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"About Us": A Summary   (2009) 


What luck--a new picnic table at lunch time in Croatia.


Knowing a bit about us is helpful to new website visitors in predicting how relevant our experiences will be to their own; other people are just curious. So, whatever your motivation, here is a quick summary about us. If you want to know more, there are 3 more segments under "About Us":

Part 1: Why  & How We Became Cyclotourists

Part 2: Why We Could Retire Early

Part 3: What We Learned the Hard Way About Investing


Our Background

We are both in our late 50's and neither of us was ever particularly athletic. We both managed to culminate our running careers by completing a single marathon in our mid-30's, though it took about 5 hours of non-stop running to do so.

We took up cycling in our 40's because it was easier on our bodies--especially my hamstrings and knees--than running. Our cycling style is like our running was: slow but persistent. We stumbled into becoming loaded cyclotourists.

We aren't "No pain, no gain" folks by a long shot. If a bike makes a new noise or our bodies complain in a new way, we stop on the road to fix it sooner rather than later. We rely on our knowledge of anatomy and physiology and wisdom from yoga and massage to actively care for our bodies while traveling.


The Bikes

Our bikes started as custom frames from Bernie Mikkelson in Alameda, California. They are long wheel-based touring frames though Bernie shortened them a tad so they'd still have a sporty feel unloaded. The frames are chro-moly for a softer ride and so any breaks can be welded anywhere in the world. Bill selected all of the components just for touring.

We like the variety of hand positions that drop handlebars give us but selected the fat tires and drive train of mountain bikes. We have front suspension and disc brakes on our current, second pair of touring bikes and will never be without them again.  We use Frog mountain bike pedals for the knee-sparing 'float' and Shimano sandals for the capacity to pile on socks in the cold weather.

We have steel bike racks so they can be welded if they snap and waterproof panniers, either Ortlieb or Vaude depending upon the year.

Our bikes when fully loaded weigh over 100 lbs (45 kg), which in considerable since our body weights are about 120 (54 kg) and 145 lbs (66 kg). We are both on the short side, which makes leveraging the loaded bikes even harder.


Our Riding Style

I've always described us as cylcotourists, not cyclotourists.  Our goals were to effect a radical lifestyle change, to see the world in an interesting way, and still get our exercise. Many more cyclotourists are in the sport because they are great athletes, but we're not. We are just-good-enough athletes to make it work, and that's all. We are the pokiest riders we know that are willing to ride as far as we do with heavy loads.

We take days at a time off from riding to visit museums, sightsee in cities, or to go hiking. We are more interested in racking up new Italian words, new understandings of history, or really taking in an interesting sight or stunning view than racking up the miles. We love seeing the world from the saddle of a bike but we want to take time to see it and process the experience. We stay off the busy roads as best we can and don't worry about the time consequences of taking a backroad.

I hope never again to ride a 100 mile (160 km) day, with or without a load. Twenty five miles or about 40 km will satisfy our need for daily exercise if there is much elevation gain (1000' or 300+m). We will frequently ride 40 miles (60+ km) on flatter routes. The most elevation gain we've done on loaded bikes is 6,000' (1800m) though we consider 4,000' (1200 m) a big day. Accumulating 15,000' (4600m) in gain per week is our comfortable limit if it's being done week after week. Our biggest gain month with loaded bikes that we recorded was 10 miles (16 km) in vertical elevation gain. We much prefer to ride in hilly or mountainous terrains than on flat routes but have our limits and ride safely within them.

Our bikes are geared  really, really low and we can grind our way up almost 20% grades on a good surface. Bill can pull out a short stint of 20%; I bail at about 17%. Over 20%, or on a really rough surface, and we dismount and push with 2 of us pushing a single bike. We can ride 6% grades almost all day and do sustained 10% grades on smooth pavement with our loaded bikes. We are never quick to push our bikes as pedaling them is much easier on our bodies because of the symmetry issues.

I'm pretty heat intolerant and so I have to stop frequently to cool down if it's really hot or moderately hot and we are climbing. We are equipped to ride all day in the rain and can keep going when the temperatures a just above freezing if we are on our bikes and not sightseeing on foot. Bill gets into altitude issues when pedaling at about 7,000' (2100m)  though he does just fine with the lower level of effort of day hiking at even higher elevations.


Our Travel Style

We camped part of our first 2 years of touring and no longer carry camping gear and instead sleep indoors. We like to feel safe, and be warm and comfortable every night. A hot shower and a good night's sleep are essential parts of a good traveling day for us. We take time out to write for our webpage, to read, and to study. We tend to stay at the equivalent of 2-star hotels, whether the lodging is a B&B, pension, or tourist apartment.

We prepare all of our meals and essentially never eat in restaurants. That saves on the budget, the waistline, and our cholesterol levels. We don't go out a night: once we check into our room in the late afternoon or evening, we are in for the night. We find that food preparation, washing clothes, bathing, and doing a little correspondence, studying or route planning is all it takes to consume our evenings.

A high priority for us is to never be out on the road after dark. We miss that goal once or twice a year. We'll stop early rather than risk being out late. We generally are traveling every day and staying in a new town every night. If a town has a good museum we'll book our room for 2 nights so that the bikes are safe indoors while we sightsee. We will take as much as a week off to visit a big city.

We travel overseas for 9-10 months of the year and then go back home to the US for 2-3 months. People always think that we go home to relax but in reality it is our most stressful time of the year. All of the unpleasant realities of life get compressed into those 2-3 months with things like visits to doctors, the dentist, and the accountant. It is when we really scrutinize our finances and tidy up legal matters. It is a time of serious business that becomes intertwined with lighter things like visiting friends and family.

We also do most of our non-food shopping for the year while at home as electronics and sports gear are cheaper in the US than in Europe. We can also more readily by higher quality bike parts in the US than overseas.


Perpetual Travelers

We are now (2009) in our 9th year cyclotouring overseas and have primarily cycled in Europe, as far east as Turkey. We also spent 4 months cycling in New Zealand. When we started cycling in Europe in 2001 we thought we'd travel for a year or 2--now we can't imagine stopping.

You can continue reading more "About Us" in the 3 next files in that category or you can look around the "What, How, & Why" area for more details on our bikes, gear, or biases. And feel free to email if your questions aren't being answered.

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