GALION — Every journey begins with a purpose. Some people embark on a course to raise money, to prove someone wrong or just to better themselves. The latter can be said for Galion resident Eric Barnett, who started riding a “cheap Meijer bike” to improve his fitness and to lose unwanted, excess weight.
Those humble beginnings for Barnett led to what has now become a passion.
After a short time, roughly two months, Barnett decided it was time to ditch the run of the mill Meijer bicycle for an upgrade to a Trek Crossrip purchased from Y-Not in Lexington. By this point, a fire had been lit within him and he desired to start riding longer distances.
He accomplished that particular feat when he rode his first century, or 100-miler bike ride in 2013. Similar to most hobbies, it became much more to him.
“I’ve always liked backpacking and camping, so cycle touring seemed like the next logical step,” said Barnett.
To most, a 100-mile ride seems daunting, but in 2015, Barnett decided to do his first bike tour with his trusty Trek cycle. The expedition found him pedaling a much-longer 318 miles from Galion to Indiana Dunes State Park. Along with his good friend Tim Frey, the two made the journey in five days.
With the first tour under his belt, a desire for a more tour specific bike began to grow. He said: “although a good bike and a decent touring bike, the Trek isn’t built strong enough for heavy loaded touring.”
This is a very important feature, as bike-packing involves the rider essentially living off of whatever they can pack up on their bike of choice.
With a goal in mind, Barnett found himself in good fortune when Bob and Troy Chipka opened up Cycling Sports Center on Harding Way East in Galion. Barnett chose to completely customize his bike from just the 2015 Surly Disc Trucker frame that he had in mind.
“We had the pleasure of building it up with all the exact parts he wanted,” said shop owner Troy Chipka. “People who are serious about cycling like Eric usually know exactly what brand they like and exactly what they want.”
Barnett did the research, and soon the bike he wanted was built to his specifications.
With a time frame of a week or two in his mind, Barnett decided to make the voyage from Galion to Washington D.C.
“I chose D.C. because I liked the idea that I could ride from my house to the White House, all on a bike,” Barnett said.
And he did just that.
The eight-day trip found him riding by himself to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the first three days. On Day 3, his mother and wife met him in Pittsburgh and dropped off friend Larry Strong to complete the rest of the ride by his side.
Throughout his journey, Eric Barnett traveled 554.7 miles. Along the way, he was saw new things and experienced different terrains and all kinds of weather. There also were flat tires, angry raccoons and pretty much everything there is to see from between Galion and our nation’s capital.
If you want to learn more about bikes and bike-packing, Chipka is sponsoring an informative workshop on Sunday, Aug. 21, at 6 p.m. This free workshop is open to the public and will be held at Chipka’s shop, 130 Harding Way East.