The Biltwell 500 wasn't for everyone. Leading up to the event, many people showed concern for the bad rep Baja banditos have given the peninsula. Those who saw through the media hype enjoyed the ride of their life. Riders from as far away as Canada, Utah, Colorado, Jersey and Texas made the trip, and there were even a couple guys from Southern California. Riding your two-wheeled freedom machine to somewhere fun is really what it's all about, and these guys proved it.
A microscopic subculture of young, hard-riding rebels is starting to grow within today's broader chopper scene, and nothing lights its fire like an invitation to Mexico. The Biltwell 500 was just such an event, and for the 35 or so hardy souls who attended this four-day fiesta, Baja did not disappoint. On paper the route seemed short and sweet: cross the US/Mexican border in San Diego and head south 156 miles on Baja Highway 1. At a dirt road south of San Telmo, take a hard right and dodge knee-deep potholes and low-flying Dodge Neons until you hit Cuatro Casas Surf Hostel on the Pacific Ocean. Mexican miles are tougher on men and machines than any 150-mile American stretch you can imagine, and that's what makes riding Baja so unique.
The Mexican highway south and north of Ensenada is glorious, with lots of curves and elevation gains, sparse traffic and mostly well-maintained tarmac. The dirt road to Cuatro Casas, on the other hand, took its toll during the adventure. With the smallest gas tank in the crew getting about 40 miles per fill-up, stops were plentiful, but no one seemed to mind, and there was no reason to hurry anyway. Several chase trucks followed with the bare essentials: gas, food, beer, surfboards, fireworks, dirt bikes and girls. On the way down only minor mechanical problems popped up, and none were dealbreakers. After roughly nine hours in the saddle, the 500 crew rolled into Cuatro Casas at 5 p.m. A friendly gringo named Richard runs the semi-famous skate and surf camp, and he greeted the gang with clean beds and hot fish tacos. Those who chose to rough it pitched their tents on the cliff overlooking the surf break 100 feet below.
For the next two days everyone on the Biltwell 500 did his own thing. Some rode dirt bikes or surfed, while others used the down time to fix bikes, skate the bowl or put in time with import chicks Haley and Audrey. On day two our friend Tim crashed his Sporty into a ditch and a rescue team had to get him out. Tim was fine, but his bike needed some work to get back on the road. The award for toughest innocent bystander definitely goes to Juno's lady Suzy, who survived a wild ride on Juno's passenger seat and the explosive attack of an errant bottle rocket. Either adventure could have killed her, but Suzy stepped out of both predicaments alive and smiling.
On the third and final night of their stay, Biltwell 500 runners were treated to a boat burning. Several liquored-up cats made Molotov cocktails to get the party started, but none of their gas-filled beer bottles shattered on impact. Richard stepped in with some gas and a match, and the 30-foot-long cabin cruiser burned to a smoldering pile of ash in a matter of hours. At the height of the fire some equally hot girl-on-girl catfight action broke out between Audrey and Chris Huber's ladyfriend Colleen. When the dust settled, both girls left with busted lips and a fistful of the other chick's hair. Wild stuff. To commemorate the good times, Rouser Rob pulled out his tattoo kit and XS Eric drew blood on a couple comrades. Chris Huber was so stoked he gave himself a “500” tattoo. That's commitment.
As far as the kind of iron that tackled Baja, at least 20 Sportsters made the ride, flanked by a half dozen tough-as-nails XS650's, a couple Hinckley Triumphs, two FXRs, a Dyna and one BMW dual-sport 650. The oldest and arguably coolest bike on the trip was AZ Nick's rigid pan, which was hard to start but ran great the whole way without a hiccup. One thing every bike had in common was crusty durability. The dirt roads exposed some weak spots on a couple bikes, but only one machine went home on a trailer, and that was due to a flat. If you want to test your fab and prep skills, 25 miles of Baja's backroads will probably do it.
You can see more pics in this thread in the Events Forum.
Photos by Bill Bryant, Harold McGruther, Matt Frick, Cindy DuLong and Haley Murray.