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The Pacific Coast Route
Early morning sunlight illuminated my tent. For the seventeenth day in a row, I heard the propane of our backpacking stove whispering on the picnic table outside and Jason rustling coffee from a pannier. Watching the light play on the dome of the tent I retraced the route from our prior day’s riding. The fruit stands and farmland, a gut wrenching climb right after lunch, a few frustrated tears, the stellar cup of coffee that put a little town on the map. This is the life!
Fresh out of college and hungry to know the world, adventure called around every corner. Little did we know that when we started pedaling south we were opening a door that would reshape our lives.
We migrated, cycling from campground to campground, relishing the simplicity of few belongings and the spontaneous nature of each day en route. Our lives were packed neatly in old panniers. With no spare room for distracting stuff we turned our attention to the people we met, the landscapes we wandered, and the challenges of moving by our own means.
We were hooked.
With 1000 miles and nineteen days of touring under our belts we were full of ambition and creative energy. Back home again, we designed and made the first of what would be thousands of sets of panniers. The obsession with creating high quality gear seeded itself, and we had no idea that we were embarking on an adventure that would test our ambitions like no other.
My heart soared as I looked over the central Oregon desert. I had slipped from camp in the predawn hours and daybreak revealed the stunning vastness surrounding me as I churned along the dusty road. So began day three of Oregon Outback, a gravel exodus along the state’s central bisect. For some it was a race, for most an unmatched challenge, and for everyone it was a celebration of backcountry travel by bicycle. It was remote, self supported, and unsanctioned. Exactly what we wanted. Jason and I signed on to test our backcountry skills, endurance, and relish the camaraderie of an expedition.
For months leading up to the ride, the feat had demanded unparalled physical focus and stoked my design skills with a fresh assignment. At the drawing board, I weighed what little I knew of the route and terrain and drafted a low-volume pannier made out of light materials that would bare the adventure with tried-and-true resilience. There I was, poised to drop into a sage-lined basin with my panniers and gear packed with expert efficiency and I felt recharged and amped to move on. Mile by mile I could feel Oregon Outback etching me with some inner mark of transformation that would compel growth and tug at my wanderlust.
The Range Tour
As gear makers, an ulterior motive lies in each adventure we head out on: it’s a quest to make better and better bicycle bags. We figure that the best way to make the bags we dream about is to chase the open road. We circled the Olympic National Park on dirt roads and trails in order to perfect the Junior Ranger panniers we had drafted for Oregon Outback.
Jason and I made ourselves at home in our vagrant ways and the Range Tour started off without a hitch. Four days later, on the western section of our route, the clouds darkened and the plot thickened. I came to understand that the foothills of the Olympic Mountains would toss me up and down like a small craft on ocean waves with hardly a witness. For miles we’d creep along tacky, muddy logging roads only to find summit after summit enveloped in dense, dripping fog. There were no vistas. There were no whoops of joy. The descents were so cold we’d dawn our trustworthy woolens and pull trash bags over our torsos only to drop down the opposite slope with chattering teeth. I cursed over my breath: who is insane enough to call this vacation?
When the southern sun punched through a hole in the clouds our tempo picked up and our days were spent in the content concentration of staggering climbs. It’s easy to draw parallels between creating a small business and the feats of life on the road. It’s all about your attitude–if you fight the challenge it will wrestle back. On epic ascents in the worst of all weather one learns how to move fluidly with the circumstances at hand. You know yourself better for it, and the rewards are as awe-inspiring as the craggy alpine views we chase.
“This post is part of a series spotlighting Adventure Cycling’s Corporate Members. These companies support our mission and programs and do some cool stuff of their own. We decided to ask them some questions and, as a result, have learned a few interesting things about our supporters that we’d like to share with you. The answers below are direct from the companies. We hope that this gives you the chance to get to know them a little better, too. For this post, Corporate Member Swift Industries shares with us a bit about their brand, their passion for cycling, and why they support Adventure Cycling Association.” Adventure Cycling Association
Tell us a little bit about your company and its history.
Swift Industries is a bicycle bag company in Seattle, Washington. While our official story as designers and pannier makers began in 2008, with a business license one sewing machine and three rolls of fabric, twenty-twenty hindsight reveals that our journey had started two years before on a tour along Adventure Cycling Association’s Pacific Coast Route. It’s only now that Jason and I can clearly see that when we started pedaling south on our three-week trip we were opening a door that would reshape our lives.
At Swift Industries we make bicycle panniers, randonneur bags, and saddle-bags for the adventuring cyclist. Our company has committed to rethinking the way gear is designed and produced in the United States. Swift Industries designs and manufactures from a beautiful industrial workplace in the heart of Seattle. Each product is made from start to finish by one of four accomplished seamstresses, a company trademark that is nearly extinct in modern manufacturing.
Each of us are adventurers, designers, and makers in equal measure.
What services or products do you provide for bicycle tourists?
Swift Industries offers a variety of bicycle pannier designs, handlebar mounted front bags, and European style saddle and randonneur bags. Our bags are set apart by design and materials, as well as the opportunity to customize features on each product through our website.
In addition to our own products, our online store and brick and mortar showroom offer the best of bike-camping accessories, touring guides, and regional Adventure Cyclist maps.
Swift Industries’ showroom converts into a classroom where we teach a popular Introduction to Touring series, host slide shows and tour reports, and encourage trip planning with maps and guide books on-hand.
Why do you support Adventure Cycling through corporate membership?
Adventure Cycling published the maps for our first long-distance tour along the Pacific Coast Route. Bike touring has changed the way we see the world, has opened opportunities to meet amazing people, and has brought us to some of the most stunning places in the world. We are constantly inspired by the resources AC offers wayward cyclists young and old, and Swift Industries wants to thank the passionate folks at AC for their commitment to bicycle travel.
What are your favorite things going on in cycling right now?
There is a wave of adventure cycling that has captivated the imaginations of adventurers everywhere. Remote touring–call it gravel riding, bike packing, adventuring—what have you, has lured us deep into mountain ranges, unfettered wilderness, and in pursuit of wide open spaces. Road touring proved a stepping stone toward remote touring that tests our outdoor skills, more technical riding, and opens up to more serine landscapes. We’re hooked!
Where would you like to see cycling in America in 5 years?
I think we’re heading in a good direction, and I want to see bicycle infrastructure and communities growing. Bike lanes, family cycling, cyclocross and bicycle commuters are weaving into the social and infrastructural flow of our cities. People and organizations are working hard in their communities to bring visibility to cycling, and to make it a safe and viable form of transportation. I’d love to live in a place where it’s second nature for people to pull out their bicycles for many if not all aspects of their lifestyle.
What is your favorite service or program that Adventure Cycling offers?
Out of all of the amazing work AC takes on, the Young Adult Touring and Leadership Scholarship excites us the most. Jason and I both worked in Outdoor Education and are committed to encouraging young people’s leadership skills through wilderness travel and outdoor activities. We really appreciate AC’s quest to usher in young adventure cyclists through the fund.
If your headquarters staff could relocate to any place in the world, where would they choose?
I’m not kidding. Seattle is it! Mountain chains to the East and West, island archipelagoes to explore, and the perks of urban living are all in reach in this laidback city. People spend their free time outdoors, mountaineering, fly fishing, and cycling. Swift Industries is right at home here.
As your company grows, have you had mainly tailwinds, headwinds or crosswinds? Explain.
Any good adventure encounters all three, and the same is true of these first years creating our business. In the beginning we really roughed it—we were dirtbag adventurers and our company was homespun, vibrant, and delightfully unconventional. As cyclists around the world have caught wind of Swift Industries we’ve loved navigating slow-growth, bringing in a team of amazing seamstresses, and working long, hard hours to get people travelling by bicycle.
We have always said that what we learned on bike tour is what we’ve applied to being young entrepreneurs:
Trust that you’re capable of going the distance
Let the experience fuel your creativity
Have a plan, and plan not to stick with it
Enjoy your encounters with the people you meet along the way
Move steadily and with purpose
Heighten your sense of place
Find inspiration in the little things
Get lost every once in a while
Be aware of the impact that you make
Has any of your staff ridden Adventure Cycling’s mapped routes? If so, which ones?
We’ve used the full Pacific Coast Route map set and have the Sierra Cascade and Washington National Parks routes on-hand as reference for exploring the Pacific Northwest.
What do you like best about the magazine?
The articles in Adventure Cyclist inspire our ever-lengthening bucket list of places to explore. Scanning the Companions Wanted section is always fun, and we look to the gear reviews for solid advice about high quality gear.
What cycling related benefits do you offer your staff?
That’s a pretty funny question at Swift Industries. All five of us are equally obsessed with bicycle touring and we’re connected to a rad diversity of cycling communities in Seattle. We’ve rolled into work ready for staff S240’s and are planning a five-day tour this spring (2015). It’s a resounding passion to make sure that each of us uses our bags on extended tours, weekend gravel rides, and in the city!
What’s more, our staff has access to a mechanic bench, bike parts and outdoor gear. We exchange resources and keep each other stoked on cycling. All of us get to travel to nation-wide bicycle events, and participate in local projects through Swift Industries.
Swift Campout Trip Journals –July 10th
We’ve been sitting at the local watering hole, recounting and reliving our vagabond days on Swift Campout. It’s time to pull out that old pencil and paper and draw us in with your trail stories. Four dynamic trip journals will be featured on builtbyswift.com and the winnings will sweeten the deal. We’re only days into summer, and the Trip Journal Prizes are sure to accompany you for a summer of rambling.
Trip Journal Guidelines
Due July 10th, 2015
200-500 words and 5 high quality photos (300 dpi, 12” wide)
All content must be original work, submit your trip journal in Microsoft Word or a Google Doc with your first initial and last name as the title. Include your name and email address at the header of the document. All photos must be labelled with your last name (ex. doe.jpg, doe2.jpg etc) Email your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Trip Journal Prizes
Campout Films–Due July 18th
(photo from Beat the Clock Campout, Austin TX)
We’re looking for short films that make us want to quit our jobs and take to the open road!
Take us along for an adventure. We’re gathering Swift Campout Films to inspire the next person to pack up some camp gear and pedal out to parts unknown. Make it so good we think we can smell the smoke of last night’s fire in our clothes, and feel the hard earned miles in our legs.
Swift Campout Edition Junior Ranger Panniers,
Membership to Adventure Cycling Association.
Second and Third Place Prizes
Two runners-up will receive Swift Campout Edition Zeitgeist Saddle Bags.
Campout Film Guidelines:
Due July 18th, 2015
All footage needs to be original and created for the Swift Campout.
All music must be original, licensed, or open-sourced.
Film needs to include “#swiftcampout” and builtbyswift.com in the credits, and be web-ready upon submission.
Swift Industries will hold the rights to use the winning Campout Films on builtbyswift.com and all company promotion including public and private showings. Swift Industries will not have the rights to sell or distribute your film for profit.
Submit your films by posting them to Vimeo or Youtube and email the link to email@example.com
With a few weeks left until Swift Campout we wanted to give a huge shout-out to all of you who are first time bike-campers, and maybe even lure in any of you folks who are watching curiously from the sidelines wondering if a bike-overnight is the thing for you!
Want to get started but aren’t quite sure where to begin?
There’s nothing more exciting than showing folks how simple it is to gather some gear and get your toes wet on a short adventure. Are you craving something different, a new way to see the world and get back in touch with the simple things? Me too!
First things first–for a short bike trip chances are any old bike will do, but there are a few things that will make your outing a little easier. We recommend a bicycle with gears because your camping stuff might slow you down a bit and those hills will take a toll with your house on board.
The most common set-up is a rear rack to carry your panniers full of food, camping supplies and your shelter. It’s much more comfortable than riding with a heavy backpack! Let your bicycle do the heavy lifting so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of country roads.
Try to pack as minimally as possible. One of the most liberating things about traveling by bicycle is that when you’re stripped down to the daily essentials you pay closer attention to the landscape and people along the way. This doesn’t mean you’ve signed up for sufferfest–not at all–I guess the idea is that when we simplify our belongings, we can amplify the pleasures that make life so wonderfully satisfying. Like brewing coffee as the light hits camp on a summer morning, or chillin’ cross legged next to a glowing fire sharing a nip with travel buddies. Soak in the moment.
Life on the road is so good!
For Swift Campout you should bring along a mat, sleeping bag and shelter. Gear designed for backpacking is perfect for bicycle travel. Backcountry gear is lighter and more compact than ever–which makes bike camping pretty luxurious without a ton of weight. I bring an inflatable pillow along, and even grind my coffee beans fresh each morning. There’s no need to rough it unless that’s your calling. The minimalism of bike camping should enhance the simple pleasures that make life soul-satisfying.
Your ride will be even more heavenly if you use a few simple packing tips.
- Mini everything. Shrink your stuff–put sun screen in a smaller tube, take pasta out of the bag and put it into a ziplock, don’t take the whole salt shaker if you can put a little seasoning in film-cannister sized containers. Take a 1L pot and cook in cycles instead of lugging three pots along.
- Fill the dead space. Put your fuel bottle, some food, and even a pair of socks into your cooking pot. That way you can utilize the dead space created by your cookware. Same applies inside your panniers–stuff small things into the nooks and crannies so your bags don’t overflow.
- Make sure the weight in your two bags is even so your steering is stable and your body is stoked. I like to put my tent on top of the rear rack with a bungee because it leaves more space inside the bags for my sleep set-up, clothes, and kitchen.
- Say there’s rain on the horizon. Keep your clothes and bedding tidy inside your bags until your tent is pitched. If you don’t let your gear get wet from the start, your whole adventure will be much more fun come hell or high water. A little mindfulness goes a long way: put sensitive gear like down sleeping bags and electronics in seam-sealed bags. There’s nothing like crawling into a warm, dry bed if the weather’s gone to shit.
If you’re an outdoor chef at heart the most satisfying is cooking over the open campfire and a great bike-camping kitchen includes
- a cutting board out of food grade HDPE (Tap Plastics or REI),
- a sharp knife
- spice kit (small containers of salt, pepper, cumin, chili, etc)
- a small pot
- backpacking stove and fuel
- coffee kit
- small pan (the lid of a small backpacking pot is usually designed to double as a pan)
For a short ride take lots of freshies along, or stop at farm stands along the way. Relish the open air kitchen while you chop and prep; enjoy turning those hot dogs at a ritual pace over the embers.
More of a bachelorette in the kitchen? That’s easy too: you can take a burrito for dinner and no-cook breakfast like yogurt and granola for a delicious start. That means you can forgo all of your kitchen gear and bring a teddy bear along, or a beebee gun, or something.
Every tour is as unique as your travel style.
The pace and distance is wholeheartedly up to you. It’s a retreat, a time to relish the open road, and we all do that a little differently. The allure of bike-camping is that there’s no prescribed way to do it. Start with low mileage to get a sense for riding with a loaded bicycle. If you’re road touring and the terrain isn’t crazy hilly I think 50 miles a day is stellar distance and allows for a laid back pace. Make sure to eat often and stay hydrated. It takes work to pedal along and the landscape can be distracting so avoid low blood sugar by snacking tons.
50 miles sounds ridiculous? You’d rather tool around and smell the roses? Great! So long as you are living the dream, it’s all good.
If you’re heading out of town you should know how to fix a flat and have the tools along to make the repair on the side of the road. You’ll feel tough and capable knowing that you’re self-sufficient and can maintain your bicycle on your own. As for other tools–bring only what you know how to use, and unless you’re going into the deep wilds don’t overthink what to take along. Patch kit, extra tube, tire irons, a multi-tool, some additional bolts incase your racks come loose, and zip ties. Zip ties are a gift from the gods.
Be safe in traffic. Ride on the shoulder where possible, and stay as steady and linear as possible as you forge ahead. Some drivers will give you lots of space and others will be dicks. The reality of bicycle touring is that traffic is the biggest risk. Some folks choose to wear more visible clothing on high traffic roads, and seriously, a helmet is a given in my book.
Finding quiet roads can be an art. Planning ahead is easier than ever with the internet at our fingertips. Switching google maps to “bicycle” mode is a great start, but doesn’t always reveal the killer roads that make your heart soar. When you’re planning be curious, maximize that map to scour for farm roads and country lanes that parallel the highways google suggests. Ridewithgps.com, Strava’s heat map, and Gaia GPS are also good resources for creating routes. Often counties publish bike-route maps. Check for local resources of that kind.
Alrighty kids. We hope we’ve reeled you in. It can be a leap to try something new and we’re excited and impressed that you’re pushing your comfort zone to give a bike camping trip a whirl! Holler if we’ve missed some glaring details and chime in if you have a stellar tip you want to share. Our guess is that you’ll pack up and have a field day beyond compare. The hope is that Swift Campout is the first of many trips this summer!
**important update!** New Start Location: Burke Gilman Playground, on the Burke Gilman Trail at Metro Market in the Laurelhurst Neighborhood)
Destination Tolt MacDonald County Park! Starting at Burke Gilman Playground at 10am on Saturday, June 20th. Or meet us at camp! Details: Distance: 45 miles a day, 70 miles roundtrip Level: Perfect for first time bike campers and seasoned bicycle-tourists alike! Base fitness: Riders need to feel confident riding 20 miles on an unloaded bicycle Must be comfortable cycling rural highways, in a group Pace: Social, (we have a no-drop policy!) Group Size: 25 folks Fees: Plan to pitch in for camp firewood and beers ($10 each). Bring your own food (including a packed lunch for Saturday’s ride out of Seattle) and gear.
Meeting us at camp?
We have the most beautiful sites in the entire campground booked, but they’re hard to find! Cross the suspension bridge and hang a right. Follow the dirt road 1/3 mile and you’ll see us by the river! Sites 36–39!
Roughly 120 miles of road, dirt, gravel and hills.
7 pizzas and an uncounted amount of tacos and bagels were consumed.
1 armadillo sighting.
2 campfires and many cups of campfire coffee enjoyed.
The first weekend in May was beautiful: Warm, sunny days and clear, cool nights. A weekend made for bike camping. Thirteen of us gathered to drink coffee and do some reconnaissance for Swift Industries’ Summer Solstice Campout. Three days of riding alongside ranches teaming with young livestock, past a ghost town and finally through the charred pines of Bastrop sprinkled with new growth. We rolled out Friday morning armed with sunscreen and coffee.
The scenery in Bastrop is pretty surreal. In 2011, Bastrop State Park was ravaged by wildfires. All along our route there was evidence of that terrible summer, epic pines charred and cut down and bald spots existed in what was once a lush forest. But new growth was everywhere- bright green little pines against the black and grey giants. There were even blackberries growing in abundance. We set up our camp and then split into two parties. Party One set out on pizza duty, while Party Two got the fires going and made friends with three other bike campers who happened to roll through: a German woodworker taking 5 months to ride from Atlanta to Vancouver; and two women riding from San Diego and Phoenix, respectively, en route to Florida.
We let the sunrise wake us up and sleepily made our way to our various coffee set-ups. The rustling we heard that night was identified to be an armadillo bumbling around camp, bumping into our bikes and tents. We figured it was a good sign, since the armadillo is considered Beat The Clock’s spirit animal.
We said goodbye to our new friends as they headed to Houston and then hopped back onto Park Road 1C. Part of the group branched off for a dirt ride into camp while the rest revisited the hills. The camp vibes were strong with us- Bastrop’s pool opened 20 minutes after we arrived at the park.
Day 2 was full of burgers, swimming and plenty of lounging. We enjoyed a mellow night following a sun and pool soaked day and turned in early. The moon was almost full that night, making our headlamps almost unnecessary.
Up with the sun, we made our way home to Austin and back to work, grad school work and to take a nap (yours truly). Our yoga teacher and fellow Swift Navigator was Houston bound for a criterium race, where he ended up placing in the top 10. The final group out took advantage of Bastrop’s Main Street for a second breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and waffles.
Words by Laura Clemens Trujillo of helloclementine.com
Photos by Gideon Tsang and Crew
Swift Campout is a month away and we’re getting hyped! Make sure to sign on and mark the map with your own adventure. Hit the open road for a night under the stars, and remember to share your #swiftcampout stories to win amazing gear from Tenkara Rod Co., Ibex Wool, Horse Brand, Ocean Air Cycles, and Enlightened Equipment!
We’re calling for short vid submissions so grab your cameras and start documenting your overnight! Winners will get set up with a full touring set up from Swift Industries and more.
Ventura, CA Established: 2010
There’s no question about it: the Perks Family is passionate about bicycles. What’s more, they’re committed to high quality goods made in the good ol’ USA. We’ve been honored by the opportunity to work with the Ventura company on the Ocean Air Cycles X Swift Industries Docena Demi-Porteur Bag. The morning ritual of #coffeeoutside spread like wildfire when Rob shared his weekly routine and now folks all over are inspired to get out and gather with friends new-and-old for morning coffee in a beautiful spot. Whether you’ve been following the family grow and the business from its inception, or if this is the first you’ve heard of the mom’n’pop company, I think you’ll love the insight Rob drops about Ocean Air Cycles.