Rider(s) and Rig: Frankie, Adam, and Betsy the Tandem
In this installment of Rider(s) and Rig, we talk with full-time adventurers Frankie and Adam Foss to get some details on their trusty 90s tandem, its mishmash of bags and components, and their recent bikepacking trip to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Read on to learn more…
Photos provided by Benjamin Johnson
Frankie and Adam Foss have dedicated their lives to the creation of media that encourages others to explore the natural world. During a recent collaboration with Benjamin Johnson of Johnson Studios, the trio set out on a bikepacking adventure to Haida Gwaii, an archipelago just off British Columbia’s west coast. Their fully loaded tandem is a head-turner, so we reached out to Frankie and Adam to learn more about them, the bike, and what they have planned for 2019.
What’s your cycling background. Is bikepacking new to you?
Bikepacking is something that neither of us have ever done before. We both love riding bikes around town and using them as a mode of transportation to get from A to B. We dabble at mountain biking, but bikepacking was a completely new endeavour.
Tell us a bit more about your company, Foss Media.
Foss Media is our baby! We’re fortunate to work with some incredible brands and brilliant freelancers for our jobs and couldn’t be happier about it. We spend a large majority of our time chasing beautiful light, adventures, and creating media (photography and film) centered around a deeper connection with wild places.
Can we get a quick recap of the Haida Gwaii trip and how it came to be?
Ben and Adam grew up together, competing as teammates for over a decade, as their athletic careers spanned from childhood to collegiate lacrosse. I met both Ben and Adam my first year of college at Simon Fraser while living in the dorms. More recently, our creative endeavours and outdoor pursuits have aligned and we’ve all teamed up on various film and photography projects, schlepping way too much camera equipment anywhere from the scorching temps of the Sonoran Desert to a polar vortex in Northern Wisconsin, but we always manage to come out (relatively) unscathed with stories to tell.
We ran wild back then in a different way than we run wild now, but somehow when the three of us get together we’re always scheming. We’ve all been drawn to the coastal islands of British Columbia. Adam and Ben had spent some time on Vancouver island, surfing in Tofino and on an epic RV tour on the island’s west coast. Adam and I had camped on the northern tip around Bamfield, BC, and kayaked in the Broken Group’s islands a few years back. But none of us had been as remote and far north on the coastal islands as mystical Haida Gwaii. After we decided on bikepacking in Haida Gwaii, Ben obsessed over topo maps and Google Earth to find the perfect route. Adam and I jammed on making travel arrangements and trying to get into decent shape so we could keep up with Ben, who has spent the last half dozen years cycling at an intimidating pace.
When it came to preparing, we opened up the garage and looked at our family of bikes to see who was fit for the job. Our options consisted of two full-suspension mountain bikes, one road bike, and a bicycle built for two. Betsy, our lovingly nicknamed 90s tandem, was the natural choice, she practically calls out to you “hop on!” as soon as you see her. It was kind of like Goldilocks picking her porridge, and at the time Betsy seemed just right. In all honesty, it probably wasn’t ideal, but it was definitely the most fun option. I knew that if were bringing the tandem there was zero chance we were going to take ourselves too seriously, and there isn’t much more I wanted for this trip with some of my best friends.
It took us 16 hours by car to drive the coastal town of Prince Rupert, followed by an overnight ferry to Skidigate, BC — a journey in itself. The remote island chain of about 5,000 residents is unlike any other destination in Canada — maybe even the world. The Sacred Islands hold a rich cultural history dating back more than 13,000 years, with Indigenous peoples holding an ironclad connection to the land, sea, and sky. We spent the next two weeks exploring the island, camping on the beach, using a dip net to catch crab, and reveling in the natural world around us.
What’s the story behind your tandem’s name, Betsy?
To acquire Betsy was a bit of a heist, you could say. She was a child of a friend’s divorce and ended up neglected and exposed the elements in the backyard. I caught wind of her current state of affairs, and after the greenlight from one of her former parents, I decided to gather some liquid courage and rescue her in the middle of a nighttime snowstorm. After a little TLC, we’ve been ripping around on her ever since.
You’ve got a lot of different bags and bits on Betsy. Can you give us a rundown on the build?
Ben hit the community share bike shop in Vancouver a week before the trip to scrounge up parts get it working. Here’s some of what he found:
- Frame: Nashbar 10000x Tandem
- Crankset: Shimano Deore triple
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore LX
- Front Derailleur: Unknown
- Tires: Serfas Drifter
- Wheels: Unknown
- Saddle: WTB Rocket V Team (back) & WTB Silverado (front)
- Brakes: Unknown
- Handlebar: Unknown
- Framebags: Custom Outershell Framebags
- Handlebar Bag: Outershell Drawcord Handlebar Bag
- Stem Bags: 3x Outershell Stem Caddy’s (Colour: 2x Graphite X-Pac & Multicam Black X-Pac)
- Panniers: Ortlieb Back Roller Plus
- Other: Yeti Sidekick Dry, miscellaneous Outdoor Research Dry Bags, Titan Straps
- Crab Net: Lucky Strike Basket Fishing Net with Removable Handle
- Details: $30 clutch move at Prince George Canadian Tire (removable handle placed under top tube)
Any other bikepacking trips in the works?
We’ve got our eye on The Kettle Valley Railtrail (KVR) and Columbia-Western Rail Trail here in British Columbia. It’s a 650 km trail compromised of decommissioned railway track. We used a small section of it to train for Haida Gwaii and it was stunning!
Lastly, any tips for bikepacking in tandem? What works and what doesn’t?
Coming from a background in backpacking, we were lucky as we had most of the basic gear and know how that translates well to travelling light on human powered trips. What took a little time was how to orient everything on the bike, how to best carry all the various gear, and how to keep snacks at hand at all times. One thought is to try a little overnight or town ride with all your stuff before you leave civilization, just to make sure it all jives with each other and nothing additional is needed.
Also, constant communication is super necessary, especially during trickier tasks like starting off pedaling up a steep hill, or coming to a stop with a loaded bike. You have to be talking to each other and in sync or it just doesn’t work. This is one of the fun things about tandem biking though, you can chat with each other or listen to the same music the whole time. Ah yes, another important tip: bring a bluetooth speaker! We simply strapped one to our Salsa Anything Cage HD, which helped lighten the mood on uphill slogs or added a lot to camp in the evenings and mornings.