The Founders of Bicycle Traveler Magazine Share How They Pack After Years on the Road

Bicycle Traveler Grace Johnson

I’m Grace Johnson from Seattle, U.S.A. and my husband Paul Jeurissen is Dutch.

Years earlier my younger brother went on a bike trip with his Boy Scout club.

Being a smug older sister, I figured if he could do it – it couldn’t be that difficult…

So when my parents vetoed the idea of my girlfriend and I driving to the East Coast in 1981, we decided to pedal there instead.

We signed up for an Adventure Cycling Transamerica trail group and Paul was one of the other members. In 1986, I moved to the Netherlands.

Since then Paul and I have toured extensively through Europe, Asia, and America.

As for Paul, he grew up in Amsterdam, surrounded by two-wheelers. For him bikes were just everyday objects that you used to go to school or work.

Later, when we started riding through other countries, he discovered that bicycles have many diverse faces and that they would make a great subject for a photography project.

In 2010, we set off on a multi-year journey to pedal around the globe and photograph bicycle culture. Paul publishes his bike touring and culture images and our trip reports on Impressions from Bicycle Travels.

Soon afterwards I began publishing Bicycle Traveler magazine. The magazine curates some of the best photography and writing on internet. It’s also non-commercial and free to download here.

Bicycle Traveler Grace Johnson

How do you finance your bicycle adventures?

2008 was the start of the financial crisis and it decimated the building industry. At that time, I (Grace) worked for an architect and realized that my job was at risk. Since we also wanted to downsize to a smaller place, we ended up quitting our jobs, selling our home and using the proceeds plus some savings to finance our journey.

We’re Koga bicycle ambassadors and Koga use Paul’s images to illustrate everything from catalogues to magazine ads and bike shop displays to website headers. So Koga provides us with our trekking bikes.

As for money – I don’t know our average daily spending. I’m guessing that we fall somewhere in the mid-range as compared to other touring cyclists.

But we do have a penchant for hotels when the weather turns bad. So we decided not to head through Western Europe and North America since hotels / motels there are so expensive!

Bicycle Traveler Grace Johnson

How do you prepare for your bicycle adventures?

Internet is chock full of resource sites. For example, World Biking has detailed information on cycling nearly every country in Africa and Caravanistan gives the scoop on Central Asia.

How do you carry and organize your things?

We use Ortlieb panniers, a handlebar bag plus rackpack to carry our gear. We love the extra packing space that panniers and a rackpack afford. And the Ortliebs can take a beating! I’m still surprised that they’re holding up so well.

The Camera plus lenses goes in the handlebar bag, cooking gear in a front pannier and sleeping bag plus mat in the rackpack. As for the rest, well… It ends up where it ends up although we do try to keep gear that we know we will use that day on top.

Bicycle Traveler Grace Johnson

How did your bags and gear hold up?

The Ortlieb panniers held up excellently. It was only our MSR tent that began having problems.

In Africa, insects ate big holes in the tent floor and in South America – exposure to high-altitude sun destroyed the tent fly. In the end, if it rained you would get wetter inside the tent then outside. So we were lucky that we left Argentina just before the rainy season began.

Plus, we have a love-hate relationship with our MSR WhisperLite. With quality fuel, the stove works perfectly. But there’s nothing worse than having the WhisperLite cough and splutter on crap fuel after a hard day of pushing the pedals.

So if there is one piece of equipment I would like to see improved, it has to be multi-fuel camping stoves. If only they could run dependently on bad fuel without having to clean them so often…

Bicycle Traveler Grace Johnson

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

Yes, small re-sealable dry sacks such as these from Sea to Summit. We kept pasta, coffee and spices in ordinary plastic sacks, which kept ripping open. The sturdier dry sacks would have prevented the coffee and spices from spilling into our panniers.

As for other gear, every season and continent we pedalled through required different items.

A warmer sleeping bag would have been nice in South America. And in Thailand, Grace ended up buying croc clogs. They were so handy to slip in and out of while visiting temples.

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

A SteriPEN. Just wave it like a magic wand for a matter of seconds through your water. Presto, it’s now safe to drink.

Bicycle Traveler Grace Johnson

What kind of photos does Paul prefer to shoot?

Besides shooting cycle touring photos, Paul’s also on the lookout for unique bicycle culture images.

India and Bangladesh were the best countries in which to photograph that subject. In India, bicycles are used a market stalls, to transport goods, and even to cook food on.

Bangladesh is the rickshaw capital of the world. It’s amazing to see just how much they can pile on top of a three-wheeler.

What is your best advice for other bicycle adventurers?

Back-up your photos.

As editor of Bicycle Traveler magazine, I’ve come across so many touring cyclists who have lost portions or even all of their trip images. It happens more often than people think…

Bicycle Traveler Grace Johnson

What will the future bring?

We love the combination of cycle touring plus photographing bicycle culture. It gives a unique view of the countries we pedal through.

Belgium is definitely a future destination, especially with the church dedicated to Eddy Merckx.

Follow Grace and Paul via their travel website, photography site and Instagram


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