Paul Doffing piqued our interest when we read about his Freedom From Fuel tour earlier this year.
This is a combined bike and music tour that started in 2012 and has racked up over 10,000 miles of cycling and 100 shows so far. Paul “cancelled his lease, relinquished his possessions, and set off”, promoting sustainability and reduced dependence of fossil fuels on the way. It’s truly an inspiring undertaking.
We started by asking the obvious: what is life like as a bike touring musician?
His emoticon (“are emoticons fair game in interviews these days?”) neatly captures his love of the lifestyle, and is a punchy backdrop for some insightful philosophy about life on the road:
On a music tour, generally you’re sitting in a van or a car for HOURS AND HOURS – just crazy amounts of time and ridiculous quantities of fuel and way too much attention to your phone. You see the world through a wind-shield, which, I admit, I used to think was synonymous with “seeing the world”.
The thing is, the visual aspect is actually only a small view of the world. What about the smell? What flowers are in season? What grasses? What’s the daytime high temperature? What’s the nighttime low? How high is the mountain? Which way is actually north right now? What is the moon phase? You can’t see any of those things.
You have to feel the cold air on your skin, to feel it coming in your nostrils and learn what the smells actually are.
In a car you have no real idea how tall the mountain is. 4,000 ft and 6,000 ft feel about the same. A little pressure on the pedal on the right. But if you have to feel mountain in your muscles then you can actually understand more about it’s height, steepness, etc. It’s all fairly irrelevant in a car. You can be somewhere else in your mind and miss all of it, and it’s no problem. You’ll still get where you’re headed.
The last line is pertinent, and outlines exactly our motivation to curate beautiful cycling holidays: the opportunity to help people experience this new perception of the world is a privilege.
And incidentally, his point about the importance of feeling the differences between elevations is what motivates us to seek out particularly hearty hills 😉
As cyclists we’re used to hearing the same questions over and over (“how much did your bike cost? why do you enjoy cycling up hills so much? are you mad?); it’s the same story for Paul on his adventure. In an attempt at originality, we asked him which questions do you hear the most on the road, and he says it’s tied between four: “Where did you start? Where are you headed? How far do you go in a day? Where do you stay at night?”
We didn’t ask any of those (although perhaps we should have!). The answers: Minneapolis, currently heading east but no definite destination, around 40 miles per day, riverside camp-sites if the opportunity exists.
As well as being inquisitive, people Paul meet on his ride are receptive to his journey and his cause. “I think my trip has definitely impacted a few people”, he says, and understandably so: the environmental aspect is much more genuine when preached by a messenger who’s arrived by bicycle than by someone who travels between gigs with a personal fleet of tour buses.
Paul practices what he preaches with real panache too, just check out the video for his song Rollin’ in my Bones:
Bike rides take a lot of planning (trust us!) and we always enjoy comparing notes with other cyclists to see how they organise theirs. Paul’s trip is so different from anything we’ve encountered before in its scope but by the sounds of it, the logistical nitty-gritty is much the same:
I use a mix of state/ national cycling maps, adventure cycling maps, road usage level maps, Strava and a Garmin GPS. I tend to put a great deal of effort into planning the safest, lowest traffic route I can find.
Along the way Paul has performed at farms, schools, homes, village halls and more. He says that “as far as gigs go, I try to play as much as I can while travelling about 40 miles a day”, which obviously requires a lot of research and communication with potential venues on the way. The hefty amount of planning (and not to mention the thousands of miles of pedalling) must be worth it when it comes to performing at idyllic venues like the one below:
We ask all our Cycling Champions what does cycling mean to you in 25 words or less. Paul’s answer is perhaps the most comprehensive so far:
Cycling is a low-cost high-reward perspective-lending physically-demanding mentally-satisfying peace-giving fitness-improving community-building patience-enhancing means of transportation.
And if that doesn’t make you want to get out on your bike, we don’t know what will.