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GAP and C+O signpost Cumberland, MD

Spring bike tour on the GAP, Chapter 3: Finances

You may remember the pedalpreneur challenge: I rented my cabin out for a portion of the time I was on tour on the Great Allegheny Passage last week… did that mean this tour made money? To the toteboard!

Total net revenue from rental (after cleaning costs) = $348

50% one-way car rental to Pittsburgh = $108.50

cost of food = $53.16

50% of gas = $32.15

campsites for two nights = $0

50% of hotel in Frostburg = $35

If you count the tour over after I rolled into Cumberland, it’s a total profit of $119.19…. buuuuut, there’s the little issue of transporting myself back to DC and the need to delay one more night because of the train schedule:

hotel in Cumberland = $91

Amtrak to DC = $35

This puts me over by a total of $6.81. So, it’s official… my tour did NOT make money, and is firmly in the red by about 7 bucks.

But was that really the point? Hardly. Consider the alternative… my cabin sits vacant for the time I’m not even there. My trip costs me a ton more than $7 AND let’s not forget the additional equipment costs I’m taking on in new tires. (I don’t include those in the trip costs because I had intended to replace those tires after the ride.) So, by being creative and taking advantage of property I have and don’t intend to use while on tour, I’m supporting my bike touring lifestyle. I very well may have made a few bucks if I avoided hotels, blown out tires and Amtrak tickets… maybe next time!

runs on fat saves money

Pedalpreneur: can I make money while on bike tour?

I’m going on a bike tour next week, but I will still probably make money while on bike tour. Here’s how.

make money while on bike tour

A few weeks ago I posted my first pedalpreneur post on how to make a little extra money by renting your place out on AirBnB. The idea is to find additional streams of income so you can work a little less, take a little more time for yourself, and possibly allow that to increase the amount of bike touring. Remember all that?

Next week I’ll be on tour, but I should probably make more money in my absence than if I stayed at my place. I’m out for 6 days, renting my place out for 2 of those 6 nights. I’ll make $418 from the rental, and I pay $70 for a full house cleaning to prepare. That nets at $348. I’ll apply that net income to the entire length of the tour… $58/day. I plan on camping with existing gear in free spots each night. I hope to cook at least half the meals, but probably will end up dining out with a beer or two mixed in. Although it’s possible, I highly doubt my daily budget will break $58. Can this be a tour that actually makes money? Who knows… stay tuned!

How to tour more by renting your space

One of the key parts of PedalShift is trying to answer the question: “how can I tour more?”. For most, the major barrier is time, with money coming in a close second. I’ve found a partial solution that works for me, and I’d like to share it – renting my space out to vacationers while I’m not using it.

It’s not a revolutionary concept, of course… it’s not like I invented renting my space out, but it manages to neatly fit the touring lifestyle. First, it generates revenue that can supplement income, which may mean you can work a job that provides more time off or increases the amount you make as a self-employed business owner or consultant. Second, it takes advantage of an asset you control but don’t use while away. It’s kind of a win-win.

For some, doing this only while you’re on tour or otherwise out of town (business trips? holidays?) can generate the kind of income that means the difference between camping in thunderstorms and splurging on a hotel. That alone is a great justification. For others, if you have alternate accommodations available (significant other or family nearby? an opportunity for a mini tour? a camper?) the prospects of opening rental of your home or apartment all year means real income possibilities. It all balances on how much of an alteration you’re willing to make to your current lifestyle versus the income you could make.

There are cons to all of these pros… but strikingly few in my experience. I’ve had a couple of odd renters, but nobody that’s done much more than make silly decisions. There’s certainly more wear and tear on my place compared to if it were unoccupied. A lot of people ask me if I ever worry about people stealing things. The service I use (AirBnB) has some pretty nifty security features included picture ID verification, and social media linkages. Most importantly though, all rental fees are paid upfront, and due to minimum stay requirements a “bad actor” would need to shell out hundreds of dollars merely to get access to my place. Plus, I get final say on any potential guest, so if I don’t have a good feeling, I can always decline the request. I haven’t had anything “walk” in over a year of rentals, and the only repairs I’ve had to make were to items that tend to be problematic when I’m around too.

I started last spring almost on a lark, and I’ve exceeded my expectations – I grossed 20% of my pretax income last year. My carrying costs increase (slightly higher utility bills, cleaning fees, plowing my driveway a bit more often) but overall the income goes right into my touring and savings funds.

The best part about all of this? I can manage it from anywhere. With a mobile device and a good working relationship with my cleaning partner, it works like a charm. More on how it all works in future posts.

When I started this site, I mashed together a word: pedalpreneur. Other than being a mouthful, it was a concept I wanted to develop and discuss in the PedalShift community… what kinds of business ideas are out there to help us tour more? What kinds of things can we do on tour itself? There are lots of examples of this… artisans who work from the road, consultants who can take calls from virtually anywhere, writers and photographers who make a living chronicling their adventures… the list goes on and on. If you work on the road while you tour, I’d love to hear more from you! What kinds of things have you learned?


map deck

Dreaming up the next tour

If you’re like most readers of PedalShift, you’re in an offseason for touring… after all, it’s winter in the northern hemisphere. While many can handle the cold of winter, it’s the incredibly short days that often hamper tours or even simple weekend bike/camping adventures. Winter for many (not all, of course)  is more about dreaming up the next tour. And that’s where I am right now.

I’ll write more about this in coming weeks, but I’ve fashioned my work life in a way that allows me to spend at least a few weeks to a few months per year working on the road. Last year I experimented with a combination of mobile tech and on-bike energy production to allow me to be productive while I was on the road between Portland and San Francisco. This productivity allowed for a longer tour. I learned a lot, and have a few tweeks to make to the system (again, more on that in future posts).

But winter is more a time to dream up what’s possible with the route. So, here’s a couple of trips I’m hoping to make:

DC to Pittsburgh via the C+O Canal Townpath and Great Allegheny Passage

Sometime this spring, I’m looking at a 6-day trip to finally complete the well-traveled C+O/GAP combo. I live most of the year on the DC end, and my early bike tours were almost exclusively on the C+O. I friend from San Francisco is coming out this spring – time TBA, but almost certainly after Daylight Savings Time begins, the temperatures rise and the trails dry out a bit. We also need to wait until  Big Savage Tunnel on the GAP opens, which isn’t until the first or second week of April.

Portland, Oregon to Somewhere in North Dakota via the ACA Lewis + Clark Route

This summer, I’m planning on embracing the heat rather than fleeing from it. For the past few summers I’ve biked while enveloped in the Pacific coast’s cooler temperatures. It’s time for something different, and I’ve always been attracted a reverse route of the Lewis + Clark expedition (starting in Portland rather than the coast due to logistics more than anything else). There’s the added bonus of getting to roll through North Dakota, my elusive 49th visited state. Start would likely be sometime in mid-July and I am looking at hopping on the train back to DC to help transition back from tour to reality.

I’m neck deep in details and maps, and after too many weeks off the trails and roads with a fully loaded bike… I’m starting to get that excitement back.

What kind of tours are you dreaming up? Are they new experiences or repeats of well-loved routes?

image credit: “stacked deck” by fluidthought 

grand canyon

… and we’re back!

Looking back, I think I see the first few months of pedalshift as a beta release… the ideas were all there, but it needed a bit more time in the lab, at least from my perspective. The hiatus was helpful in shaping that, largely because I wasn’t terribly focused on bike touring so much as I was working from the road.

Most of the fall I was out and about with Tranquility Tour. We traveled 11.500 miles over the course of several months traveling to over 20 events related to the launch of Tranquilologie (the latest book authored by my better half, for those who don’t know). We did all of the traveling by RV, which was a wholly different experience than traveling by bike. On one section of the trip, we mirrored portions of my summer bike tour, and it was interesting (or perhaps offputting) to drive several days worth of the bike route in a matter of hours. I realized how much one misses when traveling faster than you can pedal because I knew what we were passing at 55 mph.*

So, in 2014 pedalshift returns with the same basic ideas… bike touring meets lifestyle, particularly in ways that allows for more bike touring. How can we work from the road to enable longer tours? How can we live a more sustainable lifestyle to support more time to be on the road? I’m hoping to have a post per week exploring these ideas, and I’m also hoping to create a community where we can collectively share all facets of the bike touring lifestyle.


*I did see a handful of bike tourists out on the trip, and I have to say I felt a lot more affinity towards them than the others driving RVs.

Work Day 3: efficiencies of gear choice

Today was my third zero mile work day of the tour… I think I have a few opinions on the relative merits of working while on tour. First, let’s look back on the “why” part. The theory is that taking a few zero mile days, while disruptive to a bike tour, can allow one to either bike further or longer, or even take more frequent tours, so long as the work days are earning you money or otherwise keeping you from burning vacation days for your entire time away. So far, I’m finding that to be largely true.

While I can’t say the pauses in the tour haven’t been without downsides (saying farewell to others that you would ordinarily ride hundreds of miles with) it hasn’t taken away from the adventure of the ride, nor the opportunities to “reshuffle” the deck and meet new people. Overall… I think it works.

What I’m discovering, however, is my preconceived notions of what gear will be the best for the tour are slightly off. My main tool has been my iPhone 5. It has been a remarkable device for staying on top of email while on the road during breaks. Cell coverage has been good on this trip, although not perfect. I happen to have an unlimited data plan, and that’s been helpful.

The device combination that I thought would be my workhorse on work days was my iPad and a service called LogMeIn. On a wifi connection (my iPad has no cellular data capabilities) I can use LogMeIn to port over to one of. Couple of Macs I have running in Portland (my laptop I left behind in my brother’s home) and my office iMac in DC. I chose redundancy in case one went down. Having this allows me to take on tasks that my ipad alone couldn’t do easily, such as setting up ecourses or producing podcasts with audio I didn’t have on board. The idea was the ipad has much better battery life, plus if it were lost, damaged or stolen, the pain is much less than if the same happened to the MacBook Pro I left behind.

So… It works. But the efficiency drop is a bit maddening. I can do absolutely everything I could do on a desktop, but the pace is hampered by the interface wackiness (a touch interface converting to a non-touch one) plus the limits of wifi speeds on both sides. My laptop at my brother’s place is far from the router, so it’s pokey. My iMac was the better choice, despite being across the continent!

Still, my efficiency drop is so noticeable, I have decided to make a change for the next tour. Before they disappear rom the market I plan on getting a sub $300 netbook. They are disappearing for a variety of reasons I won’t go into, but I think having a “real” computer OS will up efficiencies for the tasks that require it. I’m happier in the Apple ecosystem, but I can always use LogMeIn to hitch back on a full Mac OS X computer if needed. Weight and battery life will suffer, but overall… I think for my needs the iPad is not the right second device since it replicates so much of what the iPhone can do, without offering much more than a bigger screen. I still love the iPad but not in this context… Unless I can find some apps I’m unaware of to do some of the things I do on a traditional computer.

I have another work day coming up, and I plan on chatting a bit more about what I’m doing while on tour, specifically:
– how I manage my AirBnB rentals and why that’s an important part of funding touring (a big topic!)
– my email and to-do list philosophies that lean heavily on “inbox zero” and the amazing Evernote.

What kinds of tech do you bring on tour to get things done? Just a smartphone? Full laptop? Nothing? My ideas are definitely not the only way to go… Share yours in the comments!

Work Day 2

Yesterday I biked more than “the book” suggests, including one of the bigger two or three climbs on the tour. Today, I worked a full day and barely touched my bike.

I’m twice as tired today as I was this time yesterday. May take a bit to process that!

Over the course of the week a variety of things came across my mobile desk (my iPhone mount on the handlebars). Anything I could address on water breaks or lunch breaks I handled, the rest got shunted off to Evernote in a To do file. I’ve found Evernote to be an essential companion on the trip for staying organized, whether it’s keeping my AirBnB renters in order, tasks for web edits aligned, or just staying on top of my tour itinerary. Highly recommended.

Because there was a backlog, plus two major projects, I had a full day. I was able to use LogMeIn to port my laptop in Portland to my iPad screen. Instead of lugging around a heavy laptop (not to mention risking it to theft or damage) I had a slower version of the best of both worlds. The iPad battery life is outrageously good, and with speedy wifi at the campground, I was about 90% efficient on most tasks, and 60% efficient on complicated tasks (setting up an overly fussy ecourse plus producing a podcast “deaf” – I did it all by looking at the wav forms… Not recommended!).

I found today more frustrating than the first one, mainly because it was long, but also because the consequence of my work choice meant bidding adieu to the first group of riders I became attached to. As they were preparing to attack the not-insignificant climb out of Crescent City, I was dying to join them. Still, I stuck to my guns and worked a more-than-full day. Working on tour requires more structure than I would typically like, but as I have found, life is full of compromises and choices. Working on tour means a longer tour… So be it!

More on my interactions with “the three amigos” from Mexico and the others over on an uncommonly silly blog.


Pedalshift on The Sprocket Podcast

I was a guest on The Sprocket Podcast… Brock was a lot of fun to chat with, and he was kind enough to do a ride up Mt. Tabor following the show. Check it out:

The Sprocket Podcast episode 140

I was happy to share the concept with the Sprocket audience, but I was most happy to be able to thank Brock (and by extension everyone who has ever had a hand on the podcast) for creating something that I genuinely believe is an inspiring and fun weekly show.

It was fun to listen to it as I was rolling on tour… Talking about the tour… Very meta!


Work Day 1


Today was my first “zero mile” work day on my Pacific Coast tour. I recorded a quick set f thoughts on the way to Rogue’s Brewers on the Bay in Newport, Oregon. Follow more of my tour on Twitter at @timmooney!