Former Olympic cross-country mountain biker Sam Schultz doesn’t worry so much about his watts-per-kilogram or power numbers at this point in life. He’s more about enjoying time on his local trails of Missoula, Montana, or during the winter, looking for warmer riding destinations. Just before the entire world locked down, Sam and his girlfriend headed down south to Mexico to enjoy everything the Baja Peninsula had to offer.

“We set off on an open-ended month-long road trip to Baja with no agenda other than to visit a friend in his winter home of Los Barriles, Baja, and see what we could get up to on the way to and from. After piling bikes, paragliders, miniwings, and dogs into the van, we pointed it south. Los Barriles is about 60 miles from the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula and as we found out, there is a lifetime’s worth of exploration to be done between the California border and our destination.”

“The sunshine, endless beaches, sweet trails, and world class kiteboarding that we had heard so much about did not disappoint. My well-deserved water sport nickname, the ‘wet cat’, rang true as I tried to get the hang of kiteboarding. Days of getting rag-dolled through the ocean while trying to harness the power of wind and water made the comfort and familiarity of shredding bikes in the evenings that much sweeter.”

“Both Los Barriles and La Ventana have extensive mountain bike specific trail networks that range from ravine-swooping flow to rocky chunk that takes every bit of focus to cleanly pick through. It’s obvious that the locals have put a ton of work into the trails and were stoked to share them.”

“Some of my favorite trails climbed into the foothills above the sea, yielding epic sunset views and ripping descents. The trails are lined with every type of cactus you could imagine and after cutting one high speed corner in La Ventana too tight, I smashed my hand into a cactus at full speed. The spines impacted my bone and two months later, my pointer finger is still double its normal size. It’s not only the cactus that can bite you out there, and I was told to do everything in my power to avoid a collision with the hummingbird-sized tarantula hawk wasps. Baja will keep you on your toes.”

Since returning home to snowy Missoula just prior to the Covid-19 situation locking down borders, the singletrack and watersports found in Mexico have been replaced by skiis and a fat bike. Keep up with Sam Schultz on Instagram at @samschultz13.

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