When asked about his occupation, Georgia born TJ Kearns describes himself as a “Professional Good Time Facilitator.” How can you argue with that? For TJ, it happens to be all wrapped up in creating a life as an acclaimed adventure photographer that can most frequently be found on his mountain bike, or digging in the dirt with his trail building company Cohutta Trail Designs. Recover catches up with TJ about living life on two wheels, creating a bike route from Newfoundland to Key West, and life perspectives when walking through cow poop.
Photo by TJ KEARNS
Biking and multi-day bike trips? Let’s start there...
Well I’ve been riding on two wheels since I was two years old, and have done and love every discipline of biking- mountain, road, cross-country, enduro. I first got into bikepacking through a friend I met while building. He asked me to guide a 2 day bikepacking trip because I knew the terrain, but it was hilarious because it was the guests' first time bikepacking and mine too. Right away, I was in. It’s great- you eat a bunch of food, ride all day, and then eat more food.
Tell us about creating a bikepacking route from Newfoundland to Key West- Whoa.
I’m part of a small group of people working on The Eastern Divide Project, which aims to create a route that will roughly follow the Eastern Continental Divide. Out West, there’s a route from Banff to New Mexico, but what’s in the works out here is a route that is more technical, has more single track and is almost double the distance. The route is going to start at the first Viking settlement, which is found in Newfoundland. Basically, to create it, we get on Google Earth to see roughly where we want to go, then use Strava heatmaps to see where people are riding and nail down the actual route from there. We almost have everything on paper for the whole route, now we have to go ride it and make sure it’s legit. Last year, we did a scout from Mulberry Gap down to Key West. It’s a 1400 mile ride and took us 20 days.
Any stories from the Southern recon mission?
Bikepacking in general is one big funny story. During our Florida scout, there was a bunch of bad flooding, so we had to take this alternative through a super swampy area. We had already been riding for 10 hours and started pushing our 65 pound bikes through the unrideable mud when we came across a herd of cows. Every five steps, we sunk deeper- we were literally trudging through cow poop. There are some moments in bikepacking when you’re just straight-up over it, but as far as getting through that, I always remember that I’m riding my bike, and it could be much worse. Walking through cow crap for 3 hours is a crapload better than other things… at least you’re out there exploring.
There are only 3 things in which I can get clarity in my mind: playing music, photography and biking. To be able to just focus on that one thing- biking does it the most. What’s the question? The bike is the answer. It’s a sense of freedom from being a kid when you get on a bike and take off. On a bikepacking trip, you’re out there riding and exploring new things. You see the sunrise and sunset every day. When riding with friends, you get the social community aspect of it, and when riding super technical stuff, it makes you think and focus because you don’t want to make a mistake.
Sustainability is definitely something that I am behind, and Recover’s apparel is amazing and feels great. It’s important to me to be able to partner with a company with similar mindset. We live in a consumer-based society, and even on a local level, it’s disgusting when you go out in the forest in Pisgah and see trash. It literally breaks my heart riding down beautiful roads and linking up trails and then seeing someone’s dumped a mattress and huge rug down off the side of the road. That type of stuff makes me want to be more involved in educating people in sustainability and protecting the earth. A company like Recover that’s actually doing things to be eco-friendly is awesome. Also, the fact that Recover also promotes outdoor activities and a healthy lifestyle is right in line with what I believe in.
Favorite piece of Recover gear?
The gray one with the outline of NC that says, “Shred.” The hoodies are so comfortable too.
What did you get into this summer?
Last spring, we were in the midst of planning a month and a half long scout for the Eastern Divide Project for summer. We headed to the Adirondacks, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to see how our Google Earth and Strava ride out on dirt. For this trip, we also got an RV due to time. If we did all of it the same way we did the Southern route, it could take 4-5 years to complete scouting. We based out of the RV, but bikepacked as much as possible.
Photo by TJ KEARNS
Advice for those looking to get into biking and bikepacking?
Get out and go for it. Buy a bike you can afford, or borrow one. Go get lost in the woods, have fun, and bring plenty of snacks.
Words live by?
Buy the ticket, take the ride!