Author Topic: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?  (Read 5452 times)

big_slacker

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Thought y'all might find this one interesting. My passion is mountain biking and during ugly weather and times when I can't go outside and play (damn kids!)  I get by watching POV vids on youtube while I ride on my spin bike. One  of them is 'singletrack sampler', a guy with a ridiculous beard name Alex who travels to various locations and SHREDS for our enjoyment, he also is super enthusiastic and funny.

Had a regular job, lots of debt and felt like it was wrong for him. He chucked it all and has been living out of his car for 4 years now. Basically finds a campsite to post up at, rides trails, edits vids. Makes his living with a combo of youtube proceeds, patreon donations, t-shirt sales, doing online SAT prep training and bike mechanic gigs. He recently posted a vid detailing his plans for switching from this to #vanlife so he can sleep inside and have more security for his bikes. He was obviously very wary of taking on too much debt with too fancy a van.

On one hand the guy is really livin his dream. He rides bikes all over the country, has a blast, low debt, low overhead and not tied down by anything really. BUT what I wonder about is what the endgame looks like for a guy like this? Like at 40 is anyone still going to watch his vids? He likely won't have much if anything for retirement saved. He also will almost certainly never be able to go back to traditional work.

If this was you how would you plan for later life? I have some ideas but I'm interested to hear what others think?

Some links below. Note that I'm not affiliated with this dude in any way, nor do I care or get anything if you hit subscribe. :D

Here is the link to his 'van plan' which is long but details some of his finances and philosophy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drwyfdxOka4&t=3253s

Here is the youtube channel, if you like mountain bikes you could get lost in here, haha!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfUGBBnxQYezwJM9wi3F-Lg/videos

Sibley

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2018, 07:52:46 AM »
He probably falls into the camp of people who haven't thought about it. "You only live once."

Lan Mandragoran

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2018, 07:58:42 AM »
Thought y'all might find this one interesting. My passion is mountain biking and during ugly weather and times when I can't go outside and play (damn kids!)  I get by watching POV vids on youtube while I ride on my spin bike. One  of them is 'singletrack sampler', a guy with a ridiculous beard name Alex who travels to various locations and SHREDS for our enjoyment, he also is super enthusiastic and funny.

Had a regular job, lots of debt and felt like it was wrong for him. He chucked it all and has been living out of his car for 4 years now. Basically finds a campsite to post up at, rides trails, edits vids. Makes his living with a combo of youtube proceeds, patreon donations, t-shirt sales, doing online SAT prep training and bike mechanic gigs. He recently posted a vid detailing his plans for switching from this to #vanlife so he can sleep inside and have more security for his bikes. He was obviously very wary of taking on too much debt with too fancy a van.

On one hand the guy is really livin his dream. He rides bikes all over the country, has a blast, low debt, low overhead and not tied down by anything really. BUT what I wonder about is what the endgame looks like for a guy like this? Like at 40 is anyone still going to watch his vids? He likely won't have much if anything for retirement saved. He also will almost certainly never be able to go back to traditional work.

If this was you how would you plan for later life? I have some ideas but I'm interested to hear what others think?

Some links below. Note that I'm not affiliated with this dude in any way, nor do I care or get anything if you hit subscribe. :D

Here is the link to his 'van plan' which is long but details some of his finances and philosophy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drwyfdxOka4&t=3253s

Here is the youtube channel, if you like mountain bikes you could get lost in here, haha!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfUGBBnxQYezwJM9wi3F-Lg/videos

This would be my brother lol.  Seems like a dream that would be made a lot easier with even just a few years of mustachian saving...  If you can save a 1-200k you could pay for most of that probably.

Maenad

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2018, 08:13:19 AM »
As long as he either:
1. Has a plan for when his body will no longer tolerate this life, or
2. Has sufficient resilience to re-make his life successfully without planning ahead,

Then more power to him! A lot of people don't, but some do, and you usually don't know which camp someone falls into until it's years later.

Ocelot

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2018, 01:31:58 PM »
That was basically me for 15 years or so. I just moved from bike town to bike town and lived paycheck to paycheck in any bike-related job I could get and I had a blast. It's absolutely possible to do, and I came out of it with a lot of bike mech and racing experience, and a decent photography side-hussle. It's also practically impossible to save, what little money you manage to sock away gets spent the next time you relocate. So while I don't regret it at all, I'm glad I discovered the idea of FIRE and now have made some headway towards it.

The half-way point is to get some kind of job in the industry. I get paid to ride and attend events occasionally and my employers are very cool with me going riding randomly during the day. The downside is that wages in this industry are not amazing, and no matter how high you climb the ladder, you're not going make even what passes as "average wage" around here.

Edit: I know a few of these guys, and the usual "endgame" is that they get hired as brand ambassadors or reps by bike-related companies. Some do pretty well out of it, most just do ok, depending on how much recognition they have. It's not a job where you'll be able to save a huge chunk of your income though, and it's a series of short-term contracts rather than good solid long-term employment.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2018, 01:40:09 PM by Ocelot »

spokey doke

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2018, 01:48:39 PM »
I've been riding for 30 years as my major hobby...wish I had those skills.

Lots of folks (me included) do some time ski bumming, raft guiding, or something similar, often having to add in various other gigs, unless you have the skills to get paid to play.  There's a whole continuum on a number of variables...pay (and gear), number of years, how much 'play' is actually involved in whatever work is required.

I only did a few years and had a blast...then felt I had other ground to plow (and thought I might want to be able to afford health insurance at some point in my life...and perhaps have some prospects for retirement).

I'm always amazed at folks who stick with it...but like most other things, whenever I compare notes on life with them, they totally outpace me in some domains we both value, and they wish they had more of some of the things that I have done well in. 

Good luck to him in any case...and I imagine the answer to your question is...a bit of both

Retire-Canada

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2018, 02:33:31 PM »

I love mountain biking. If I was starting over I would buy a van and live out of it so I wasn't wasting $$ on rent. Then I'd find a summer base in Canada where I could get relatively high paying seasonal work. I'd work all summer while riding evenings and weekends then head south to the US and Mexico for the winters to get away from the cold and ride more. By keeping my COL living low I could probably match or beat my spendy old self's savings amounts and be able to FIRE just as soon as I am going to be now.

nawhite

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2018, 03:54:52 PM »
Whitewater kayaking is my equivalent for mountain biking. I was a raft guide and kayak instructor in college and seriously thought about doing it full time but I basically decided I can make enough in 10 years as an IT guy to FIRE into that type of lifestyle if I choose.

I got lucky and was able to find a job I could do remotely so my wife and I did the vanlife thing for a couple years (see signature)

Most of my friends who do the full time kayaker/raftguide/ski bum thing end up doing the fun life for ~10 years and then working for a shop somewhere where they don't have health insurance and don't have retirement savings. All while having extreme housing issues in the winter as cost of living in ski resorts is absolutely insane. At the same time, I only kayak or ski ~50 days a year instead of the 150-250 they get.

I actually made a pretty penny preparing taxes for a number of people who follow that lifestyle last year :-)

...
I'm always amazed at folks who stick with it...but like most other things, whenever I compare notes on life with them, they totally outpace me in some domains we both value, and they wish they had more of some of the things that I have done well in. 
...

That quote hits the nail on the head IMO.

Brother Esau

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2018, 04:15:33 PM »
Fellow avid mountain biker here. Good luck to him. I've seen some couples doing the van life thing and biking/hiking all over the country. Not sure how sustainable that will be once they are older. I get my fix on 4 - 5 day jaunts to Moab, NC, VT, CO, VA, etc. Cool to see this, thanks for sharing.

PS - just noticed I reached "stubble" status!!!

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2018, 04:17:35 PM »
Hey there OP.

Alex is who I aspire to be.

Seriously though, I will reach borderline FI and do something like this for a few years. Between MTB, hiking (including AT, PCT, CDT thru-hikes), bikepacking, etc.....I want to live this nomad, active lifestyle. Life is way to short to sit in a cubicle for 40 hours a week and spend another 20 hours getting ready, commuting, and decompressing.

Now Alex, might want to get his debt sorted and start building some wealth in order to sustain this long term. But as long as people keep buying his merch, watching his vids, and supporting him. All it takes is just slightly LBYM and he will be just fine.

NoraLenderbee

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2018, 04:42:59 PM »
One kind of plan is to have a deadline for when you'll stop the full-time ski-bum life, for instance, when you reach a certain age, or when you've accomplished certain goals (bike on every continent, ride 100,000 miles, or whatever). Then have an idea for what you'll do afterward, whether something in the industry or not. It would be good to have a non-athletic skill that you keep sharp and can make a living at afterward. There's also the option of living with a girlfriend forever (see: drummers).

What gives me pause is that this guy is one crash away from losing his living and his whole way of life--and these guys crash a lot.

I'm curious (didn't go to the links) about what he did with his previous debt (walked away?), and why he has any debt at all now.

nath

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2018, 03:47:42 AM »
I think you make the choice at about your early 20s to be a worker or a player.

Many ppl in their 20s just muck around for years and years and basically never really get ahead. But at least they have some fond memories while they are young enough to do the extreme stuff.
Thatís Cool but the reality is the longer they keep it up the worse the situation gets as you are perpetually broke!
Itís quite possible you will miss a lifetime of opportunities that are available to everyone in a 1st World country. You may never be able to buy a house, travel properly, get married, truly retire etc.
I think MMM is right. Your 20s are THE time to work hard and get some money behind you.
Enjoy your spare time but donít make your hobby a full time obsession

soccerluvof4

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2018, 04:32:02 AM »
Times have changed but this lifestyle philosophy not so much. 35 years ago my brother took off for Alaska and hasnt been back to the lower 48 since. Fishes and does the things he likes and along the way turned those freedoms into money makers like photography and writing articles.  I have a relative , though dangerous toured the country for years jumping trains. There is a whole network out there but as I said its very dangerous. I think today people have more of an advantage with the technology. They can Youtube to make extra cash. People will work holidays at Amazon to hoard cash. Bottom line I think each individual that lives this life will seek and find there own path. There living life each day and probably not even thinking about the future. But most of them are survivalists and wont end up being street people either imo.

BiggerFishToFI

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2018, 07:42:22 AM »
Grew up and went to college immersed in the mountain bike / river / snow sport / climbing culture. I took one year off after my freshmen year of college to gain in-state tuition and pursue my action sports / live like a dirtbag. I have a lot of friends that now work in the industry, but spend all their money living in HCOL resort type towns, eating out/partying and buying new (albeit "pro-deal") gear all the time.

I only recently discovered the idea of FIRE but now find myself in a good position to get out of the rat race before 40, and am still able to "weekend-warrior" the things I like to do. Living in a place that allows the pursuit of some of these activities for a couple hours a day during the week helps also!

I often wonder if I'll be able to rejoin my true ranks upon FIRE or if I'll be of a different class not having to worry about finances/scrape by...

Retire-Canada

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2018, 07:57:30 AM »
I often wonder if I'll be able to rejoin my true ranks upon FIRE or if I'll be of a different class not having to worry about finances/scrape by...

Well you can hang out with the higher level sponsored folks or folks who work in the industry. They'll be able to ride/climb/ski all the time and so will you. Folks that have to work so they can do fun stuff will come and go as time allows.

The same problem exists in normal society if you retire early you are hanging with your buddies on the weekends and then they disappear for 5 days and repeat.

The nice thing about doing a frugal-ish MMM-esque retirement is you aren't rocking bling/$$ all the time without working. That would mesh better with lower paid industry lifestyles or full dirt baggers.

Anyways it's a nice problem to have. Get out there and get some before something changes with your health. There will be a day for all of us when we can only watch outdoors sports on Red Bull TV.

big_slacker

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Re: Professional mountain bike bum. Living the dream or headed for trouble?
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2018, 09:24:25 AM »
I think you make the choice at about your early 20s to be a worker or a player.

Many ppl in their 20s just muck around for years and years and basically never really get ahead. But at least they have some fond memories while they are young enough to do the extreme stuff.
Thatís Cool but the reality is the longer they keep it up the worse the situation gets as you are perpetually broke!
Itís quite possible you will miss a lifetime of opportunities that are available to everyone in a 1st World country. You may never be able to buy a house, travel properly, get married, truly retire etc.
I think MMM is right. Your 20s are THE time to work hard and get some money behind you.
Enjoy your spare time but donít make your hobby a full time obsession

I've had the same discussion with a good friend. We've kind of done opposite tracks but have met in the middle. I did the snowboard/bike bum thing from 20-30 and started a real career in IT at 30. He was married, kids shortly out of high school and has only worked IT. I'm jealous of how far ahead he is financially, he's jealous of all the freedom and fun I had before I started to get old, haha! I don't think there is any 'right' way to do it.