2023 Bob Swanson Memorial Grant Winner: Peter Consalvi

2023 Bob Swanson Memorial Grant Winner: Peter Consalvi

We are excited to announce our 2023 Bob Swanson Memorial Winner, Peter Consalvi. The Bob Swanson Memorial Grant is dedicated to helping adventurers, explorers and go getters tackle their next endeavor. This grant is in memory of Bob Swanson, an icon in the outdoor industry and tent design. Our 2023 winner, Peter, will head to Mongolia to start his 14,000-mile journey to Spain on bicycle, in which he is carrying 70 pounds of gear. We were able to grab Peter for a few minutes before he took off on his journey for a quick Q + A.

Tell Us About Yourself. What's your background?

I grew up in Hereford, Maryland and studied physics at the Colorado School of Mines. After college, I served in the Navy for about 6 years, and just recently got out in January 2023. I knew I wanted to take some time off and go on a big trip after being in the military, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be selected as the 2023 Bob Swanson Memorial Grant winner.

Tell Us About Your Trip - Where are you going and how long will it take you? 

For my trip I’ll be riding my bicycle roughly 14,000 miles from Mongolia to Spain. I expect it to take about a year to complete, with my only hard deadline being that I need to make it to Kyrgyzstan by August, in time for the 2023 Silk Road Mountain Race (a nonstop, two-week, 1200 mile long, unsupported bikepacking race through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan) which I’m signed up for. I’ve had my eye on Mongolia for quite a while and have eagerly followed the Silk Road Mountain race online the past few years, so with the timing of the race and the relative locations of Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia worked out perfectly as the starting point for my trip. For my end point, I’ll be finishing in a small rural town in southern Spain called Chipiona. I lived there for a couple years and have a favorite beach I used to go for sunset-beach-runs on almost every night. I want to finish my ride by rolling the tires of my bike into the Atlantic Ocean at my favorite beach, visiting old friends there, and going for a celebratory nostalgic sunset-beach-run afterwards. My route will take me across central Asia, the Caspian Sea (by ferry), and all of southern Europe.

Share the inspiration behind this epic journey, why this route and why bikepacking?

My first bikepacking experience was a 2-month ride around Iceland in the summer of 2016. I didn’t know anything about bikes at the time and had hardly ever ridden one- but putting all my camping gear on a bicycle just seemed like the cheapest and most efficient way of seeing Iceland, so I bought a Surly Disc Trucker and decided to go for it. A friend joined me for one week that summer, but other than that I travelled solo which was also a new experience. By the end of that trip I had discovered a newfound passion and fell completely in love with bikepacking. For me, there’s no greater way to experience a place. Being truly outdoors the entire time, self-powered and self-sufficient, travelling by bicycle immerses you in a place and it’s culture, giving you a unique perspective that can’t be realized any other way. Since that inaugural bikepacking venture to Iceland, I’ve taken dozens of trips throughout Spain Japan, and the Canary Islands with my bike.

What are you looking forward to the most?

There are so many things I’m looking forward to with this trip- experiencing new places and cultures, travelling to parts of the world most people (myself included) don’t know much about, the freedom that comes with living on a bicycle...but if I had to chose one thing I’m most excited about it’s probably the double hump camels. There are camels in central Asia that have TWO humps. That just sounds insane to me, so I’m stoked to see them in their natural habitat.

What is the biggest anticipated challenge you'll encounter?

I’m doing my best to prepare ahead of time for the challenges that will come with living on my bicycle for a year- the range of temperatures/weather I anticipate riding in and keeping my electronics charged in remote places are two of the top concerns for me. I upgraded my bike setup with a dynamo and a solar charger to keep the electricity flowing, and I’ll be carrying the entire gambit of winter and summer apparel to keep myself from getting too hot or cold. There’s also a ~200 mile stretch across the Gobi Desert I plan on riding which I’m not certain there will be much access to water for, so ensuring I have sufficient water carrying capacity for scenarios like that has also been important to plan for.

How is Big Agnes helping you achieve your trip?

Big Agnes is supporting me with some high-quality gear which will truly make a difference for my trip- a bikepacking specific tent that’s designed to be carried on a bicycle, a killer 3-in-1 sleeping bag system that will keep me warm in the winter but also can be slimmed down so I’m not sweating in the summer, and warm clothes that I can wear while biking in the winter to keep me comfortable in frigid temperatures are a few of the gear highlights. During my trip I’m also raising money for The Juniper Fund, a charity which helps widows and children of families impacted by the loss of Himalayan high-altitude workers. Big Agnes has generously made the first donation to my GoFundMe, and I’m hoping the platform they’ve provided me with will enable us to raise even more money for such a meaningful cause. 

How do you occupy yourself when knocking out a lot of miles? Any podcasts and/or music you like to listen to?

I have a small Bluetooth speaker that I attach to my bike’s handlebars which will come with me, so I love bumping jams on long rides. Sometimes though, if I’m not in the mood for music then I’ll just listen to the sounds of the place I’m riding through. Even in seemingly barren/desolate ‘boring’ landscapes, I’ll be riding through completely new places, some of which who knows if I’ll ever see again, so just keeping my eyeballs saturated with the views is pretty engaging and usually enough to keep my mind occupied. I’ve also gotten pretty into birding over the past several years, so riding along and keeping an eye out for exotic new birds will also keep me going on those longer days.

What are your must-have snacks on a long-distance bike travel?

Whatever the local cuisine is! Very excited to snack on whatever foods I’ll encounter, but my staples are definitely granola, breads, and cheeses. I do also love gummy worms and ice cream, so whatever forms of those I can find I’ll make a point to load up on them every chance I get.

What's your favorite costume? Is it joining you for your trip?

I do love wearing a Santa hat and spreading Christmas cheer when I go on big runs, so perhaps a Santa hat will be joining me on my bike trip. A few years ago my sister also gave me a small stuffed animal Buc-ee from the Texas based Buc-ee’s convenience store/gas station chain. We’re diehard Buc-ee fanatics, so Buc-ee will be joining me for my ride too.

Peter made his way over to Mongolia on 6/6/23. We are super stoked for him and cannot wait to hear some of his updates along the way. Anyone interested in following Peter on his journey can follow along at: www.pedalingwithpete.com. He will have a live GPS tracking so you can see his currently located and what he has ridden so far. Peter will also be posting regular updates on his Instagram @pedalingwithpete. Congratulations Peter!