Ryan Van Duzer, 39, lived in his Mom’s Boulder basement until 30.
That scenario epitomizes the fine line between dreams and sacrifice and delusion and faith. For Ryan, it spins into what can only be called wild success, especially by those harboring adventurous souls.
He’s currently on a cross-country 3,000-mile bicycle trip, from Oregon to New York, with his monthsyoung, new love on his/hers new Trek Checkpoint gravel bikes. The trip’s funded, in part, by Trek. He’s chronicling the #LoveCycles adventure on his YouTube channel, which powers his career and lifestyle with sponsorships and ads.
This pedal-pounding trip is par for the course for Ryan. His adventures, in video form, have appeared on the Travel Channel, the Discovery Channel, a National Geographic web series (chronicling a trip through the Himalayas) and Men’s Journal. He’s also chronicled a number of adventures in short films, many of which can be seen on YouTube.
Trips like #LoveCycles — including the Copper Canyon 50-mile Caballo Blanco race in Mexico, riding bikes in western Cuba, and visiting Montreal for a bike-advocacy event (just the first five months of this year) — keeps him gone from his Boulder, where he grew up and still lives, an average of about 150 days each year.
But it’s also what drives his feeling of success: “I wake up everyday and I’m pretty damn psyched to be alive.”
From Boulder to adventure
Born in 1979 at Boulder Community Hospital, Ryan graduated from CU with a degree in broadcast journalism and held an internship at 9News in Denver out of school.
Long-form video journalism called to him, but he quickly discovered the bleeds-it-leads stories that dominate local news didn’t pull his heart. Instead he realized a strong desire to create and broadcast what he calls “happy news,” an apt description of his cheery video persona, and the one in person. Ryan quit the broadcast track for another road.
In 2004, he joined the Peace Corps in Honduras where, among other projects directed toward local kids, he produced a weekly youth news TV show, starring elementary school-aged locals. When his two-year stint was up, he bought a bike and cranked it 4,000 miles from Honduras to Boulder — he filmed the adventure and caught an incurable long-distance bike bug.
Back in Boulder, Ryan began airing a show in 2006 on Boulder Public Access TV called “Out There,” designed to inspire Boulderites to connect with the adventure of everyday life starring their paradise-playground hometown.
That MO — that “we can choose to make it a great day” — still drives his content. It’s one part motivational, two parts adventure, one part silly, two parts pain. Mix that with burritos and ice cream and you have Van Duzer.
Ryan once dreamed of hosting his own TV show on the Travel Channel or the Discovery Channel. After stalled pilots and projects stuck on the production hamster wheel, he decided to grab fate himself and focus on cultivating a career through YouTube.
In addition to telling moving stories through video, Ryan sees himself doing more motivational speaking — he gives inspirational talks to businesses, groups of young people and others.
Biker adventures particularly pull Duzer — “life at 15mph” as he calls it. He found bike love early as a Boulder youngster. One Earth Day at age 7 or 8, he imbibed the save-the-earth ethos and the idea “cars are bad” rang from ear to ear.
It’s not really an environmentalist vision that pulls Ryan, however. As he explains — bikes are fun, are great exercise and they connect you with your community. He’s never had a car.
One morning a few days before he left on the latest cross-country adventure, Ryan welcomed me to his NOBO condo — bikes, as you might guess, crowded the entryway with various pro-bike stickers stuck on his front door.
Three impressions immediately emerge with Ryan: he’s sweet, silly and living on the bright side of life. Watch 15 seconds of any of his videos and that much becomes clear.
The bike-packing mantra he chants everyday on the road — and which he teaches his new bike partner early in their trip — reveals this: “No crashies, no whammies, no windies, no flatties.”
You’ll get a feel of the appeal the 15mph life has for him from a spontaneous bike-mounted monologue on a recent video. “The river off to right, mountains in every direction — this is the perfect speed to experience life — wind in your hair, sun on your face, you can hear the birds overhead, ahh, pure bliss.”
It’s not all peace sunset glory for the road warrior, but that the ecstasy of simplicity in that moment pervades his videos and really is the essence of his content’s appeal.
Love, the biggest adventure
Ryan’s in the middle of his biggest adventure yet — learning love with new partner Ali. They met in one of the most adventurous ways possible.
At the Boulder International Film Festival this year Ryan showed a short adventure film he directed, “Isaac and the Volcano,” a story about taking his friend Isaac — who over a decade before had lost the ability to walk in a skydiving accident — to hike 5,000 feet up Nicaragua’s Concepcion volcano.
He was at a bar after the film and ran into Ali. He mentioned he was leaving the next day for the 50-mile race in Mexico’s glorious Copper Canyon. She said she wanted to go, and within 30 minutes she had a plane ticket.
Watch a few episodes of #LoveCycles and I’m guessing, like me, you’d bet all the burritos in the world that they’ll make it.
On the trip, they’re asking friends and strangers they meet along the way for love advice as they navigate their nascent relationship. Some of the love tips Ryan and Ali receive from friends, strangers, farmers, bikers:
- Wait out the bad times.
- Have independence, but adventure together.
- Learn how to fly the love airplane — it’s not a car, or a bike. Be patient.
- Be nice to one another.
- Be honest. Don’t be selfish.
- Keep G-d in your life.
- Couples, families that play together, stay together.
- Honor commitment. Life presents change — change with it, but stay committed.
Follow their journey on Ryan’s YouTube channel. It’s a trip full of ice cream, lots of ice cream, burritos, beans, all varieties of crepes — such as the breakfast crepe of Nutella, sliced bananas and peanut butter — nachos, the glorious guilt-free eating of road warriors burning 1000s of calories every day and budding love.