The Adventure Starts Now

by Beth Donovan

Kitsbow Ambassadors Nancy Peterson and Dave Ertel both former corporate types who traded chasing the brass ring for chasing the next adventure. 

Living fairly simply, they don't have a lot of stuff and spend most of the extra money on experiences and bikepacking gear. 

Their first extended bike adventure was a trip across the US on a tandem for their honeymoon in 1992. And that was just the beginning.

The two of you commit to some fantastic expeditions. Where do you look to discover these routes?

Ideas for trips come from everywhere - people we meet, cycling magazines, the internet ( is a great site for ideas and routes). Once you start looking it’s easy to see that there are endless possibilities!  These days (well, pre-Covid anyway) country borders rarely limit the potential options and travel on a bike is often the best way to really see a country. Not every trip has to be epic though - sometimes short tours around familiar areas are just the ticket to remind you that the simplicity of life on a bike feels great and that there are good people and great places everywhere.

What are the key steps to planning a bikecation? 

When we have a general idea of where we plan to head we start the more detailed planning. We like to have the general route mapped out (at least the general direction), with some targets along the way.  We then try to plan a couple of weeks ahead in more detail, with potential stops for each night. This is easier now with the internet. We use Komoot, MapsMe and Google Maps to plan riding (checking elevation profiles) and the internet in general to research places to sleep/camp/crash. We generally build a master excel planning sheet full of different options. Planning is fun and important, but you also have to be flexible enough to roll with what you find on any given day - for example: riding longer days when the wind is with you, not riding when bad weather is against you.  

Many people are fine heading out without much detailed planning so if that works for you that’s great. We (well, one of us) are much more comfortable having some details planned out for the days ahead so that’s what we do. There is something to be said for not knowing too much about what is ahead so that you experience things fresh, without being colored by the views of others who have been there before you.

As partners, you both share a deep passion and love for cycling. How has this been a blessing and a curse? We’re sure you instigate and push one another in the best ways!

Cycling started out as a shared hobby but has become a major part of our lives.  We have had so many great experiences together out on our bikes. Obviously not every day is rosy but the experience of working through the rough times and accomplishing a tough ride together is pretty satisfying. Though sometimes the feeling of satisfaction doesn’t come for a few days after the pain subsides!

Over the years we have figured out the things that each of us are better at and we find things work more smoothly if we just let each of us do what feels best for us.  

We focus on different things. I’m the bike person, so I do all the spares/gear stuff. I have “slightly” better directional skills so I do a lot of the routing while out on the road, though I am no longer allowed to carry the phone (something about losing it in a Panama City taxi, perhaps). On the road, we generally only have one person go into the grocery store (me) while the other watches the bikes. I get to go in because I’m “faster” (though I am often accused of under-purchasing snacks). 

Nancy is a planner by nature and feels more comfortable having some details about the route ahead. She builds lists of places to stay/stores/places to eat/water sources. She generally maps the days in Komoot and can get us from A to B, with elevation profiles and distances noted. Our views on under-planning and over-planning can be quite different, which can cause some conflict but ultimately we do what makes us comfortable and it works out. You learn to be flexible when you are dependent on each other.

I am the extrovert of the two of us, so I recharge by exploring wherever we have landed. I also take most of the photos and really enjoy reviewing each day’s photos and recounting the day in our blog. Nancy is more of an introvert and needs quiet time at the end of the day to recharge. We’ve learned to manage these differences to make sure that everyone’s happy.


Where was your most memorable two-wheeled focused trip?

Dave: It is really hard to pick one trip so I’ll pick just part of our Alaska to Argentina trip - The Carretera Austral in Patagonia, Chile. It was at the end of the trip and we should have been tired out from 1.5 years of traveling to get there. But if anything, it revived us - amazing scenery, remote off-the-grid riding, just enough resupply towns to make it do-able and you finish at Mount Fitz Roy - the mountain on the Patagonia clothing label.

Nancy: It is also hard for me to pick one trip, but one of the places that always stands out for me from our trips is Turkey. Riding from Cesme to Mersin was amazing, along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, with beautiful blue waters, stunning shoreline views and empty roads. But the best part of our time in Turkey were the people and food. Everyone was so welcoming and very much wanted us to enjoy their country. The experience really reinforced the feeling that there are good people everywhere. And, as a bonus, the food was amazing - fresh, healthy, inexpensive, all the things you could ask for. Our daily record was being offered tea seven times by people on the roadside.

What recommendations would you offer to people who are hesitating on bringing a bike or incorporating a bike on their expeditions?

Bikes travel at the perfect speed to allow you to really experience the things around you. You travel slow enough that you can get a real sense of the place you are exploring, but generally fast enough that you can reach some level of civilization every day, if you want to. Remember that cycling trips don’t need to be a sufferfest - it’s supposed to be fun! Recognise that the first few days may feel hard as you build up your touring fitness - and that’s ok. Build in some fun days off the bike, even some days just to hang out and relax. And recognise that when you are touring by bike you may not be able to see everything so don’t let the dreaded FOMO push you to overcommit. You will be able to see the places you do go to in a way that many won’t.  

And don’t get too caught up in all of the hype about the ‘right’ kind of bike or gear.  Do your research but realise that there’s no right or wrong way - the most important thing is to get out on the bike. In 1899, a chap named Arthur Richardson rode a bicycle around Australia. He sewed his own bags, carried a swag on his back and wore a heavy wool suit - far from “the best” gear but he made it all the way around, some 11,500 miles on the bumpy dirt tracks of the time. Anything is possible, even without the latest carbon fiber and titanium water bottle carrier thingamajig.

 How does relying on your bike and packing light give more space to the travel experience?

Packing light requires you to live with less stuff. Less stuff makes it easier to climb hills and ride trails and generally move your bike around. But best of all, before long, you realize that you can be perfectly happy on and off the road with less stuff. Packing light really teaches you to appreciate the world around you more, while simultaneously making you want fewer material things - win-win.