Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Interview with Craig Bierly

The Methow Valley doesn’t see to many celebrities so when we spotted Craig Bierly’s famous Dodge Sprinter van in our small, Western town we ran over to it like Paparazzi. Craig Bierly has been written about in nearly every bike magazine on the planet simply because he is living the dream so many of us have wished for at one time or another in our lives…..to hit the open road and either ski, bike, hike or run every trail in the US. In Craig’s case he has chosen to travel the US and explore every mountain bike trail he can find. He is currently on his third year of living on the open road riding every trail he can.
Craig graciously agreed to talk with us and share a little more about his life and his experiences biking in the Methow. After showing off our favorite Buck Mountain bike trail Craig sat down with a shot of local tequila and answered some of our questions:

Let’s start at the beginning. How did this idea for a new lifestyle of living out of a van and mountain biking all the trails in the US begin?
In 1978 I quit a great job to hike the full length of the Pacific Trail. My friends called me nuts which is how I came up with my slogan, RUNuts Adventures. www.runutsadventures. After the PCT I went to work for Boeing for the majority of my career. I got into mountain biking in 1985 and I remember reading all these bike magazines of places to ride and cutting out all the articles on Moab, Fruita, Sedona, etc. I always dreamt of riding in those places. One day it hit me that “My time with no money is better than my money with no time”. So again I quit my job, sold my house and started this journey of living out of a van at age 59.

And was it your plan right from the beginning to mountain bike all the trails in the US?
No. Actually I thought I would take my kayak, backpack, skis and bikes with me but then I realized if I took all those things I never would really accomplish anything. I really like mountain biking, it’s easy on my body and it’s a sport I can do 12 months of the year. I love backcountry skiing but living out of a van in the winter is not easy. I did end up bringing my backpack but in three years I have never used it.

I see you also did bring a road bike, do you ever road ride instead of mountain bike?
No, not really. I’ve only been on the road bike 4 times in three years!

You have ridden in every state and on nearly every acclaimed, classic, epic mountain bike trail in the nation. Do you have a favorite mountain bike trail?
I hesitate every stating a favorite trail. What might be a favorite for me might not be a favorite for you. “Favorite trails” are ones that make you feel something special. Maybe it's the type of terrain you like, or the group of friends you are with or your favorite type of scenery is on that ride. Everyone should embrace their own favorite trail. I have however ridden on some great trails. I have thought about maybe starting a “Craig’s List” (get it, Craigslist) of some of the lesser known trails in the US.

What is the goal of this adventure?
Well the goal started out to be simply riding all the trails in the US. But what it really has become is a quest to meet new people in the mountain biking community and listen to what they are doing. I’ve become such an advocate for trails, proper trail building practices, sustainability and proper land use. Now the goal is to seek out interactions with land managers, bike club presidents and bike shop employees. The rides really have become the excuse to become more involved in mountain bike advocacy. So I guess my goal really is to share what I know in order to help make a better community for mountain biking.

So when is your adventure going to end?
I’m having too much fun to quit. When I started this I thought I would go two years, I’m not on my third year and I have no plans to stop.

Can we ask how much it costs you to live?
I spend $20,000 per year. The majority is spent on food although about $6000 per year is spent on my bike. I rarely ever pay to camp. In three years I have only spent 9 nights out of my van and those were all for medical reasons. I’ve put 70,000 miles on the van and diesel is a big expense. I’ve chose to not be too frugal with my lifestyle. I really like spending money in the brew pubs and bike shops as this is where I can meet the most people and connect with the community.

Any other insights about life on the road?
I once met a guy who has been living on the road for 33 years. He was an inspiration. Even though I travel I never miss a dentist appointment; every 6 months like clockwork. Each segment of America is so different. The South is really dirt poor, the Midwest has really bad beer, New England is cold, harsh and really not that friendly primarily due to the population density. Everywhere however, has great trails.

And your thoughts on the West and the Methow Valley:
The West has great coffee, brew pubs and more public land than the rest of the country. The van’s license plates are Washington and it’s where I started from. I got shivers learning about the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association and the work you are doing with trails and working with private and public land owners. It may be a goal of mine in the future to start something like what you are doing in the Methow. I’m really enjoying my time meeting people and riding in the Methow.

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