The inspiration to begin biking in Latin America and later Europe came from the arrival of my 50th birthday in 1997. A few years before, I had written a story for Oregon Cycling paper about ATP (Advanced Training Products) in Eugene, Oregon–the original frame-building shop set up by the Scholz brothers, making tandem frame sets for Burley and bikes for other companies. They went on to found Bike Friday in 1992, and began seeing ads and very good reviews in the paper. So a few months after I turned 50, I drove down from Portland to see the factory and borrow a folding bike with sturdy 20” BMX wheels to test on my next trip…..
So that was how I found myself, unfolding a Bike Friday outside the airport in Kona, Hawaii and managing to secure the Samsonite suitcase on the luggage rack for a short but steep up the slope of the volcano to the house I had arranged to visit. That was the first of many winter trips that became an annual event for me until 2015. This portable bike designed and built in Eugene has performed splendidly for me in Latin America and Europe.
But it isn’t intended for heavy off-road use, especially with a full load of camping gear! I found the limit for me and the bike in 2011 when I rode from Trevelin, Argentina (founded by Welsh pioneers in the late 1800’s) through the Andes to the whitewater rafting center of Futuleafu, Chile. This route runs along the river valley that forms the only low-level crossing of the Andes and is about 54 kms of dirt road covered with loose rocks–called “ripio” in Spanish. That made progress difficult with a full load, so it took several hours with stops to rest my hands and arms.
That led me to invent and engineer the Mule Packer–a very different kind of demountable travel bike with 26″ mountain bike wheels.