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Is it possible to make some money from a bicycle touring blog?
Alee from CyclingAbout answer this and other questions
about his travels and blogging career
Nowadays many long-distance bicycle travelers keep a blog to share their adventures with family, friends and occasional fans. While this is the most common goal for people writing, for example, on crazyguyonabike, for some of us though, a blog is also aimed to get sponsorships from brands, in the form of free goods or even money. And that’s not just it, a website may even turn into a real job, pay your bills and fund your bicycle trips. You’re probably thinking “Is that even possible?”, the answer is a definitive “yes”, while to the next logical question “is it easy?”, the hard truth is “absolutely not”.
Making an income from a website about bicycle touring is one of the hardest things ever, a very slow process that involves a lot of unpaid work. Some people though, succeeded in this quest, and that’s the case of Alee from CyclingAbout.
If you ever googled anything about bike touring, it’s very likely that you already know this website, one of the best online resources for all of us bike travelers, from beginners to the experts. Alee wrote an astounding amount of great content, covering almost every imaginable topic.
Now he’s in South America, ready for his next big trip to Alaska. We caught him just in time and he agreed to give us this interview.
Hi Alee, thanks for accepting this interview. First, tell us something about yourself. Where are you from? How old are you? What’s your background, besides being a bicycle traveler?
Hey everybody! My name is Alee (sounds like ‘alley’), I’m 29 and I’ve lived in Australia my whole life. There have been very few days where I haven’t swung my leg over a bike – I’m certain that cycling is in my DNA. I grew up mountain biking and did a lot of international racing in my late-teens and early-20s. Other than bikes, I once went to university to be a town planner, but haven’t worked in an office environment for a while now. It simply isn’t compatible with my ambitions to travel and meet the people of the world!
When did you start bike touring? Where you a cyclist before? Tell us a bit about your first touring experiences?
The week I finished high school, I went backpacking by myself. I had read way too many stories of adventure and decided that the jungle in Borneo was where I’d begin exploring. I learned so much as a young, impressionable solo traveller… and really loved the challenge!
Back then I didn’t realise you could travel by bike – it had literally never crossed my mind. But I met someone who told me if I love cycling, I should give it a go…
All of a sudden, and I was on my first international bike tour in Myanmar. This was not long after some serious unrest in the country, so it was a very restricted place to be… needless to say my friend and I really pushed the boundaries (I probably wouldn’t put myself in that kind situation anymore).
How many countries have you traveled by bike so far? What’s the most challenging? Which one will you suggest for a beginner?
I’m not too sure. I’ve never set foot in Africa, North America or South America (until this week!). But when I go somewhere, I try to really immerse myself in the culture. I think that you need to spend about a month in a country to truly understand it.
For beginners wanting to go somewhere different from home, I think that Thailand and Vietnam are some of the best. It’s really easy to find food and accommodation, it’s cheap, it’s really beautiful and it can be as comfortable as you like.
Tell us your worst an best moments of your bike touring life
Best: Meeting the people in Turkey, Iran and Central Asia. You’ll understand how much more generous you can be after meeting people from this part of the world. They go so far out of their way to bring you into their lives and show you a good time!
Worst: When I’ve been travelling with female companions and they are sexually assaulted. I’ve had some really horrible times dealing with men who think it’s their right to take advantage of women. It actually makes me feel so sick to the stomach… I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes.
When and why did you start CyclingAbout? What was its evolution? Who works on it? How many readers do you have?
I started CyclingAbout in 2011 because I wanted a way to document my two-year bike tour from Europe to Australia. I was also researching bikes and gear and realised there was lots information that wasn’t on the Internet. So I started creating it myself. It’s almost all my own content, but my partner a few years ago also wrote a bit. It’s hard to believe that I now have a few million people visiting my own website every year!
How many hours do you work on it on an average? Did you manage to turn it into a source of income? Is it your main job?
I’m not really sure how much time I spend on CyclingAbout. I once took a three-week break from replying to emails and comments and it took 12 hours to respond to everybody!
I work all kinds of odd jobs and live a pretty simple life. I also spend some time selling bikes in a shop and I do a bit of freelance writing. Cobbling together an income from multiple sources allows me to live a flexible lifestyle where I can play with gear and do all the bike trips I like.
What are the sources of income for a blog about bicycle touring?
I’ve written two bicycle touring-specific e-books which I sell directly through my website.
The Touring Bicycle Buyer’s Guide is a huge amount of work because it’s updated yearly. It’s designed to teach you all about the important characteristics of a touring bike, then there’s a classified section at the back that allows you to compare bikes side-by-side. You can compare the sizing, gear ratios and steering speed of 100+ touring bikes. It’s often hard to find a bike shop with the bike you like in the size you need, but by understanding these metrics, you can buy a bike with a lot of confidence. I’m super proud of what the buyer’s guide has become!
After my first multi-year bike tour I wrote a book called Bicycle Touring in One Hour I think many bicycle touring books offer an overwhelming amount of information, when really, bicycle touring is just not that complex. This book is essentially what I wish I had when I first started – just the key things to think about before you head off, as well as a few things to know while you’re on the road.
Other than the books, there are a few Amazon links on my website where I make a small commission on sales. But they’re only really enough of an income to pay for a few beers…
Many touring cyclists have their blogs, some just to share their travel stories with friends and families, while some are hoping to make some dimes out of it? What would you say to the latter? Is it possible?
It’s certainly possible to make an income, provided you’re either influential in the bike travel world or can offer unique content that people trust. Unfortunately, the bike touring audience is a little too small to make much from non-bike related advertising.
I wouldn’t ever recommend starting a bike travel blog with the sole intention of making money. In a few sentences, people can usually tell if you’re genuinely passionate, or not. I can recommend building up an audience, and if it gets big enough, you may be able to work with some bike and gear manufacturers looking to find some new customers.
What’s your next travel project? (a bit about the route and timing)
I am currently sitting at the southernmost point of South America, and will this weekend start riding north to Alaska I will most likely follow the Andes through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia before catching a boat to Central America and continuing to ride north with the warmer weather. I’m planning to take between 18-20 months to complete this adventure, optimizing the seasons along the way.