happy.  
Thanks @nicoswit-photo for the great picture

 Oaxaca Women's Race Podium

1st Place Women's Trophy



The Oaxaca race may have been my favorite race as the trails were fun on a 6" bike and the Mexican locals were extremely welcoming, friendly and helpful.

Oxacxa City Non-Bike Activities
After four days of riding, including participating in the Day-of-the-Day Enduro Race we moved to a hotel in Oaxaca City to spend the Day-of-the-Dead festival days as non-bike tourists. Staying within walking distance of the festivities, bars and restaurants at the plaza meant we could shop, eat and rest as we pleased.


One day included a trip to the most majestic of Oaxaca’s ancient ruins, Monte Alban Ruins.

End of Tour Quest Guided Tour
This ended the guided tour, I then spent a week in Mexico City, but didn't see much and didn't get a chance to ride. Everyone was busy catching up on laptops.  Alvero then drove me to Sayalita to meet up with the USA racers.

Stuff Happens
The first day there we went on a "Jungle Spin", no pads, Alvero didn't even wear a t-shirt.  Somehow I launched off the bike, rolled and hit a huge palm tree that didn't move. I thought I would have to fly home, was 99% sure I wouldn't be able to ride.

Straight to the bar for lots of tequila. 

The bartender showed me a trick to alleviate pain. He put a red tablecloth behind my neck and had me alternate pulling on each side. The rubbing on the back of the neck must interrupt signals going to the brain or something, it worked.

Turns out I dislocated the collarbone behind the clavicle. It popped itself back later that day but was more painful than a broken collarbone. Soft tissue damage is the worst, it still hurts and it's been two months now.

On the painful ride from Sayalita to Mascota. Thanks to the guys for taking care of me!

Once in Mascota, I crept down a few stages for a pre-ride, still not sure why I would want to try racing. But I have an entire summer of experience racing with a broken collarbone that wouldn't heal and those compensation techniques kicked in.  Luckily I had brought real pain killers that I know I can race on. Sleeping or laying down was so painful that I figured I may as well ride. I ended up racing really well and am so glad I went for it. The trails were fun, especially the last stage!

When I got back to the USA, Dr. Butzen in Durango said he would have kept me off the bike for six weeks because of what could happen if it dislocated again. In fact he asked me to quit riding, but I went to Tucson, AZ to test bikes for VitalMTB.

Race#2 BME Sierra Madre in Mascota

BME Race Photo Credit: @diegosebastianmt

To Sayalita to be tourists
with a Raicilla distillery stop along the way.