Not So Romantic Bicycle Touring

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I met Matt and Siobahn at the 2011 NAHBS in Austin, TX. They were super cute, super tan, and super bubbly. Their awesome personalities and Australian accents made you want to chat with them all day. We (Bilenky Cycle Works) were, at the time, building them two custom longtails to accommodate surfboards for their upcoming epic bike adventure. Matt and Siobahn would be embarking on a bike/surf journey from Canada to Terra del Fuego, the most southern tip of South America. The plan was to ride along the coast as much as possible so as to be able to surf whenever they got the urge to ride some waves.

The tour began on a rainy day in St John, New Brunswick where they took a ferry to Nova Scotia and started their trek west. The next time we spoke, Matt had made it all the way to San Francisco and had been riding for over a year. Matt has had his share of setbacks since beginning his journey and as a result, is not so focused on the destination. He describes his inspiration for this trip as naivety, as things have not gone nearly as smoothly as he anticipated. Matt couldn’t imagine what would be better than combining his passions of cycling, surfing and traveling.

The Canadian portion of the route was much more cycling than surfing, since they weren’t anywhere near a beach. This was a struggle for the two beach bums and they were thrilled to make it to the Pacific Ocean. The journey to American soil was also pretty lonely as they were traveling the “wrong” way of the wind and there were few bicycle tourists. Those were small setbacks compared to what was to come. Matt had to continue the trip solo, as Siobahn flew back to Australia to do more surfing and less cycling. Following Siobahn’s departure, Matt’s beloved Bilenky was stolen from a San Francisco street corner at the beginning of March.

Although it makes him sad to think about, Matt describes his Bilenky that carried him almost 5,000 miles. “The original bike was built from the inspiration of Goat’s bike. It had ridiculously wide tires on it for the purpose of the sandy conditions I would be encountering. Despite how ugly I find these tires, they really do function very well. The rear rack was another odd point as it was super long to take my surfboard flat on the back. In the past I have had my board strapped to the side of my bike, which really affects the handling of a bike in the wind. The frame was built with an eccentric bottom bracket to take the Rohloff speed hub, which is a really fantastic hub when you are mixing a 4" wide tire with a longtail chain line, as you can get a nice and tight chain, (no annoying chain flop) while have a Q factor which is not as wide as a horse. I loved my bike so much. I did not even realize how much until it was stolen, it was truly an amazing bike. I could carry so much food, water, plus all the other touring stuff as well as a board and wetsuit, and it would still handle like a dream. I had complete confidence in Hillbilly.”

Since Matt’s emotional and bitter blog entry (so heart-wrenching that it made me want to write this piece) Fuck all the Na Sayers he has had a stroke of luck. With kind donations from Surly, Xtracycle, and Farfarer, Matt will soon have a new bike to continue his journey.

With all of his touring hurdles, I was curious how Matt handled the hard times and disappointment. “Screaming!!! And Crying. Hahaha. No, for the most part with each disappointment there was something good to try and focus on. Life is up and down, whether on a bike tour or living at home working the 9 to 5 grind. There is no point fighting what you can't change. Although I often forget that.”

Matt says it's important not to over romanticize bike touring and to go into it realizing that you will encounter hard times, and staying in your “comfort bubble” the entire time is impossible. “Having said that though, there is a reason why we do it, as there are moments of pure ecstatic joy! The people you meet, the smells, the sights, the meditation of just peddling are all so great. If you’re not stoked on touring by bicycle, then there is no harm in returning home to try something else.”

Matt’s parting words: “The only thing left to lose is boredom: Love your life...And remember, there are far more good people in the world then bad.”

Follow Matt on his adventure at



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