“Carbonated-Neutral”: Bike Touring + Friendship + Beer = Fun

There’s a new bike tour in town that emphasizes fun and friendship for riders of all ages and skills.

“Carbonated-neutral” is a play on carbon-neutral, the climate commitment, coined by Jeff Thompson, who along with Jason Lindgren founded Craft Cycling Tours, which begins its inaugural run in 2024. Listen to the Chainwheel Diaries Podcast episode on Apple and Spotify.

Brian Berlin Jeff Thompson Jason Lindgren

I love this: “Carbonated neutral essentially boils down to the amount of beer calories that you consume after a ride are offset by the amount of calories that you expended on that ride,” he explained. “It’s really finding some great roads, enjoying some time riding and then talking about it when you’re done having a few beers.”

The tours are located in Arizona and Washington, where Jason and Jeff are based respectively. Both locations feature routes that the two have ridden thousands of times and are confident that the roads are not only safe but introduce cyclists to some outstanding scenery.

For instance, the Washington tours introduce riders to Bellingham, Washington. “Bellingham is up near the Canadian border and they probably have more craft breweries in that town than just about anywhere around, I think, per capita, and the riding up there is absolutely phenomenal,” claims Jeff.

Adds Jason, “Arizona is really known for big, wide streets, big bike lanes. So even on roads that there is decent amount of traffic you feel completely safe. And then I just looked for routes that you got the scenic beauty of the desert.”

“So like we go down to a lake, and it’s a long, it’s a 14-mile climb,” he continued, “but the views are so good, and anybody can do it.”

The tours also feature some fun nighttime activities. In Washington riders are treated to a Brews Cruise. “One of the things that we do is there’s a group in Bellingham that it’s a whale watching company,” says Jeff, “but Wednesday nights they do a brews cruise so part of our package will be an hour and a half cruise out around Billingham Bay with gorgeous views of Mount Baker.”

The Arizona tours features Cave Creek, Arizona where the spirit of the Old West is alive and kicking.

“Cave Creek is known as is the Cowboy bar part of town. It’s one street. There must be 4, 5, 6 cowboy bars, and the one is probably the oldest one in town. It’s called Harold’s,” Jason explained. “Great food, but very typical cowboy bar, cowboy boots hanging from the ceiling, and the whole bit, country music. So that is kind of the Arizona version of the Bellingham brews cruise.”

He goes on: “But the really fun part of that night is after dinner, next door is a bar called the Buffalo Chip, and they have bull riding. So we’re gonna have dinner. And then, as a group go over there’s more obviously drinks available. But to go in and just see the bull riding.”

You may be thinking mechanical bull riding, like “Urban Cowboy”. No, this is real bull riding outside the Buffalo Chip.

Jeff and Jason first met at a parking lot criterium in Bothell, Washington, in 1992, connected via a mutual friend. They were pitted against USA Cycling members who were on a one-day license.

“[We’re] thinking, Oh, this is gonna be great,” recalled Jason. “We’re sitting at the starting line with these guys, you know, with all the high-end bikes and their legs are the size of tree trunks, and they said, Go and JT and I were off the back within a probably 100 meters at the starting line, looking at each other like what happened?”

Since then, Jeff and Jason have ridden thousands of miles together, including a tour of Spain where the idea of Craft Cycling Tours was born. Jason has also done a bike tour in France where he experienced an evening tradition that Craft Cycling Tours has adopted. At dinner, they went around the table and the riders were asked to say one good thing and one bad thing about the day.

“And we did it every single night, and what we found is after about the second or third night, all of a sudden, everybody is just great friends, and it really got everybody to open up.”

Craft Cycling Tours are fully supported, including SAG support, breakfast and dinner, mid-ride water and snacks, on-ride guides, and lodging.

“We’ll have a van to support everybody. And along the way we’ll have various points whether it’s either you know, parking lot where we can pull over,” explained Jeff.

“And if people wanna, you know, add gear, take off gear because of the weather, or need additional water that’ll be available. We’ve tried to incorporate you know, a coffee shop along the way where people want to stop and just kind of refuel”.

Tours are four days which is ideal if you’re still working full time like me. Rides occur during the week and distances are manageable.

The hotels, said Jason, aren’t 5 stars but still very nice. For instance, Day 1 of the Washington rides is based out of a Springhill Suites. Day 1 of the Arizona rides is based out of a Hampton Inn. I’ve stayed at both of these properties and they are very comfortable accommodations.

Different from bike tours that have riders travel from location to location, hoteling in overnight towns or camping in designated campgrounds, Craft Cycling Tours feature a base camp (hotel) and daily excursions out and back. Riders will appreciate this format as it simplifies logistics and provides a familiar setting to return to after a day of riding.

If you’re considering joining a bike tour, and you’re looking for one that offers great routes, scenic locations, modest challenges, plenty of social activities, nice accommodations, beer and friendship, check out Craft Cycling Tours. The 2024 ride schedule is posted, and registration is open.

Author: brianbartleyberlin

Adventure cyclist. No spandex, carbon fiber or cleats. My ride is a 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker, made of steel, built to last.

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