How Sarah from Swallow Bicycle Works Travels Around the World on a Bicycle

Is living on the road full-time right for you? For cyclist Sarah Swallow, living permanently on the road makes her more free, happier, and a more independent individual.

Let’s read on and find out how a simple change in your mindset will open up to a lot more fun experiences that you surely will cherish!

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Howdy! My name is Sarah Swallow and I’m originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Home for me these days is my van and wherever it is parked but I do a lot of living by traveling place to place, camp spot to swim spot, along dirt roads/trails on my bicycle. I just finished up a bicycle tour in Vermont and I’m currently taking a couple days to visit with family in Brooklyn, New York. From here I’m off to Michigan, then Colorado!

My favorite activities when I’m not cycling are to swim, eat good food, listen to music, do yoga, research new places to ride and to make new routes to follow.

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

How and why did you get into cycling?

I have always ridden a bike as a kid and at the age of 12, I got a job a bicycle rental where I worked for 8-years. I didn’t get into riding bikes for fitness until after I graduated from high school when I was looking for a way to stay fit as an ex-field hockey player. My Mom and Dad had picked up cycling after being runners most of their lives and I started riding my Mom’s road bike with my Dad.

It took me a really long time to get interested in a big cycling adventure. I went from road cycling to trying sprint triathlons, to mountain bikes, to cyclocross, to gravel riding. Once I did a couple randonneuring rides, (where you ride hundreds of miles in as short amount of time as possible without sleep), I realized that not sleeping is not my thing. I love to sleep and I wanted to do more long-distance rides, so I could see more stuff, so naturally bicycle touring was the next step for me.

Getting physically in shape was not as big as the challenge of choosing and effectively packing the necessary gear, food, and water for a multi-day bicycle camp out. Once I had all the stuff packed on my bike, I took it for a test spin, I pitched my tent in my back yard, and tried out my cooking stuff to make sure everything worked.

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

Why is cycling important for you?

Before I started cycling and living on the road full-time, I owned a bicycle shop with my husband called, Swallow Bicycle Works. Shop life had its upsides but it had many downsides as well including a lot of stress and more focus on other individuals and less focus on myself.

Over the years since closing the shop and living on the road, I have become a more free, happy, and independent individual; I have more frequent genuine interactions with people, and I am physically healthier than I have ever been.

What has been the best parts of your cycling adventures?

Intimately interacting with the natural environments around me through riding, swimming, and camping. Also, constantly meeting amazing people!

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

What has been the most difficult parts?

I’m a planner, so planning for trips is one of my favorite parts of the journey. It’s where I get stoked on where I’m about to be! Although, I am a sponsored, funding is a constant challenge as I am actively working, doing pretty much anything I can from writing to mowing lawns, to sustain this lifestyle as long as I can.

My biggest challenge right now is taking time for myself to rest. It’s easy for me to get caught up by constantly wanting to do ride after ride, but it can wear on me after a while and I have to be aware of that and know when to take a break.

When I’m in the middle of a bike tour and things get rough, and I just don’t want to go anymore, I find a nice spot to camp, and camp early (regardless of how early), read a book, get some rest, and greet the next day refreshed.

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

It just depends on where I am. If I’m in the backcountry, I am camping every night and usually cooking taco’s over the fire for dinner, and coffee and oats for breakfast. I do like to stay occasionally with Warmshower’s host when it works out, as a great way to meet people from the area, get a real shower, do some laundry, and some wifi-ing. When I was traveling in Baja, California this winter, I stayed in a lot more motels because it was so affordable and I ate great street food in between long backcountry sections. I park my bike on its side on the ground (derailleur facing up!)

What are your best advice for new cyclists?

My best advice for a new cyclist is to not worry about your distance and speed so much. Enjoy your surroundings, take breaks, eat food, go on a hike, or go swim mid ride. This simple change in mindset will open you up to a lot more fun. Start small.

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

How do you prepare for your cycling?

Since I’m already constantly riding, I generally try to keep healthy and work other muscles by doing yoga and by swimming.

I plan for an adventure by first finding a source of inspiration for where I want to go. Bikepacking.com is a great place to start to find existing routes, gear reviews, and inspirational stories. I also like talking to my friends who travel a lot to get an idea of places they have been that I might like. I use Ridewithgps.com and a lot of National Geographic and Delorme Atlas maps, to make my own routes. Lastly, Google is a great way of researching destinations.

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

How do you finance your cycling?

For the past 2 years, I’ve been a living full-time as sponsored Adventure Ambassador for Specialized Bicycles but as I mentioned above, I try to earn a little extra cash on the side by writing stories, and doing odd-jobs to sustain my lifestyle. All my expenses are related to travel, gear, food, and my van (lodging).

How do you balance normal life with cycling?

I’m living full-time on the road right now. I balance road life out by parking outside of my friends and families homes for a few days/weeks at a time to get some semblance of balance, rest, and community.

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

What has been your best cycling purchase below $100?

My best purchase under $100 is my Boombotix Rex Bluetooth stereo. I constantly use it while I am riding because I feel like it can compliment and elevate my mood and is fun to ride to the rhythm and beat of the music.

What other favorite cycling gear do you have?

My favorite piece of equipment is my Garmin 1000 Cycling Computer/Navigation Device because it makes navigation on the go so incredibly easy.

Cyclist Sarah Swallow

What will the future bring?

I’m looking forward to traveling around the Southwest this August and September, then traveling in Morocco and the Canary Islands later this fall!


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