bike touring harpers ferry
Crossing the rivers at Harpers Ferry

The Pedalshift Project 106: Bicycle touring beginners

Are you brand new to bicycle touring or like seeing things through the eyes of a first-timer? You’re in luck! On this episode, we kick off the Pedalshift bicycle touring beginners series, following James from NYC on his journey to his first bicycle tour. Plus a backlog of connections featuring great stories from your bike tours!

Hey it’s the direct download link for The Pedalshift Project #106: Bicycle touring beginners (mp3)

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The Pedalshift Project 106: Bicycle touring beginners

Opening thoughts 

Pedalshift Live

  • Live show! 2/20 8pm ET (sorry Europe)
    • Watch me talk into a mic for an episode of the Pedalshift Project!
    • We’ll do a little pre and post show banter in the chat room too.
    • No need to be on social media for this, although it will end up there too.
    • Video will be up right away, audio will be in the feed as a pod just like normal
    • Go to for more details.
    • If this works out, I’m looking to do this more frequently… so, fingers crossed!
  • Book recommendation for tour or passing the winter by: River-Horse by William Least Heat-Moon.

Bicycle Tour Beginners Series

New on the pod! We’ll be following a brand new bike tourer through all the stages of planning and riding, learning along the way. Our subject is James from NY who’s tackling his first tour this summer.

Hey let’s follow James’ adventure! Tune into the beginner series every month on Pedalshift!

Read more about the tour he’s basing this on:


Bobby and Isaac bike the GAP

My son, Isaac (4 years old) and I have been enjoying the show for the past year or so. Whenever we are in the car he asks to listen to the bicycle trip program.- I think he may qualify as the youngest listener now?

Recently we had the opportunity to listen to several episodes as we drove from the Detroit area to Cumberland for our 4-night GAP adventure. We had an amazing time covering about 100 miles (Connellsville to Cumberland plus some side trips mixed in) and camping along the way. He maxed out at about 35 miles per day with a smile the whole time.

Paul’s Big Adventure goes against plan

Preamble shoutout to Pedalshift listener Shelby in Boulder who helped Paul with routes in the area!

My overnight bike tour up above Boulder did not go as planned…but that was probably a good thing.
The plan was: Bike up Boulder Canyon, turn right to go up Four Mile Creek, Eat dinner at Gold Hill, and find a place to camp. I knew there was free camping ways beyond, and it would be cold. I had lights, blanket, sleeping bag, pad, warm clothes, etc.

It started out precisely as planned. I rented a touring bicycle from a local using Spinlister, adjusted a few things, tightened the brake cables, loaded it up. The fit wasn’t perfect (gee, maybe it was someone else’s bike, huh?) but it was much better than my shop rental back in Portland.

The colors up the Boulder Creek path were amazing. Fall had arrived a bit earlier in Boulder than here at home in Indiana (there was still snow in places from the early snowstorm the previous weekend). And, while southern Indiana certainly saturates with color most falls, it, of course, has no mountains. Lots of folks were out enjoying the colors and the evening light, taking photos by the creek. It was pretty all the way up the canyon, and it was nice to see pine trees and quaking aspen and smell the mountain air.

The small towns behind Boulder have their own, quirky, eclectic culture. Each home had its own charm. One had a sign out front that read, “Private sign. Do not read.”

While waiting for my seating, I was approached by a woman who immediately invited me to sit with her Meetup group–the “Boulder over-fifty dinner goers.” So, of course, I said “yes.” It sounded much more fun than people watching. So the thirty-something-year-old-with-five-kids bicycling up from Boulder became quite the anomaly in a group of eleven others, all over fifty-five. We had tasty food, fun conversation, and by the end, the same woman who invited me to the group said, “You are riding home with us. You’re not riding down in the dark, and you are not camping out here in the cold.”

So there I was, at the proverbial crossroads: I could stubbornly stick with my plan, sleep in the freezing cold, and ride down a canyon with my eyes probably frozen shut from freezing tears, but have some bragging rights. Or, I could take them up on their generosity, get to know them a little better on the ride down, and sleep in a warm, soft hotel room. The very strong introvert in me wanted to protest, “No, I want to camp in the cold! I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks!” But the other part of me–this part that’s gradually learning how to be a human–put up a feigned protest, and thankfully accepted.

So I enjoyed a little more conversation on the ride down, learned about piloting gliders in the lee of the Rockies, and slept back in my hotel room. On one hand, I hauled all that camping stuff up the canyon for nothing. On the other hand, if I didn’t haul all that stuff up the canyon, I wouldn’t have slowed down for dinner, meeting all those great people. And eating dinner with a bunch of strangers old enough to be my parents? I couldn’t have–wouldn’t have–planned that.

And once again, I’ve headed out with a half-baked plan, and been surprised by the friendship and generosity of strangers.

So here’s the ride

The thing that gets me about bike touring (if you can call what I’ve done bike touring), is how kind strangers are. Being raised by a policeman, the idea of caping with, eating out with, riding with, and accepting (insecurely wrapped) food from total strangers is foreign to me. (When I told my dad about my story, he said, “You didn’t eat the sandwich, did you? Sometimes people do that to [etc. etc. etc.]”) And maybe someday something bad will happen. But judging from the experiences of other bike tourers, I’ll probably get a whole lot of miles before that ever happens. And if I’m too afraid of what could happen, I’ll never even get my foot on the pedal, will I?

Mark asks about critters

I would love you hear how you deal with protecting food from “invaders” like raccoons, squirrels, rats, mice, etc. You’ve told great stories about the people around you who left food out, but not how you prevent something digging/chewing through panniers, or worse, your tent.

Most of my concern comes from online forums which I know can be a sinkhole of individuals who take pleasure in spreading worry and over disinformation. So I could be concerned for nothing.

Pedalshift 015 to start, but we’ll do an update sometime!

Jon’s New Zealand Plan B

Last week I returned from a 10 week trip to New Zealand and Australia. The New Zealand trip was supposed to be focused on road biking, with my terrific wife playing support and sag wagon driver. The road biking was a not that great due to narrow shoulders, very fast traffic and double-truck trailers, not fun! After 4 days I gave up the ghost and considered other options.

After some brainstorming and research, I decided to rent a mountain bike and ride the iconic A2O trail which runs from Mt. Cook to the Pacific Ocean for a distance of about 300km. This trail is just one of many trails that the NZ government has developed over the past several years.

The trail is very well signed, it follows either dedicated bike trails, shared hiking trails or very low traffic rural roads. You can camp, stay at B&Bs, motels, lodges etc. Daily distances are entirely up to you, but I averaged about 34-45 miles per day, with my longest day topping out at 55 miles. My shortest day was 25 miles. The terrain varies from a high point of 900 meters on a fairly long ascent on a rough hiking trail to perfectly flat and sealed road and everything in between. It’s really a great trip.

For all kinds of information about A2O check out the official trail web at

FYI, this was my first mountain bike tour.

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You’ve been hearing about Jason Kent and his music for many fine episodes. Their latest album may be their best yet. Go get it.


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