His kayak carries his BIKE across water, then his bike carries his KAYAK across the land!
The ingenuity and innovation of many people came together to make possible it possible for Australian adventurer, Gary Muir, to take a memorable trip across parts of Scandinavia on his Bikes & Kayak Expedition. This is a story of how his go-anywhere boat-and-bike combination came to be.
“In 1994 I had been involved as Project Leader in the planning of the remarkable Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk situated in the fragile Tingle Forest of Walpole, Western Australia. This 40-meter high walkway through an ancient forest soon became an internationally recognized ecotourism icon allowing people a unique way to enjoy and protect some of the largest diameter trees in the world. This attracted some planners from America who were impressed with the walks’ eco-engineering and became inspired to plan for one in their own forest – home to the greatest trees in the world – the might coastal redwoods.
A bright idea: boat and bike combo
I was honored to be invited to America from Walpole to consult on the planning of a Tree Top Walk near Brookings, Oregon by the Curry County Canopy Walk Team in 1998. It was on this trip that the idea of traveling using both a bicycle and a kayak in combination as mode of travel first came to me.
I offered to look for potential sites for a walk in the coastal redwoods and I was given a mountain bike to explore with. I rode through the wilderness from Cape Blanco in Oregon into northern California. To do this, I needed to cross and explore a number of rivers including the Rogue, Chetko, and Klamath. At the Klamath I met some new American friends who offered me the use of a canoe. Boating was a great way to travel – but as I went down the river I worried about my bike being left back at the launch area and wished I could bring it with me.
I then started to dream of a way to link the two modes of travel together – biking and boating – so I could explore land and water together on the same trip! I bought a cheap orange canoe to put my mountain bike and gear in, and raced down the river with very little room to spare. It was very unsteady and I nearly lost everything. The bike-and-boat combination was a good idea but I had the wrong bike and the wrong boat.
Right bike, right boat
The bike was far too big for the boat, and trying to carry the canoe on the bike was even worse. It was unstable, far too heavy, uncomfortable, and dangerous. After falling down on a misty road in the redwoods I abandoned the canoe and gave up the idea, but with every yearly trip I did, I wished I could work out the dream set up – the right bike and the right boat.
I needed a sturdy stable kayak that could be folded or deflated down small enough to fit on a bike, and a bike small and strong enough that would, in turn, fit in the kayak. The revelation finally came when a friend and I tried to be the first to cross the harsh Mongolian Gobi Desert on a tandem bike. Customs fees to get the tandem into China proved far too expensive for us but inspiration struck when we saw everyone in that area on folding bikes. We bought a couple and tried them in Mongolia. Fantastic! Don’t ever underestimate the performance of a folding bike.
As I was going across the Mongolian steppe and having to cross rivers, my American dream came back to me – I could see that a folding bike would easily fit into a kayak. But one issue was still nagging me: could a folding bike carry a kayak?
I began to search for the perfect kayak-and -folding-bike combination. Another issue with the folding bikes was the lack of suspension but I found the ultimate – a front and back suspended Birdy folding bike from Germany. Now I needed a kayak! Inspired by folding bikes, I wondered if anyone makes a folding kayak.
Chatting online around the world, I found the most highly recommended inflatable kayak was the Sea Eagle. When I went on the Sea Eagle website it just jumped out at me – the new FastTrack. I first thought of getting a couple of the smaller 385 FT’s for my next adventure – crossing the Scandinavian wild with a friend. And then I saw the 14′ 2″ Sea Eagle 465 FastTrack – Crickey! We could both fit in along with two bikes and gear, all in the same kayak instead of needing two. The online reviews of the 465 were all great. I noted Sea Eagle delivered to Australia and ordered a Sea Eagle 465 FastTrack straight away.
My dream was coming together as long as I could find the right bike trailers that could carry the kayak behind one bike and another trailer that could take the camping gear behind the other bike! The Sea Eagleʼs weight would be around 25 kg with paddles. There are heaps of bike trailers out there – most of them connect onto the bicycle’s rear axle. I tried the Wilderbeast trailer from our Mongolian trip but it was too wobbly when riding, especially downhill. Undaunted, I kept looking for something better.
Finally, I found the Oxtail trailer from Portugal. Instead of attaching to the bikeʼs axle, it attaches to the seat post and has the capability to take the kayak’s weight and more. Reviewing the online videos of its performance, I knew it was the one, especially as it, too, could be folded small and would fit in the kayak with the bikes and camping gear.
The exciting day arrived in our little town of Walpole, Australia – the post office rang to say my Sea Eagle kayak had arrived. That night I set it up in my coastal shack with some Swedish and Belgian friends and tested it at night in the bioluminescent waters on the Nornalup Inlet – a perfect vessel!
The 465 would easily fit our gear and folding bikes. I bought another Sea Eagle FastTrack kayak and had it sent across to Europe where I was to pick it up with the two trailers and join my two best Dutch friends – Yashna and Steven. Yashy had come across Mongolia with me. We first tested the kayak without the bike. We kayked in our 465 following most of the watercourse used during the Elfstedentocht - a famous 200km, 11 city speed skating course in north Netherlands’ Friesland. The Sea Eagle 465 FastTrack kayak was the perfect, comfortable vessel and performed well though we got very cold in the wild wind and rain.
Over a decade after the idea first sprang to mind back in northern California, Steven and I were ready now to test the ultimate bike-and-boat setup exploring the Scandinavian wilderness and lakes using our German and Chinese bikes, Portuguese trailers, and the legendary American Sea Eagle 465 Fast Track inflatable kayak!
Folding bike, folding boat, folding trailer
The bikes handled the weight of the kayak and luggage with ease even up hill. Best of all though was rocking up to a Scandinavian lake, pumping up the SeaEagle in no time, whacking in the bikes and trailers with our camping gear and be kayaking across the spectacular waterways in minutes, trawling a lure behind for dinner.
The international ingenuity that made this trip possible was due to the passion of inventors and engineers who were dedicated to produce unique bikes, trailers and kayaks that would ultimately work together as one allowing adventurers to experience the world’s wilderness by water and land. This parallels the team who planned and built our Tree Top Walk which, like the Bike and Kayak together, allows eco-tourists new means to appreciate the wild that promotes interaction without impaction on our environment.
Though the American Canopy Walk is still to be built, I look forward to coming back over to the US and doing my dream tour with my folding bike and SeaEagle 465 Kayak combination to explore the wild Redwood forests and rivers and one day enjoy a tree top walk there. That really would be the ultimate eco-tourism experience.
— Gary Muir, Sea Eagle owner & outdoor adventurer.
Gary Muir currently runs his own ecotourism company, WOW Wilderness EcoCruises, in Walpole, Western Australia. He was nationally recognised in 2002 as Australia’s top EcoGuide. He worked as an environmental manager for 12 years specializing in Nature Conservation and Recreation Tourism and Planning. He held the world record for running the 1000 km Bibbulmun Track raising money for an invertebrate biodiversity project, researching ways to manage fire in the environment. Gary continues to combine his eco-projects and outdoor adventures around the world with his international team of friends.
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