Milestone Rides Interviews The Bicycle Touring Pro And Asks How He Became A Professional Traveler

By Darren Alff on - Download my FREE bike tour starter guide!

On April 4, 2014, I cycled to Oxnard, California and met up with Johnny from Milestone Rides who was, at the time time, in the process of leaving his job and working to become a full-time cyclist (like myself). As you can imagine, he had quite a few questions for me about how I made the leap from being a passionate bicycle touring fan to a full-time professional bicycle traveler.

During our time together in both Oxnard and Camarillo, Johnny and I cycled to the nearby CSUCI University and ate lunch together at a nearby Mexican restaurant. During our time together, Johnny and I spoke about our bike tours, out experiences with the Adventure Cycling Association, and our dreams for the future.

Before we went our separate ways, Johnny sat down and did a quick interview with me about my own bicycle touring experiences, asking me:

  • How did you first get started with bicycle touring?
  • What is the best way to figure out what gear to carry on your bike tours and what items you should leave at home?
  • What strange or silly items are you carrying with you on your current bike tours?
  • Are the things you pack for every bike tour the same? Or different?
  • Why do you choose to travel without a camp stove?
  • How do you pick the destinations for your bike tours?
  • What inspired you to go on your first bike tour? And what is it now that continues to motivate you to travel by bike?
  • How is it possible for you to travel for months on end?
  • At what point did you decide to become a professional bicycle tourist?
  • Where are you going on your next cycle tour?

Bicycle Tourists at CSUCI university in Camarillo California

Here’s a quick transcript of the video above:

On April 4, 2014, Johnny (from Milestone Rides) traveled to Camarillo, California for a quick bike ride and interview with Darren Alff of BicycleTouringPro.com.

I didn’t have anybody teaching me how to do this. My uncle had gone on a bike tour before and he showed me how to put the bags on the bike, but he didn’t really tell me what to pack or anything. So I’ve kind of figured that out over the years. You go on a trip and carry a bunch of stuff you never use. And then you come home and say, “I carried this thing around with me on my bicycle for a whole month and I never used it.” And then you go on another trip and you say, “I’m going to leave that thing at home.” So that’s pretty much it. Almost every year I usually bring something that I end up not using, but it’s a new item that I think, “I’ll try this out and maybe I’ll use it.” On my upcoming bike tour I’m planning to bring a kite and a ping-pong paddle, so we’ll see if I ever use any of these items.

Are the things you pack usually the same?

Never! I never pack exactly the same things on my bike tours.

So, what goes into packing for a bicycle tour?

Well, there are the basics you need for a bike tour. Camping gear is essential for me, because I spend so much time camping. And clothing changes a little bit depending on where you are going in the world (and what time of year you are traveling), but it is the personal items that probably change the most.

On my early bike tours I brought a camp stove and pot and cooking gear and everything, but in the last few years I don’t bring all that stuff any more. That’s one of the things that I though, “I’ll try going without it,” and then realized I don’t really need this cooking gear at all. I do miss it sometimes, but not enough to be carrying it around with me all the time.

How do you organize your bike tours? How do you pick the destinations for your travels?

I pick the destinations based on where I want to go.

So, it’s usually a matter of going to a place you’ve never been to before?

Yeah, that’s usually it. I’m just interested in a place for whatever reason… and I think every tour has been different. I mean, what motivated me on my first bike tour is very different from what motivates me now. My first bike tour I did when I was 17-years-old, so at that age I was leaving home for the first time in my life and I was trying to prove to myself that I could do something big and memorable on my own. Maybe I was trying to prove that to myself for the first couple years of my bicycle travels – that I could do this in various locations all around the world.

What is your motivation now when you’re touring?

That’s a good one. I don’t know. I guess, maybe, trying to figure out where I belong, to a certain extent. When you’re from a certain area and that is all you know… like, I grew up here in Ventura County, California, but I don’t really feel at home here now that I’ve traveled all over the world. I think there are other places where I felt like I connected more with the people or something else. So that’s kind of what I look at now… is like, “Could I live here?”

You’ve been doing this for a while?

Yeah, 14 years.

14 years! Wow. And you get to go on these long trips. So, how is that possible for you to take an extensive leave from work? Or how did you get that going?

My main secret is that you just have to be stubborn. You just have to be obsessed with what you want to do. That’s the main thing. And then continuously work towards that.

For me, I think the big move that I made occurred a couple years after I graduated from college. I had been going on bike tours for six years at that point. And during those six years I had been telling myself, “I wish I could just travel the world and get paid to do that.” All my friends would say, “Good luck with that. You’re dreaming!” But when I finally made the commitment to myself that I was going to try and do that, that was really all it took. You gotta make the decision and go for it!

I know you have a couple of cycle tours coming up. Can you tell me the details for what you have going on?

Yeah. I am leaving soon on a 6-month-long bike tour through about 13 different countries in Europe and Asia. I might be longer than that actually. I don’t even know. I’ve rented out my entire home for a whole year, so I know I’m going for the six months and then I have some time afterward.

I like going back to places you’ve been to before. You see it differently… and at the same time, you kind of feel at home. It’s kinda cool.

Thank you Johnny and Milestone Rides for coming out to meet me in Camarillo and for taking the time to interview me and post this video. I really appreciate it!

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5 Comments

  1. Johnny Lam

    September 13, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Hey Darren,

    Thank you for reposting the interview and the transcript. Hope you are enjoying your world-wide tour!

    ~Johnny

  2. Susan

    September 21, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Hey, Darren. I’ve been enjoying your blog. One question, related not to just this interview but all of your postings:

    Your bike is always neat and tidy with the 4 matched panniers and handlebar bag. There are never any extra bags of groceries, or any laundry hanging off. Is this just for the pictures, or do you always manage to keep so well organized? If it is always the case, can you comment on your method for maintaining order? Thanks!

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      September 21, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Hi Susan. First of all, thanks for your question/comment.

      To answer your question, 1). My bike has not always been so tidy. I’ve learned to keep it that way after conducting years of long-distance bicycle tours. 2) The way you see my bike in the photos is the way it pretty much always looks. Watch the video in this article to see how I’m able to pack everything for my bike tours INSIDE my panniers: http://bicycletouringpro.com/packing-for-bike-tour/

  3. Susan

    September 21, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks! I appreciate that you took the time to reply. It sounds like you’ve found what works best for you and just stick to it. I’ve measured my tours in weeks, not months or years, but I have trouble when I have dirty laundry that I want to keep separate, or clean but still wet laundry, or have loaded up on food and need to keep food smells away from other things. It sounds like I should stop re-organizing each time one of these situations arise, and just develop a method that anticipates that it will happen. I would really like to be well-organized and have a clean-looking load, but I don’t come by it naturally. Seeing the way your panniers are packed in your video is helpful! Thanks again, and travel well.

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      September 22, 2014 at 5:50 am

      Yeah. It just takes some practice. You just gotta figure out a system that works well for you.

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