Cycling in Tijuana: A Guide for Bicycle Touring and Commuting

by wheretheroadforks

This guide is designed for people planning on commuting and bicycle touring through Tijuana. It covers safety tips, bike shop recommendations, routes through the city, parking, and more. For the past year, cycling has been my main mode of transportation in Tijuana. I ride my bike to and from the border several times per week to get to work. I also cycle for errands and just for exercise. In the time that I have lived here, I have noticed that cycling is becoming a more and more popular way to get around the city. Tijuana is also a common stop for bicycle tourists cycling the Pacific coast, down Baja, and beyond.

Tijuana, Baja

Beautiful Tijuana

Best Type of Bike for Riding in Tijuana

The most common type of bikes you will see in Tijuana are old mountain bikes form the 80s and 90s. These are perfect for commuting around Tijuana because they are cheap, easy to maintain, and they are rugged. The road quality just isn’t good enough for a road bike with skinny tires. Wide, mountain bike tires will allow you to ride over potholes, gravel roads, and curbs which makes getting around much easier. Older bikes are also less flashy and will be less of a target for theft. Another benefit of a mountain bike is that you can take it outside of the city and take advantage of some of the great mountain biking that Baja has to offer. I will talk more about that later.

Touring bikes are also common in Tijuana. Almost every day I see people crossing the border with their fully loaded bikes. They are perfect for commuting to the US and back or for touring down the coast. Touring bikes are tougher than road bikes so they can handle road conditions that you will encounter in Tijuana. For riding in Mexico, you’ll want slightly wider tires. If you are running 700c wheels, 35-40mm tires are perfect for road touring in Mexico. For 26 inch wheels, I run 26X1.5 tires on my Schwinn and they are perfect for the road and light off road riding.

When I first moved here, I was riding my Fuji Touring bike. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it locked up around Tijuana. After a few months, I bought an old beater Schwinn High Sierra mountain bike for my commute. I prefer riding the Schwinn because it can tackle any road conditions and I don’t really worry about theft as much. It’s ugly but it’s also a tank. Repairs and maintenance are also much cheaper than a modern bike. For longer rides, the Fuji is best.

You can read my full review of each of these bikes here:

My old Schwinn High Sierra loaded for a tour

Is Tijuana a Bike Friendly City?

No, I would not say that Tijuana is a particularly bike friendly city, unfortunately. There are very few bike lanes. Many streets are fairly busy and polluted. Crossing a busy street can also be a problem as there are surprisingly few pedestrian crosswalks outside of downtown. Many times in order to cross a street, you must carry your bike up a flight of stairs and walk it across an overpass. You must do the same when crossing the Tijuana River.

With that being said, it’s not all bad. Drivers in Tijuana are fairly accepting of cyclists. In general, they give plenty of room while passing. Often they will yield and allow me to pass with a smile. I don’t remember ever being honked or yelled at while cycling in Tijuana. Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon occurrence while cycling in many parts of the U.S.

Cycling Safety

Road quality– The roads aren’t great but are passable. Pretty much all roads in the city are paved. You must keep an eye out for potholes, gravel, and trash in the road. After riding for a short time, you will know which streets to avoid and which routes are the most comfortable and efficient.

Drivers– As I said earlier, drivers in Tijuana are pretty good. Traffic can be a mess but drivers are generally respectful of cyclists. Much better than in the US I would say.

Crossing the street– Jaywalking is accepted and common here but you must be cautious. People often drive fast and won’t slow down for you. Because the city isn’t designed for cycling, busy streets can be a challenge to cross. You may have to go a bit out of your way to find a light with a crosswalk or an overpass in order to cross a busy street.

Theft– I always use a strong u-lock when locking up my bike in Tijuana. If you can, I recommend bringing your bike into your home or apartment when you’re not using it. I have never had a problem with theft, but I wouldn’t want to leave my bike unattended in Tijuana.

Pollution– Air quality can get bad at times. This is particularly true on busy streets with a lot of heavy truck and bus traffic.

Riding at night– I avoid riding at night. Traffic is light but the streets are not well lit in most of the city. Personal safety can also be a concern at night. Tijuana is fairly safe these days but there are some neighborhoods that are best to avoid.

Safety Gear- I recommend you always wear a helmet and use a cycling mirror when riding in Tijuana. When I first moved to Tijuana, I purchased the following safety gear:

For more information on staying safe in Tijuana, you can check out my article: Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Common Scams and Crime.

CECUT cultural center in Zona Rio, Tijuana

Bike Shops in Tijuana

I don’t make any money recommending these shops. I just had good experiences with them and liked their prices and services. You will want to purchase any high end or specialty gear in the US. Prices and selection will be better. For basic maintenance and spares, everything you will need can be found in Tijuana. Labor is also much cheaper.

  • Freitas Bikes “La Bicitienda” They are located at Blvd. Diaz Ordaz 16219 local 4y5, Floresta. This is my favorite bike shop in Tijuana. The place has a good parts selection, prices are fair, and the staff are all really friendly and helpful. They also have some decent deals on used bikes. I had them grease the bottom bracket and hubs on my mountain bike. I also purchased a rear rack and new tires from them.
  • Oscar Bikes- They are located at 22115, Av. Guadalupe Victoria 7, Castro, Tijuana. I stopped by here while I was shopping around for a part. This place is very basic but has low prices. The guy that helped me was friendly and knowledgeable. If you are riding an older bike, this would be a good, cheap place to get work done. They also sell used bikes if you’re in the market
  • Baja Bike- They are located at Calle 11 o Calle Plutarco Elias Calles No. 8374, Centro, 22000 Tijuana. This is another decent shop. It is located downtown so it is more convenient than the other two. Prices here are a bit higher but they carry more high-end gear. They also have a lot of used and new bikes and stock mountain biking and BMX gear.

Passing through Tijuana While Bicycle Touring

I highly recommend spending a few days in Tijuana if you are passing through while on tour. The city really has a lot to offer including the best tacos in Mexico and some excellent nightlife. It is also an interesting city to just wander around and explore.

Tijuana River

The beautiful Tijuana River

Accommodation in Tijuana

For accommodation, I have two hotels that I can recommend. I don’t make any money from them. I just recommend them because I have stayed at both of these places many times and always had a good experience. They are:

  • Hotel Suiza- It is located at Calle Niños Heroes 924, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana. It is a clean, friendly hotel conveniently located downtown. They also allow bikes in the rooms. A basic room with TV and bathroom costs about 300 pesos. AC rooms are available for a bit more.
  • Hotel Colonial- They are located at Calle Sexta, 1812, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana. This is a bit nicer than Suiza but also a bit more expensive. Prices start at about 400 pesos for a basic room with bathroom and TV. AC rooms are also available.

Airbnb is another good place to look for low cost accommodation in Tijuana. For free accommodation, check Warmshowers and Couchsurfing. They are both quite active in Tijuana.

Cycling South From Tijuana

If you are continuing down the Baja peninsula into Mexico, you have two roads that you can take out of Tijuana:

  1. Highway 1D- This is a toll road leading from Tijuana to Ensenada. It is a clean, smooth road with wide shoulders, perfect for cycling. Unfortunately, bicycles are not allowed. Many tourists choose to take this highway anyway. I have heard of police escorting them off occasionally but have never heard of anyone being fined. It’s a safer, better road so it may be worth the risk. The toll is not charged to cyclists.
  1. Highway 1- This is the free road that you can follow all the way from Tijuana to the end of the peninsula. It is a more narrow highway with heavier traffic between Tijuana and Ensenada but is perfectly passable. This road is more stressful for riding because of traffic and the quality of the road in some places. On this road, you don’t have to worry about being kicked off.

If you can, I recommend you leave the city on a Sunday. For whatever reason, traffic is significantly lower on Sundays.

Bike Parking

Most plazas and shopping centers have racks for parking and locking up your bike. Many stores have security that should be a deterrent for thieves. Many streets have posts on the sidewalk where you can lock a bike. Always lock your bike up or take it with you in Tijuana. When I first moved here, I bought the Via Velo Heavy Duty U-Lock from Amazon. This is a strong u-lock and cable for a decent price. So far my bike hasn’t been stolen. 

Tijuana border crossing

Cars in line at the border

Cycling Routes

There is some great mountain biking in and around Tijuana. The city is full of hillside neighborhoods with interesting dirt roads and trails to explore. Baja is a very mountainous state with lots of remote roads and paths to check out if you plan to get outside of Tijuana. For some ride ideas, have a look at the Map My Ride website.

Another nice area to ride around is Playas de Tijuana. This is a pleasant place to ride along the beach. There are many nice shops and restaurants to visit in this part of town.

Cycling Across the Border from San Diego

This border crossing can be a bit intimidating because it’s so busy. For a step-by-step guide, you can check out my articles:

Traveling From San Diego to Tijuana by Bike

or

Walking Across the Border to Tijuana

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