Why yes, I have been thinking a lot about bike camping and touring lately. It seems like I’ve talked about it weekly on this blog, especially since I just did my first “camping” trip in awhile. What can I say? I like doing it. But I realized something: all of the upcoming trips I’m thinking about are either solo endeavors or with Emee. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a group camping trip. Part of that is due to the nature of this pandemic, and part of it is I haven’t had as many opportunities as I used to.
I was once part of an organization called Cycle Wild. Our aim was to reconnect people with nature via guided bike camping trips. We’d host several throughout the year to destinations up to 60 miles from Portland, with a longer annual trip thrown in. Many of these rides were aimed at beginners, our hope was to make the idea of bike camping and touring less intimidating. And I think we did accomplish that, as some people really got into touring after a few trips.
Cycle Wild started around 2009 by my friend Matt. I came onboard as a “board member” 1 in 2011 and stuck around for 3 1/2 years. My biggest involvement period was 2012, when I didn’t have a real job. I could lead or co-lead a lot of trips that year. When I went back to the hostel at the end of the year, the “working all weekends, all the time” of that job severely crimped the amount of rides I could lead. Combine that with a bit of burnout and the desire to not become a “lifer”, I resigned in the spring of 2014.
I had hoped that the organization would lead a long life after my involvement ended, but unfortunately that wasn’t to happen. By 2016 things ran out of steam: organization burn out and no fresh blood to step up. And there hasn’t been anything exactly like it since. 2
There are other organizations doing similar things. I’m especially excited to see groups like Friends on Bikes out there promoting bikepacking, as their aim is to bring more BIPOC women, trans and gender non-conforming folk into the fold. (Bike touring has definitely leaned toward white middle-class men.) But many of these groups aim more for “adventure cycling” in the form of bikepacking in more remote areas. And there is stuff like Adventure Cycling’s Bike Travel Weekend and the Swift Campout, which both happen in June. But those are once-a-year national/international events vs. a local club. Is there still a need for group trips in the form of more “traditional” (in form of touring, not people) bike touring to established campgrounds nearby?
I’ve thought about what it would take to bring Cycle Wild back, and if not Cycle Wild in name, at least in spirit. I do have more time these days and also don’t work weekends. And I’ve also been itching to do more volunteer work. My first baker’s dozen of years in town I was constantly volunteering, whether with zine related stuff like the IPRC or Portland Zine Symposium, or through bike stuff like Shift. I don’t think I’ve really volunteered at any level in almost eight years. I feel bad about this, like there’s a part of me that’s going unfulfilled.
But do I want to be that person who “brings back Cycle Wild?” I don’t think so. I’d like to help out and I definitely would like to lead a trip or three. But I don’t want to be the head, or point person for a new organization. I’ve got enough of my own stuff on my plate for that. Hopefully there are others out there who would like to see something happen again. I’ve heard murmurs from other former Cycle Wild board members, maybe calling a meeting to order could be the start?
For now, I’m still going to do something. I was leading my Mid-Week Bike Camping Trip to Ainsworth State Park in the Gorge pretty regularly each Pedalpalooza, until pandemic put that on hold. I want to lead it again this year. If I can’t have Cycle Wild back, at least it’s something. And I’d like to do some sort of social camping trip this summer. I know all the cool kids like the backpacking, but there’s something to be said for a quick overnight to a local destination. We shall see. Stay tuned!
1 I put it in quotations because we operated as a non-profit even though we never incorporated.
2 I wouldn’t bother trying to look up the old Cycle Wild website, unless you wanted information on “healthy” online gambling.