I watched a pickpocket work the crowd in the Champs-Élysées McDonalds in 2013, stealing watches, wallets, and almost a camera until me and the woman holding the camera chased him down, making him give up all the goods. Since, I’ve been prepared for almost anything that may happen in McDonalds while traveling and attempting to save money on food. Not included is running into a small group of pretty dope American cyclists while being the stereotypically loud Americans and taking down cheeseburgers and fish filets.
It began with the infamous, “where are you guys from?” My motley crew was from all over the U.S., but these guys were on the continent from California. Seconds later, Victor, Julia and myself were attempting to not look shocked, then attempting to not look like hype fans when John Romero, Matt Munoz, and Bryan Rocha told us they were cyclists, making their way through Europe by bike. It was as random as us six adventurers ending up in Lyon, France in a McDonalds after midnight. Well, perhaps that isn’t random at all.
Neither of the men looked like the cyclists I see in magazines or on TV or when driving slowly by the Lance Armstrong look-a-likes on the road, and that’s what excited us most. “It’s probably my own ignorance, or just not paying attention” I said, “but I don’t see many Hispanic cyclists in the world. So for me, what you guys are doing is pretty dope and possibly groundbreaking.”
Since reading Che Guevara’s diary, I’ve wanted to take on a country, any country, by bike, and meeting these guys showed me just how fun, scary, daring, and possible it’d be. Though they began their trek in Slovakia and we began ours in Milan, much of European route was like ours, coasting through the south of France, up to Lyon, Paris, and eventually making it to Belgium and Amsterdam in time for King’s Day. We agreed to attempt to meet again in Amsterdam, but just in case our schedules didn’t connect, I needed to ask the most important question of the night: “Can I share your story on Passport Required?”
I had to make this happen because it’s always refreshing to meet folks who travel with intention and for more than travel sake.
Passport Required: What’s been the most amazing thing you’ve seen while cycling through the world?
Matt Munoz: Wow this is a tough question. I’ve seen so many beautiful views cycling around [Southern California]. And now, being in Europe for the first time is amazing! Cycling where some of the best cyclists in the world had ridden is an awesome feeling and experience. The breathtaking views are definitely the best part of cycling.
PR: How do you choose the country and the routes you’re going to take?
MM: My buddy John Romero planned out this trip for us. We had cities in the plan, but as far the routes we didn’t plan any of the routes. We just went with the flow and let the roads lead the way. I think that’s what made the trip a little bit more exciting.
PR: What was the most difficult or scary thing you experienced while cycling? How did you overcome that?
MM: Going down is a huge fear of mine when Cycling. When you’re descending down a mountain going anywhere from 35-45 mph any little thing can turn that dream into a nightmare. I haven’t gone down yet, but have seen my fair share of crashes and it’s not pretty. I just make myself aware of my surroundings and look ahead for any obstructions.
PR: Tell me about some of the rules you set for yourself or for your group when you decide to travel and cycle together.
MM: When we were in Europe, the goal was to stick together and not leave anyone behind. When I’m riding locally, it depends on the other riders. Sometimes, I’m with riders who love to go fast and far, and I see them suffer, but they love it. I make sure I chill on those days and take it easy.
PR: So many people are caught up in the gadgets and the outfits they see the Tour De France people wearing. Let’s set the record straight. What are the bare minimum items needed when taking on the world from your bike?
MM: It’s just some people like to have the best of the best when it’s not needed. The basic things are enough. It’s very common for someone to have a bike that’s out of their league but it’s about looks and how you look on your bike. I’m partial owners of a cycling clothing company called Monstrow Cycling and our goal is to provide stellar gear at a responsible price and that fits amazingly well! So with that said, a great pair of bibs (shorts) is crucial in cycling along with a nice comfortable jersey. Helmet, of course, is always a key piece of the outfit; one that looks cool and fits appropriately. Socks are also another huge part of the outfit. I prefer loud socks because they make a cool statement with the outfit. As far as electronics, a Garmin is almost necessary to track your rides and see your improvements.
PR: What or who inspired your sense of adventure?
MM: John has been a big inspiration lately. With this European tour he planned, starting in Slovakia where his wife was born and raised, I was very fortunate to experience and see so much in the little time we were on the road.
PR: What do you tell those who say “you must be crazy to do something like that?”
MM: I do get that reaction from most people when I tell them where I’ve ridden and how long I was riding for. It makes me feel good because Cycling isn’t for everyone. It makes you appreciate it when you’re on the bike suffering. I say, “thank you.”
PR: If you were given 5 more races, cities, countries, highways, or trails to ride before you were no longer able to ride, which ones would you choose and why?
MM: I would love to cycle in Australia, in the backcountry in Italy to see all of the cool roads. I’d climb the Alp d’Huez like the pros I’ve watched. And San Francisco.
PR: What’s your process before hopping on your bike?
MM: The process of getting ready to go on a bike ride is the toughest part for me. Because it is most definitely a process. I have to make sure my bike is ready to go by checking tire pressure and brakes, then checking the water in my water bottles to ensure I have plenty for the ride and emergencies. I check that my Garmin is charged completely and ready to go. Most important, when all that is complete, I make sure I will look good in my clothes and on the road. This usually takes around 30 minutes.
PR: If anything, what are you doing to increase the number to cyclists who look like you?
MM: I work at a bike shop, and I’m often encouraging the kids around my neighborhood I see riding to come in and learn more about bikes. Cycling is seriously attracting everyone, so I make sure I stay open to anyone who wants to learn. Hey, not everyone likes to run.
PR: Give me one song on your cycling playlist that keep you going.
MM: I honestly just throw Pandora on my phone and listen to daft punk radio. It plays everything and it keeps me going.
Check out Matt Munoz, John Romero, and Bryan Rocha on Instagram to keep up with their adventures, and to learn more about cycling and Monstrow Cycling.
Check out their routes, clocked by Strava.
Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.