Salvador from FASS Bike: Savior of the Baja Divide!
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For the many riders who head south over the winter to ride the Baja Divide, Salvador Basurto from FASS Bike is something of a savior… or at least, he’s known to go to extraordinary lengths to help when mechanical grief strikes. Cass drops in on his way through to share some trail time with him, and finds out more about the role he’s been playing in the growing success of this wonderful 1,700 mile desert route…
Located in the bustling town of Vicente Guerrero, 175 highway miles south of the US-Mexican border, FASS Bike has become something of a fixture for riders tackling the tough, remote Baja Divide bikepacking route.
Although the shop lies just a few hundred cycling miles into the ride, it follows a burly mountain segment that’s known to be especially hard on gear, particularly if the weather isn’t on your side, or the conditions prove more demanding than expected – both of which often seems to be the case in the testing northern half of the route.
Besides, FASS also acts as a repair shop from afar. Aside from servicing bikes that limp into his shop – be it prematurely destroyed bottom brackets or broken frames (yes, really!) – its owner Salvador Basurto regularly sends care packages of tricky-to-source bicycle parts to mechanical-stricken riders further south, generally delivered by bus… he’s even prone to sacrifice parts from his own bike when necessary. He also updates the Facebook page with relevant news and delights in meeting those who pass through, whatever state their steeds may be in.
Salvador is known for his smile, enthusiasm, and energy. Regular contributors Tales on Tyres recall: “We stopped at FASS bikes because (route developers) Nicolas and Lael had recommended it. And they were right: Salvador greeted us with so much kindness that even though we didn’t need any spare parts, we felt so grateful we had visited.”
Stories abound of his willingness to go the extra mile (no pun intended) and help in any way he can. A day before my visit, a bikepacking friend had taken a spill, bending her bike’s dropout in the process, whilst her partner was nursing a half dozen loose spokes in his wheels. No problem! Salvador stopped what he was doing and had them back on the road in no time.
Summing him up nicely, Emma Grace Buck, a rider who tackled the Baja Divide in 2017, had this to say: “After leaving the route for a couple days, I ventured into FASS bike looking for Salvador to see if he had some information on my compadre who I was hoping to run into at his shop. Alas, he had no news on where my friend was, but invited me to hang out in the shop in case she showed up that day. We chatted about bike stuff, the route, and just how amazing Pearl Jam is. I mentioned how I had been pretty sick for a few days before, to which Salvador immediately offered his phone number just in case my illness got worse, or just generally needed help along the route. It felt so good knowing that Salvador had my back out there!”
Like many before me, I swung by the shop to meet the man himself. Over coffee and a couple of laps of the local desert trail network, Salvador told me wistfully about the day his father gave him a handful of tools (commanding him to go out in the world and start his own business), how he founded FASS Bike in a space almost completely bereft of spare parts (heading north with a 20 per cent discount card from Performance Bike to make his purchases), and his growing love of getting Baja Dividers rolling when the vagaries of sand, mud, and rock had taken their toll.
In fact, no sooner had we returned from our ride than we met another cyclist waiting dolefully at his shop, in need of TLC for his buckled wheel… sending Savior Salvador back into action once more.
So, what does FASS stand for?
Flor-Antonio-Salvador IV-Salvador III. The members of my family – me, my wife, and my two sons! My wife jokes that if we break up, she’ll take the F with her!
When did you start the shop and what motivated you to do so?
It was the summer of 2009. I saw the necessity in the area for a good quality bike shop. Since I have good skills to handle tools (my dad ran his own business servicing household appliances), it wasn’t too hard to handle bike mechanics. I was already working on my own bikes and some friends bikes too. And I love this job! It just feels great when I fix something and the riders are happy to keep rolling – especially foreign bikers who plan this trip for maybe for years and really need help.
How many Baja Divide riders have come through, do you think, since the Grand Depart that officially launched the route in 2017?
I guess that around 450-500 riders have passed through the shop. They’ve come from the US, Canda, Germany, Japan, Austria, Russia, the UK, Belgium, Slovenia, Ukraine, Panama, Lithuania, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Denmark…
What ages of riders have there been?
From 3 to 60 years old…
Can you tell us about any situations where you helped out a rider?
One girl arrived at the shop with very bad symptoms of pneumonia – we had to take her to the hospital and get her some medicine until she recovered and could ride again, a few days later.
There have been three riders that have had their frame break on the same section (between Colonet and Vicente Guerrero, home of FASS Bike). In all three cases, we solved the problem with a whole new setup – including selling my personal bike and that of my son!
Are you seeing many Mexican riders on the route?
We’ve seen around 10 Mexicans riding the Baja Divide… we have a different culture here and never stop working!
Aside from 3in tires, which are recommended, I notice you sell some bikepacking bags in the shop. Have you tackled any of the Baja Divide yourself?
I’ve ridden from Tecate to El Sacrificio, spread over four different rides.
With its mix of sierras, farmland, desert, Pacific coast, and the Sea of Cortez, the Baja peninsula is clearly a beautiful and diverse place to call home. Has bikepacking changed your appreciation of where you live?
It has! Now I enjoy my environment even more, and also I think about riding further, without a car. Some friends are getting more involved so in the near future we will have more local bikepackers riding around.
I first met Salvador during our second major research ride down the peninsula. That winter, 2015-2016, Lael and I had scoured backroads and mapping resources for backcountry connections across Baja California. After the first ride from San Diego to La Paz, where I officially launched the route concept, much work remained. Even though we had a route name, and a website, and a projected group event, we only had about 60-70% of the route, and most of that had come easily. Our second ride would be real investigative work, require more creative thinking and visualization, more help from locals, and a few more dead ends. It was at this time that we first encountered FASS Bike and met Salvador. We wandered into the shop one afternoon, after arriving from Rancho El Coyote and Rancho Meling, a tough mountainous segment in northern Baja California. His shop was how I might have expected it— a loose association of parts and workspace, not much really to look at, some dusty inventory in the corner. But Salvador was most energetic and excited to meet us and to provide any assistance. He invited us to an event the next day, a local XC championship race a few miles from town. Upon arrival, I came to understand more about FASS Bike. He and his wife had a tent with lots of colorful and high-end mountain bike merchandise. Riders of all kinds were lining up to race round after round on La Cascabel. Having never seen a successful performance bicycle shop in Mexico, I was surprised to see riders on S-Works bike, and custom-built Niners and Cannondales. Additionally, there were toddlers racing on balance bikes, and racing classes of young women, and a Clydesdale class mostly composed of men on vintage mountain bikes. Families were grilling chicken and making fish tacos and the scene was much like a festival. And I’ll never forget that the Bruno Mars song “Uptown Funk” played on repeat for the entire event. The next time I was at FASS Bike, the shop was put together, bikes were lined up in a row including a Specialized Turbo Levo e-bike, and the recently released SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain system was on display— what a place!
FASS Bike was a successful local shop, representing a healthy and growing mountain bike culture in Baja California. Riders had traveled from as far as Ensenada and Vizcaino to race on this day, and local trail centers like these were inspiring riders of all kinds. But our vision was to create connections between places. Upon inquiring about routing possibilities between places, few riders had insights into these backcountry connections. I was surprised to learn that riders were not exploring these incredible backroads. I thought, how many times can you ride the same local XC trails? And when I explained our project to Salvador, the look he gave me— despite unconditional support for whatever it is that we were up to— indicated that he didn’t really get it. It wasn’t until the first few riders began trickling into the shop in the fall of 2016, and when over a hundred riders visited his shop, and sought his services in that winter that the idea was clear. In truth, the route didn’t exist until dozens and hundred of riders had ridden it. That’s when FASS Bike really grew to become what it has for the Baja Divide. Again and again, Salvador and his wife Flor are a savior to many riders: expertly repairing bikes, sending parts to remote locations via local bus services, taking riders to the hospital to treat dog bites and other ailments. Again and again, Salvador will steal parts off his own bikes to make repairs for Baja Divide riders. He goes on vacation and meets riders on other parts of the route, and of course, provides assistance and adjustments, even when away from the shop. He has also done so much to get the message out to local people and riders in Baja California about the route, sharing images of riders at his shop and publishing live feeds during exciting events. More and more, the Baja Divide is an established and durable concept that will become part of the greater cycling community in Baja California.
Finally, as I had always hoped, Salvador is now organizing longer day rides and overnight adventures with his family, and with other riding partners. They ride segments of the Baja Divide route for fun, or other local loops to the ocean and into the mountains. With Salvador’s support on the ground and new Spanish translations from Daniel Zaid, we’re hoping to reach many more local riders from all across Baja California and Mexico.
How has the local mountain bike scene grown since Fass was set up?
We definitely worked very hard to open a market that didn’t exist here before. As a result, the bike scene has grown a lot. Currently we sponsor the local Mtb championship. I just participated this past Sunday at the first race of the season – I was 4th in the main category and first in the new e-bike category. We definitely worked very hard to open a market that didn’t exist here. So the bike scene has grown a lot – now you can see more local teams and riders who participate in national competitions. We also run events and support different local organizations such as firefighters, asylum seekers, and a house for abused women.
Lastly… Do you have any tips for those tackling the Baja Divide?
Try to taste our local food – like fresh or smoked clams. Read the recommendations from Baja Divide web page to avoid incidents. Please feel free to contact us as we are always available and happy to help. Stop to sign our Baja Divde map and say hi, or ask for recommendations – we try to keep updated with what’s best in town.
Do you have a story to share about a visit to FASS Bike and your Baja Divide experience? Let us know in the comments below!