Men on Bikes Series: Paul Doffing

Welcome to a special edition of Men on Bikes! In this interview you will learn more about Paul Doffing, who is currently on his Freedom from Fuel tour!
Check out his website

I am posting this early because Arthaus (located in Decorah) is hosting Paul's concert for their First Friday event. Decorah Bicycles was kind enough to sponsor Paul-so a huge "thank you!" to the great local businesses involved with this!

If you live in Decorah, come see Paul! The concert starts at 8 p.m. on June 6th. Check it out!

When did you first discover the bicycle and why did you enjoy riding it?
I discovered the bicycle as a child- maybe in kindergarten or preschool. I remember my dad pushing me down our gravel driveway, gliding slowly around onto a gravel road, and drifting onto the grass to fall over when I could no longer keep my balance. There isn't any form of transportation that feels as free and unencumbered as riding a bicycle. The phrase "bike riding" to me is synonymous with words like "peace" and "happiness".  

You have taken to touring by bike (Freedom From Fuel) what inspired that?
I think the main reason that I've chosen to tour by bicycle is because it puts me in touch with the realities that led me to pursue music in the first place. We live in a society that begs us to define ourselves in terms of how much money we make, what our profession is, what type of car we drive. We are in a very real way addicted to progress. For me, touring by bicycle has been about releasing myself from this thought process. When you ride a bike great distances, loaded down with gear, it can diminish the remarkable potency of your body and mind. The hills can be very big, the wind can be very strong, and even if you are hellbent on one specific outcome it may be impossible. Touring by bicycle has allowed me to experience life as such. In that sense, I think that the bicycle has held and continues to hold great promise as a part of American life and culture, not only as a mechanism for transportation, but also as a gateway to a different kind of living. I know it has given me a new life.

How has it been to travel all over by bike? What have been some of the challenges and high points?
I'm still doing it, which I think says that it must not be too hard, although there definitely have been moments when I've wanted to give up. 
A few years back, on my birthday, October 8, 2012, we were heading west through the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania. It was 35-40 degrees, raining fairly heavily at times, and we were crossing 3 1,500-2,000 foot mountain passes. The grade was such that it would take us more than an hour to go 3 or 4 miles. We ended up at the top of each pass soaking wet from sweat and cold rain, and then we'd descend, our gloves soaked and hands frozen in the brisk wind. Flying around curves down a wet mountain in near freezing temperatures meant that my hands lost all feeling rather rapidly, and I soon could only tell if I was braking by the sound of the breaks. Finally reaching the bottom of the valley was a very relieving feeling. 

There have been numerous other challenges, from hydration to illness, muscular pain and hairy situations with traffic on mountain roads. Also, the gnats in the Mississippi River Valley have been pretty intense. Setting up my tent one night last week and tearing it down the next morning was literally a nightmare. I was in the middle of a massive swarm of gnats that were doing their best to find their way into my eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Anytime I cycled slower than 13 miles per hour I would be swarmed, which made the ride from Savanna, IL to Galena, IL very rapid, despite being very hilly. 

The best high point I've got is meeting my lovely girlfriend in Montana. I biked up behind her one day while she was bicycling across the United States, and we've been together ever since. That was pretty incredible. 

If someone asked you what they should do to prepare for a bike tour, what would you suggest? (Be as wordy or non-wordy as you like)
First of all: You can do it!
Also: do Yoga, start slow, have your bike fit to your body (it may be a challenge to find someone who is qualified and careful about this), remember sunscreen and apply regularly/ liberally, and a loose, lighter colored, long sleeve shirt is more valuable than a short sleeve or tight fitting shirt because it keeps the sun off of you,, get a state cycling map (Iowa has a great one with all paved roads and daily average traffic levels), I could go on for a long time on this one.

Out of the states/towns you’ve gone to, what are your favorites and why?
Any place with a natural food coop, because there seems to be a general implication of a mindset of sustainability. I also loved riding in northern Idaho west of Lolo Pass. I think it is the Nez Pierce National Forest. It was an incredible beautiful place; Rocky Mountains covered in pine trees, hot springs and the beautiful Lochsa River. 

What has been a surprising thing for you while on this tour?
I've been surprised by how hot the sun has been and how hot the daytime temps have been given how early in the year it is. 

Overall, what is it you would like to inspire?
I hope we can all find peace and compassion in our lives. If we find the patience to look deeply at our reality and see clearly that we are entirely connected with the life of the world; that there is no separation between our lives and the life of the world as a whole, it will effect our choices. Maybe we will smile at a stranger, maybe we will help someone in need, maybe we will yield to a pedestrian even though we are in a hurry. Maybe we will ride a bike. 

When not on tour, what kind of bike riding do you do? (commute? road? etc.)
I commute year round. If I can't bike, I generally walk. I probably bike 5-10 miles per day when I'm at home. 

If you are a regular commuter, what are suggestions/tips you would give to someone new to commuting by bike?
Claim your space. You belong on the road, that is the law. Give yourself some space on the right to move over if you need to. Don't ride on the white line because people will try to pass you like you aren't there. Signal your turns. Stop at stop signs and traffic signals. Ride predictably and be courteous. You should have lights on your bike, fenders are also really nice to have, as is a rack or something to carry things in. Get involved with local cycling community/ advocacy groups and help improve infrastructure.