Adventure Cyclist - Interview with Anna
To say that Anna rides a bicycle is an understatement: Anna lives her bicycle. From leading group bike tours in the United States to exploring Southeast Asia on two wheels with her partner, Anna is all about adventures by bike. "Until we moved to Missoula, we did not have a car for over 4 years," writes Anna, "We've been getting around on bicycles, planes and trains, and have been living a minimalist lifestyle thanks to the bicycle: You can only take what you can carry."
"We've been living a minimalist lifestyle, thanks to the bicycle."
Where are you from?
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but grew up mainly in Greenville, South Carolina. Currently, Paul and I are living in Missoula, Montana. But it must be stated, that in the past 3 years, I haven’t really been able to answer the question “where do you live?” due to living the seasonal life.
People would ask, “where are you from?” and my go-to answer was “PO BOX _ _ _ _”. It’s a PO Box in Alaska, that I’ve used on and off for the past 4 years.
Home means the place where one lives permanently, and to me, I haven’t had that kind of home in quite some time. My home has been with my partner, Paul, my bikes throughout the years, and the moving vessel in this thing we call life.
"My home has been with my partner, Paul, my bikes throughout the years, and the moving vessel in this thing we call life."
What role does your bicycle play in your life?
It’s the feeling of freedom on two wheels. It’s my main mode of transportation, and bicycles are headache-free when trying to park in a downtown area (bikes are usually faster than a car by the time you park). My deepest thoughts, tribulations, and epiphanies have probably been when riding for miles on end. My mind can wander but also observe everything that is surrounding me. Lastly, my bicycle has allowed me to meet some of the most inspiring, and fascinating people along the way.
"My bicycle has allowed me to meet some of the most inspiring and fascinating people."
What excites you about bike culture in Missoula?
Missoula is a bicycle hub! There are so many opportunities to ride your bike and be apart of the bike culture. It’s home to Adventure Cycling, and full of ride groups from mountain to road biking. There’s tons of organizations that are centered around bicycles, but use this hobby to help the community, from events such as Cranksgiving (biking around collecting food donations for Missoula Food Bank), to helping refugees get a bicycle and commute the city, to helping upkeep the trails. The challenge is to figure out where to invest your time and do your part.
Do you name your bikes?
Yes. Yarrow is a Trek 520, the famous touring bike that has been around forever. It’s my first newly-bought road bike. She has teal handlebars and a striking black frame that keeps her tough lookin’. Usually, I’ve bought bikes via Craigslist and have gotten pretty lucky. Previous used tour bikes have been a Novara Randonee named Baba Ganoush, and a 1989 Trek 520 that was gold with downtube shifting, named Coco Chanel.
"'Yarrow' is a Trek 520, with a striking black frame that keeps her tough lookin’."
When did you discover bicycle touring?
I wish that I discovered bike touring way earlier in life!!! But thanks to Paul Duyckinck, my partner in crime I met in Alaska, I was introduced to bike touring. Paul had done tons of cycling but never bike touring, so we tried it out together on the few roads in the Yukon. We love this type of travel and believe it’s the best way to see the world!
Have you ever ridden a century (100 miles in one day)?
My first back-to-back century, I wanted to ride my bike 100 miles and wasn't in superb cycling shape. It was my first summer working in Alaska for Sockeye Cycle, and Paul and I decided to ride our bikes to Whitehorse which is a solid 113 miles away from Skagway. Three notable mentions: Number one, we only had 2 days off in a row, so we had to ride there and back in 2 days (again my first time ever riding 100 miles). Number two, the head wind on the second day was tough for me and number three, I was riding this road bike with the most uncomfortable seat ever! Wow! Looking back I’m impressed with my determination to do the rides, but also, how much I lacked in knowledge about bike seats and bike options!
How does traveling alone compared to traveling with others?
There’s a freedom and sense of bravery that only can be experienced while traveling completely alone. You have no one to bounce ideas off of when you’re in a pinch, and you have to figure it out on your own. You’re more susceptible to meet new people, which is a good thing. Definitely, you gain an individual confidence.
What's one thing that could improve your experience as a cyclist?
Oh man! Hands down, I wish I could be super savvy with bike mechanics... I can do the basics: change a flat, fix a rear derailleur, minor adjustments, but I’m always striving to improve those skills.
It doesn't come naturally to me, so I have to really work at it. Usually, I am handing a six-pack of beer to my guy friends who are bike mechanics to help me out. But, last December I had a chance to work with a girl mechanic, and that was amazing! We just don’t see many females in that role...it was great to learn and practice with her.
What activities help your cycling?
Well, I recently took up XC skiing and damn, that is a total body workout from arms to legs. Before I discovered XC skiing, I found that strength-training and consistent core exercises made me feel strong and helped my cycling skills. I am a huge fan of HIIT workouts incorporated with weight training. And, most importantly, find a stretch routine!!! Stretch before you ride and after: I’ve suffered due to my lack of stretching and its affected my cycling.
"I recently took up XC skiing and damn, that is a total body workout from arms to legs."
Also, I love me some yoga, because it makes me stretch and take the time to relax in my body and listen to it: What hurts? What feels good? etc.
What comforts do you recommend to other cyclists?
Pay for a bike fit!!! That was worth all the money. I have bad knees, and the professional bike fit literally took my riding to a whole new comfort level. Also, Brooks saddles... I love them! I’ve enjoyed realizing throughout my cycling career, that I don’t always need to wear a fancy kit or even bike padded shorts, just find a seat that's comfortable to your booty and you can ride for miles. The padded shorts help for sure, but there is a big culture in bike accessories and clothes, so I encourage people to find a balance and not get caught up in the get up!
"There is a big culture in bike accessories and clothes, so I encourage people to find a balance... and not get caught up in the get up!"
Take care of your knees on cold mornings, wear those knee warmers. And practice your BIKE MECHANICS- do a BMI(bicycle mechanic institute) or take classes or pay your local bike mechanic in six packs to teach you! The more you know your bike, the more comfortable you feel riding alone and not stuck on the side of the road.
Any big plans for the future?
I have a huge itch to go back to Argentina. I lived there for about 6 months while I was at University and trying to excel in Spanish! I am really aching to go back and get my Spanish on! I miss the culture, food, and the good friends I made there.
My current goal is to stay active in 15 degree weather this winter ;) and complete my abstract painting for our empty walls in our apartment. It’s a massive canvas. Also, I’d love to be a part-time writer and the author of a children’s book one day.
Anything else you want to share with your fellow humans, about anything:
I am a dual citizen #half Canadian and proud of it! Thanks to my mom, who is full-on Canadian!
Follow Anna Online
Guided Tours: Womantours https://www.womantours.com/staff/anna-barton