A Day With Tucson’s Campfire Cycling: Stoke The Fire
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Tucson’s Campfire Cycling is on a mission to connect people, bikes, and the great outdoors. Through their web store and full-service bike shop, Josh Lipton and his small team are eager to provide gear, knowledge, and service for everyone with an interest in bikepacking. We joined for their inaugural Breakfast By Bike ride last winter, and stopped by the shop to see what they’ve been up to…
Although Tucson already has its fair share of bike shops, it’s home to a vibrant cycling community that’s large enough to support one more, and Campfire Cycling is the latest to join in on the fun. Their unique twist is that they’re aimed squarely at getting folks out camping on their bikes. I first met Josh Lipton, Campfire Cycling’s Founder, during the 2018 Bikepacking Summit, and from our conversations it was clear that Josh was cooking up something exciting.
Instead of traditional bike shop wares, their space is packed full of bikepacking bags, tents, stoves, and GPS devices. A large portion of their wall space is home to an area ideal for presentations and video screenings, surrounded by smaller printed maps for planning trips out of Tucson. It’s the kind of store that makes you want to touch everything in sight, and I’m pretty sure Josh designed it that way on purpose. It feels like Campfire Cycling is well on its way to becoming a one-stop shop for bikepackers on the hunt for new gear—so of course we decided to swing by and hang out for a while.
The shop is located north of downtown Tucson, just east of The Loop River Path that circumnavigates the city. As luck would have it, they were hosting their inaugural Breakfast By Bike ride a few days after my arrival a few months ago. With promises of pancakes and coffee, it wasn’t an event I was willing to miss. Six of us met at Himmel Park, just as the sun was rising, and rode a casual on-road route to nearby Mitchell Park for some camp stove breakfast. It was clear that Josh and General Manager Greg Poettgen were pretty excited to see our small group get together for the ride, which at the time was their second event after, on the heels of their kickoff party and screening of Rue Kaladyte’s I Just Want To Ride film. Since then, they’ve hosted a few more breakfast rides, an introductory overnighter, donut rides, and are adding more events every month.
Campfire Cycling’s history is an interesting one. Josh had been running a successful e-commerce website based around his own product, the CELLO bicycle case, a system for converting a BOB Trailer into a bicycle shipping case. But in 2017, Josh noticed a shift in bicycle market, and decided it was time to switch focus to keep the website up to date. Working with Chad Bush, a talented WooCommerce Developer, they successfully pivoted the business into Campfire Cycling. The team currently consists of Josh, Greg, Chad, Ian, Campfire Cycling’s graphic designer, and Alec Robinson , Content Editor.
Although the current online shop doesn’t feature every product that’s available in their Tucson showroom, they’re working to get the inventory all synced up. From what I saw in the shop, it looks like they’ve brought in a ton of solid gear—including products from Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Salsa, Revelate Designs, Vargo, and Surly, just to name a few. They are set up to support experienced bikepackers and newer riders alike, which is great to see.
As Campfire Cycling is still in their early stages of development, I reached out to Josh to see what’s changed since my visit in December 2019, and to ask about where he sees the company heading. Here’s what he had to say…
“When you visited, we were fresh off of our launch and still getting our bearings. Now, a couple of months later, we’re starting to see where things are headed. We’ve been staying busy just getting used to all of our new commitments, seeing what’s working and not, and getting our processes worked out. Locally, our core sales continue to match what we see online: bikepacking bags, touring bags, and racks. On our new service side, we’ve been getting quite a bit of bikepacking and bicycle touring related work, such as drivetrain rebuilds, wheel builds (especially with dynamo hubs), and tubeless tire installation.
The events that have really resonated are of course the events with Lael Wilcox and Kait Boyle, which brought plenty of folks out. The bike campout overnighters and the Breakfast by Bike are where we’re really building our local community. The biggest missing piece of our catalog that we’re working on filling in are lots of odds and ends accessories. We’re planning on adding in the following over the next six months: Old Man Mountain Racks, Problem Solver Bow-Ties, Wahoo GPS, Spot Trackers, Lightweight locks like the Tigr, T-Racks, King Cages, and a map and book section.
We’re getting really excited about route development from a variety of perspectives. We’re working on a map to put up in the shop with many of the bikepacking and road touring routes in the area, as well as working on publishing a variety of overnighter bicycle campouts around the Tucson area. Lastly, we’re also considering doing some custom frame bags here in the shop. We outfit quite a few bikes locally, and being able to do custom frame bags would really round out this capability.”
You can find Campfire Cycling at 2801 N Flowing Wells Road in Tucson, or online at CampfireCycling.com.
As a reminder, Bikepacking Collective members get 15% off almost anything at Campfire Cycling’s online web shop (along with several other discounts and benefits). Log in to the member area of the site to find it. If you’re not yet a supporter of the site, sign up to take advantage of this discount.