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In early 2009, when we first shared our plans to purchase a sailboat and go cruising, we had many doubters. After all, how could we imagine such a thing, we’d never even sailed before? Amazingly, the naysayers held on to their beliefs long after we left Canada, some expecting, if not willing us to return with our tails between our legs. I suspect that now, 7 years later, most of these people’s doubts have been put to rest, at least about this portion of our journey. But, here we go again, changing things up.

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men. –  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

At least we know how to ride a bike!

I wonder, now that we’ve announced our new plans, how many people doubt our resolve, and our ability to follow through on this new course. I’m sure there must be some, after all, we’ve set a fairly big goal. Like sailing though, we are in no way breaking new ground. Just as there are countless cruisers exploring the oceans, a good number of whom began with no more experience than we had, the bicycle trek that we envision gets completed every year by dozens of men and women, if not more. And unlike sailing, we both at least know how to ride a bike!

The other day, a well-meaning friend of ours asked if we had done some research on camping gear for the trip. Both Rebecca and I had to chuckle at that. Surely he knows us better than that! Just as we did prior to setting off cruising, we have been researching and planning for this adventure like crazy. We’ve read numerous books from people who have completed similar trips, watched movies, explored hundreds of websites, and the best still, spoken to a couple of people who have been there – done that.

Photos on this post were taken by Cass Gilbert, above. Used with permission. 

I know how new cruisers feel when they message us with questions

One person in particular who has been kind enough to offer us some advice is Cass Gilbert. Cass completed a similar Pan-Am trek to the one that we are planning, and his travels are well documented on his website. He’s since gone on to become a well-respected author in the bikepacking world, penning numerous articles on bikes, gear, and his travels. These pics in particular, taken by him during a big trek in Mongolia, can be found in his article on Not coincidentally, the bikes being ridden in the photos, and in the movie above, are prototypes of the Tumbleweed Prospectors that we have on order.


A trip like this to Mongolia is definitely on the bucket list.


  1. I was a big biker before giving it up for sailing. My last bike was a recumbent, and I loved it, both for the comfort, and the power and speed compared with a “regular” bike. For comfort, you’ve got a big wide spring suspension mesh seat, and matching backrest. Your hands are at heart level, and have no pressure on them, so you don’t get “numb hands” or sore shoulders or neck from constantly looking up. For power, the most you can do on a conventional bike is your body weight on the pedals, plus maybe a modest amount of pulling down on the handles, assuming you’re not bent over them. With the backrest on the recumbent, you’re doing a leg press, easily twice the power. And you’re way more streamlined, being lower and flatter, so wind resistance is 1/2 to 1/3, which you can reduce even further with a fairing. I’ve easily topped 50 mph on the flats, and gone way past scary on the downhill’s. For safety, if you get one of the more upright models, you’re as visible as any other bike. And it is impossible to go over the handlebars, the chief cause of injuries other than collisions. And if you tip over, you’ve only got about a foot to fall, much less chance of injury.
    I don’t know about the load carrying capacities vs. touring bikes, but I imagine they’re pretty similar. You can hang a backpack from the seat back, and add saddlebags. And if you opt for a three-wheeler, you’ve got tons of carrying capacity.
    All the parts on recumbents are standard bike parts, except the frame, and the chain, which is twice as long, but extensions are readily available.
    The other drawback is the long wheelbase, which can make transporting on the back of a car a challenge.
    If you’re interested I can send pictures and websites to start.
    Incidentally, if you’re curious why recumbents aren’t more popular, the story goes the first guy to invent one, not a very fit guy, easily won the first race he entered against the top French racers. They have been banned from racing ever since.

    • Thanks, Steve. I actually don’t really have an interest in recumbents, not to mention the fact that we have already purchased bikes! We’re really interested in off-road riding, and single track, for which I can’t imagine recumbents are applicable. That said, one of our other long-term readers, Mike Ratrie, just completed a cross-US bike tour with his wife on recumbents. That type of bike obviously has a following. People also tour on tandems too but we don’t have an interest in them either. We both like to be in control. 🙂

  2. Hey Mike and Rebecca,

    Congrats on the next big adventure. Sounds really fun.

    We met a lot of sailboats in Cartagena and San Blas doing the Portobello – SanBlas – Cartagena charter run to get over the Darien gap. Some were very overloaded with backpackers (more than the boat could fit really) and some were in crap shape. When you get closer, start reading backpacker blogs to find which boats are good or bad.

    From Panama to Catagena is upwind but sometimes the winds are light and you motor a lot. If the bikes get stored on deck try to get some 4 mil plastic, spray the bikes with WD40, then wrap them up for the passage. From past experience bikes hate even light salt spray.

    S.v. Ceilydh

    • Thanks, Evan. Good advice!

      We’ve read numerous accounts of people crossing the Darien on sailboats, or commercial boats. Some were good, others were crazy! I’m hoping one of our friends will be in the area, and up for a sail. Barring that, maybe some Capt. would appreciate having a couple of people on board who can stand watch, and not throw up! 🙂

  3. I think what you’re going to do is quite reasonable. I’ve done a lot of looking as I’ve been riding and I missed this:
    You could look at it as a warm up.

  4. I am always amazed at how many people think you are breaking new ground or doing something dangerous or crazy when you tell them your adventure plans. So many people live humdrum lives, never going outside their own comfort envelope or pushing personal boundaries, that when you tell them you want to do something like biking the Americas, sailing the world, or motorcycling around the world, they automatically think you are doing something crazy. I can’t tell you how many people tell me I shouldn’t motorcycle to South America, that it is dangerous. When I tell them that a LOT of people have already done it and actually had a good time, they almost don’t believe me.

    Knowing what I know about you guys, you will not only do it, but probably make it look easy.

  5. Y’alls butts are going to be so freaking sore! 50 mile day on a road bike with a chamois can’t even fathom getting on a bike the next day. I’m hoping you guys keep blogging (maybe some blogging too??) for this trip. I’m excited to follow along with you two 🙂

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