Around the World on a Tandem Bike
Published by: Adventure Sports Journal Issue: 84, February 2015
Around the world on a tandem bike
Over 1,000 total strangers accepted Jamie Bianchini’s invitation to ride on the world’s first open-invitation, intercultural expedition around the planet. Jamie piloted the front seat of a custom-built tandem bike while leaving the rear seat open to invite “guest riders” to join the journey and share the exhilarating cycle touring experience. If that’s not cool enough, the bike frames, called “Black Sheep Tangles,” could be converted from a tandem to a single bike, which allowed Jamie to rip up the world’s single-track trails with new local friends. His 81-country expedition took over 8 years to complete, with regular recharge breaks on the trails and in the surf of his current hometown of Santa Cruz, CA.
Not surprisingly, a journey of this magnitude was sprung from humble beginnings. After a series of spectacular business flops drove him into bankruptcy and the love of his life kissed him goodbye, Jamie hatched a crazy plan that just might make everything right. His life lacked purpose, passion, and connection with his fellow man. So he decided to go for a bicycle ride … around the world … on a tandem … solo … inviting everyone he met to join him.
“I felt inspired to make the journey mean more than simply fulfilling my own personal desires,” explained Jamie. “By inviting strangers to ride with me I hoped to do my part in creating more peace in the world by reducing unnecessary fears and prejudices between people. I wanted to demonstrate that language, cultural and religious barriers could easily be overcome with a genuine desire to connect, learn and explore.”
Jamie started the project with his best friend Garryck. They both saved for two and a half years and found over 40 corporate sponsors to kick off their dream expedition called Peace Pedalers. The tour got off to a great start in Japan and Korea but it was not long before he ran into his fair share of adversity. “There was a bike theft in China, a near-death bike crash in Malaysia and escaping machine gun fire in Mauritania just to name a few,” reports Bianchini. “But what amazed me was how total strangers in every part of the world came out of nowhere to help keep me stay safe, fed, housed, warm and supported me in fulfilling my vision and mission of the expedition.”
It was this constant stream of kindness and compassion demonstrated by total strangers on his journey that began to inspire Jamie to take the expedition to a new level. Starting by delivering hundreds of tandem bike rides and gifts to orphanages throughout Asia he continued the adventures of compassion and contribution through Africa, Europe and Latin America. Jamie rallied partners, sponsors and fellow guest riders to help donate 100 bikes to an impoverished township in Cape Town, disperse hundreds of doses of life-saving Malaria medication to small African communities, start a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda and bring fresh water to a community suffering from sickness and death in Bolivia.
“I realized it was not only easy to connect deeply with people in every corner of the planet but it was just as rewarding to work together with them to be of service in the communities I traveled through,” explains Jamie. “But as exciting and rewarding it was to be out on the road I eventually longed to get back to the Bay Area to finally settle down and raise a family in Santa Cruz. After seeing a huge chunk of the planet there was no place on earth that had such a perfect combination of great trails, roads, waves and community. My bike was pointed to Santa Cruz since day one.”
So just how does a globetrotting Bay Area mountain bike addict and surf bum find a life partner to settle down with? Turns out she found him. After several unsuccessful attempts to recruit a road-worthy mate — from online dating websites to travel flings-gone-serious — it was a guest rider who hopped on for a planned 17-kilometer ride that turned into a lifelong adventure. Their first child was conceived in Ecuador and they’re now living with their two kids in Santa Cruz. Well, kinda.
True to character, Jamie is now embarking on a 12,000-mile Family Book Tour USA through 36 states to share his book A Bicycle Built for Two Billion. Jamie and his family will be traveling across the country to share his inspirational stories via free multimedia events at bookstores, KOA Campgrounds, bike shops, Rotary Clubs and other venues that request presentations.
Of course, their book tour itself has a twist almost as exciting as Jamie’s tandem bicycle adventure. Their family will be driving an 8-seater SUV and towing a 33-foot Heartland RV trailer that sleeps 10. Why so much space for just a family of four? The family plans to use the spare seats and beds to keep the original expedition’s spirit of openness, trust and connection alive as they invite others they meet around the country to join the tour, connect, camp and find ways to contribute along the way.
“Our open-invitation Family Book Tour was just a dream my wife and I concocted when we talked about how to share the book and our messages with the country,” reports Jamie. “But I had just been laid off from work, so I didn’t have the money to buy a big RV nor enough to pay the camping fees for such a huge nationwide tour. So we had to get creative.”
Jamie visited a large RV tradeshow where he met Heartland RV’s Vice President Coley Brady. “I could see it in Jamie’s eyes when he shared his project and vision that he lived from the heart. So Heartland RV set him up with our top of the line North Trail travel trailer to keep his family comfortable on his tour,” reports Brady. Jamie then reached out to Mike Gast, VP of communications at KOA Campgrounds who agreed to allow Jamie and his family to stay free of charge at 32 KOA campgrounds around the nation. “KOA Campgrounds believes deeply in the importance of both family adventures and giving back to the community. When we saw what Jamie did for the global community and his plans for his nationwide tour we wanted to help make it happen,” reports Gast.
Jamie’s passion for adventure and community service while out traveling will continue on his USA tour as he raises fund and awareness for several worthy causes. He’ll be visiting KOA’s Cancer Care Camps along his route to give rides to kids with terminal cancer, raising funds to expand the Good Hope School in Uganda he co-founded and search for donors to bring more bikes to Africa with Bicycle Relief Fund and clean water to those in need with Charity: Water.
The Family Book Tour’s first free multimedia slideshow presentation will be at Spokesman Bike Shop in Santa Cruz at 6.30pm on April 18. They’ll depart the Santa Cruz KOA on April 25 and head to San Luis Obisbo, Ventura, Pasadena, Orange Country, San Diego in May. They’ll loop back to Northern California and the Bay Area in September and October. aBicycleBuiltForTwoBillion.com.
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