Schwinn partner Mikah Meyer ran across the states of Minnesota and Mississippi within the past year, and this month he will be making another epic journey. (And this time, he will go by bike!) Mikah, along with his friend and bike guru Cole, will be biking across the state of Oregon throughout the last half of May.
They have their bikepacking gear and their Schwinns ready to go for this beautiful, 354-mile journey down the Oregon coast. We chatted with Mikah and Cole to learn more about what their goals are in completing the #BikeAcrossOR, what their ultimate tips are for bikepacking beginners, and what they are most looking forward to seeing on the Oregon coast.
Hey, Mikah and Cole! Can you introduce yourselves and tell us about the #BikeAcrossOR journey you are about to embark on?
Mikah: What do you want to do before you die? The idea of the “Bucket List” is part of American culture everywhere from Hollywood movie titles, the MTV’s “Buried Life” show, to conversations amongst friends and family. The concept became real to me when my dad unexpectedly passed away at age 58, from cancer. He never got those retirement years that he was expecting to use to check off his Bucket List items that would take more than two-weeks of vacation.
I was 19 when he passed. Since then I have made it a goal to pursue a life that accomplished as many of my Bucket List items as soon as possible in order to honor the years my dad didn’t get for his, but also in case I pass away sooner than I hope.
Most of the time that looked like short trips built around work holidays, but at age 30 it climaxed when I quit my jobs and poured my life’s savings into spending three years traveling nonstop to all of America’s 400+ National Park Service sites. That completed one of my largest Bucket List items, but also unearthed a passion for working to create inclusivity in outdoors culture. Ever since that trek ended in 2019, I’ve devoted my career to finding creative ways to make the Great Outdoors more welcoming to people who don’t think they fit the “outdoorsy” stereotype, while also encouraging folk to pursue their dreams—whatever they may be—before it’s too late.
Cole: I grew up just outside of Minneapolis. Growing up, my grandpa (dad’s dad) was a retired auto-mechanic who filled his time building models of buildings from his hometown and fixing up old bicycles. I always had the good fortune of rummaging through the backroom of his garage to pick out the latest and greatest bike he’d finished restoring. I have two younger brothers and we used to go riding from our house around the local trails and parks. Those short trips slowly evolved into longer and longer adventures around Minneapolis. When I graduated high school a friend asked if I would be interested in working up at a YMCA camp in Northern Minnesota. He had previously ridden his bike up to the camp which is just north of Ely and some 300+ miles from home. Having never been to the North Shore I was extremely excited to join him. We made our first combined trip up in 2011 and went on to do that for 4 more years. I even managed to rope one of my younger brothers to join us.
Cycling has been an important part of my life that has always brought balance and peace of mind when “the real world” is just too much. The #BikeAcrossOR is going to be an amazing trip. Oregon is such a beautiful state, the wildness of the cascades and the Oregon coast will be both physically and mentally demanding. The weather is always unpredictable this time of year and we are doing our best to prepare. I hope to learn more about the places we travel through as we are experiencing them.
How did you get the idea to do the #BikeAcrossOR together? Cole, did you volunteer to go along, or did Mikah ask you to go with him?
Cole: As I recall, Mikah became aware of the concept of traveling by bike after we met. We were talking about his national parks journey and his runs across Minnesota and Mississippi. We discussed how amazing it would be to do a ride across a state and started to talk through different options. Mikah was set on Texas but I’ve always loved the Pacific Northwest and so I threw out the idea of Oregon.
Mikah: Cole is correct. I had never heard of bikepacking until seeing his weekend biking adventures of 100, 200, 300+ miles. Watching the way he traveled with just the bags attached to his frame intrigued me. That type of journeying doesn’t get as much coverage as backpacking.
While using bikes as part of my Run Across Minnesota and Mississippi (my photographer would travel in front of me on a Schwinn electric bike), I would think about Cole’s adventures and wonder if a “Bike Across” would be possible. Texas became my fantasy, but Cole wisely talked me into a more reasonable first voyage. Knowing a little about the beauty of the coastal Highway 101 from my national parks journey made Oregon an easy sell!
The Oregon coast is beautiful, but is there any area of the coast that you are most looking forward to seeing?
Mikah: Southern Oregon. Knowing how beautiful San Francisco and Portland are, it blows my mind that there aren’t more big cities in the coastal area between them. That “unknown” factor about the southern half of the Oregon coast (which is way less traveled than the northern half near the Portland population center) makes it particularly exciting while living in an era where popular travel locations are saturated with photos on Instagram.
Cole: I am most excited for southern Oregon as well. I’ve been to parts of the north coast of Oregon but I’m always drawn to new places and experiences. We have a list of hiker/biker sites (campsites at state parks with dedicated no-turn away policies for people traveling by bike or foot) but beyond that, I strategically avoided looking too much into the travel guides and blogs. Much like my first experience riding to the North Shore of Minnesota, I find something so magical about experiencing a place with no expectations or preconceptions.
Describe to us what each of your personal goals are in doing the #BikeAcrossOR - what does this journey mean to you and what are you hoping to accomplish in doing this ride?
Cole: Initially I was most excited to experience the trip through Mikah. There is something special about being with someone on their first trip by bike! I’m also excited to be riding in support of the Outside Safe Space mission. As an openly gay male who often travels in rural places alone, I believe that symbols matter. A sign in a small town that says we accept you can be enormously encouraging. Traveling by bike puts you in a humbling and vulnerable position. Knowing that you can rely on a community can be the difference between choosing to get out and do a trip or not.
Mikah: I’m a bit nervous for this trip. As Elsa from Frozen 2 coins, I’m going “Into The Unknown!”. But, trying a new form of adventure, and particularly, being open about my inexperience is also what excites me the most. I hope that by sharing that vulnerability, it’ll encourage other people who’ve never given cycling a try, to climb on a bike. In the context of the Outside Safe Space, I’m hoping Cole and my journey can show LGBTQ+ folk examples of openly gay people doing an activity that usually isn’t marketed as “gay travel,” so they can more easily see themselves participating in this type of adventure travel!
Cole - you are an experienced cyclist. How often do you go on bikepacking trips? What is the longest bike ride you have ever been on?
Cole: As often as possible! If I could go every weekend from May until October I would. In a typical year I try to do a dozen or more trips.
As for the longest trip… single or multi day? Last year I completed the Day Across Minnesota, a 240-mile single day ride from Gary, SD to Hager City, WI. To prepare I did my own 240-mile ride in northern Minnesota that was mostly on old logging roads and single track mountain bike trails. The longest multi-day ride I’ve completed to date is 500 miles across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.
How did you prepare your bikes for this journey?
Cole: We prepared the bikes by adding clear protective tape to the frame - this keeps the bags, which hold all our camping equipment, from damaging the paint or the carbon. We each have a full set of “bikepacking” bags that will be strapped to our bikes to hold all our items. In our case, a full set of bikepacking bags consists of: a seat bag which is strapped below the seat of the bike above the rear wheel, a frame bag which is strapped in the center triangle of the bike, and a front pack which is strapped to the handlebars over the front wheel.
Mikah: In addition to the bags Cole mentioned, I’ve got a second handlebar bag, a top-of-the-frame bag, and two water bottle bags strapped to the backside of the handlebar. I’ll also ride with a waist pack so I can bring my full-frame camera. It will be a little annoying, but the beauty of the coast is too tempting to capture in full-resolution!
Cole - what is your ultimate tip when it comes to bikepacking for someone who is just getting started?
Cole: Go local! I would look for a park with a campsite within 20-50 miles from home. Starting local allows you to figure out what works for you in an environment you’re familiar with. It’s always a good idea to test out your equipment and figure out what you need and don’t need before heading out for a big journey like the #BikeAcrossOR. That is why I insisted that Mikah and I do an icebreaker trip from Minneapolis to Stillwater, MN to make sure that all of his equipment was ready to go!
Mikah: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” It’s a cliché, but a good one. Get some friends and go bikepacking together! Having Cole with me not only gives me a confidence I wouldn’t have embarking on this journey solo, but also makes the whole experience more fun with someone to share it with!
That was the biggest lesson of my solo national parks journey. You can stare at the most beautiful sunset every day, but you can’t hug it, and it can’t hug you back.
What is the best type of bike for bikepacking, and how should one go about looking for a bike that is fit for bikepacking?
Cole: Thanks to the popularity and availability of bike bags there are so many options for bikepacking bikes! It used to be that you needed a touring bike with a rack and panniers but now that the bags just strap into place you can attach them to almost any style of bike. I look for a bike to suit the terrain. If I plan a route on gravel roads then I will look for a bike that is designed to accept a wider tire. Reliable components, gears, brakes, and bearings are also really important.
Mikah: As Cole said, the most fitting bike is one that suits the terrain. I appreciate that Schwinn has been making bikes since 1895 and that they have a bike for every situation. Those years of manufacturing experience help me feel comfortable venturing out on any surface, on any Schwinn.
How much gear are you each bringing on the #BikeAcrossOR?
Cole: Not much! We are each going to be carrying lightweight sleep systems including a tent, sleeping bag, and air mat. Beyond that we have a change of street clothes (to change into at the end of each day) spare parts, tubes, and tools for the bikes, a small camp stove and a ton of snacks!
Mikah: After me and Cole’s icebreaker trip, I upgraded my seat pack from 11 liters to 16.5 liters! Having lived in a high-roof cargo van for the three years of my national parks journey, I got used to traveling with every item I owned, ready for any season. Adjusting to the limited space of frame packs has been very difficult for me, and I’ve found myself obsessing over Tetris-packing my bags to gain every inch of space; to bring as much as I can fit.
With such little space, what is the most interesting or unexpected piece of gear/item that you are each bringing on the trip?
Cole: I always bring a book. OK, maybe it’s not that interesting or exciting but when you’re tight on space it is definitely a luxury item to carry! I’m hoping there is time for me to stop into Powell’s City of Books in Portland before we make the trip out to Astoria.
Mikah: I used to take a picture with a rainbow flag in front of America’s most iconic National Park Service sites. It was kinda “my thing” on social media, and was always my most popular photo on Instagram for every park I visited. It came to epitomize the LGBTQ+ representation I was trying to create with that journey.
Since my parks journey ended, I’ve taken less photos with the rainbow flag. So I’m bringing it back for this #BikeAcrossOR! And excited to see what epic views I can wave it for!
Approximately how many miles will you be biking each day throughout the trip?
Cole: 30-50 miles. After some practice rides with Mikah we decided to break the trip into 30-50 mile sections to allow for the most flexibility and to give us some time each day to explore.
Mikah: I was really adamant that this trip wasn’t about speed, but experience. The Oregon coast has so many amazing views (from what I’ve seen on Instagram) that I don’t want to rush by them all. Taking two weeks to complete this journey will make it much more of that: A journey, not a destination.
How can we follow along with you and see updates throughout the #BikeAcrossOR?
Cole: I’ll leave that to Mikah!
Once the journey is done and I’ve had time to synthesize all the logistics, I plan to create a “How to Bike Across Oregon” blog to help other people have their own experience bikepacking the coast. That will go live on my website, MikahMeyer.com and will be full of tips from Cole’s bikepacking wisdom to help other new bikepackers just like he did me!
Mikah is riding the Schwinn Fastback Carbon 105 and Cole is riding the 2020 Limited Edition Schwinn Paramount. Check out all of Schwinn’s road bikes to begin your next great adventure today!