Hi there! My name is Matthew Wordell. I’m a photographer and part owner of Visionkit Studio, a commercial photo studio in Boise, Idaho. I’m 6’3” with long ass legs and would say bike fit has generally been a challenge in my 5 year exploration of Bikepacking.
My big ah-hah moment happened in 2017:
It was around mile 100 on the first day of the Smoke and Fire 400 that the realization finally hit me. Grinding through the miles, I looked down at the bike between my legs and thought to myself: “holy shit, the dream bike I just spent the last year building is just too damn small for me…”
Too small! But where did I go wrong? I was perplexed. I was riding an XL and still the steer tube was loaded with spacers and topped with a riser stem just to get the bars at a decent height. As if it was sized for someone half my height.
In the next moment, I remember having this absurdly obvious epiphany - Could it be possible that there was a bike brand on planet earth that had been designed and created by someone my height? Someone looking for the same fit I was? I had my doubts, but resolved to find it after returning home from the race.
It didn’t take long to discover that the Tumbleweed Prospector was the bike I should have built the first time around. Fortunately, the first gen Prospector was a nearly identical match to the bike I had built up, including the use of front and rear 135 hubs. It was the perfect budget friendly upcycling solution that allowed me to keep all the brand new components and marry them to an XL frame that fit me.
Riding the complete prospector for the first time was a truly magical experience. To sit atop such a formidable trail crushing machine and feel like the fit was totally dialed… it's honestly hard to put into words.
In the years since, I’ve had the fortune of becoming good friends with Daniel, convincing him and Margot to move to Boise, and supporting the development of Tumbleweed over the past three years with my work as a photographer and creative, shooting product photos, designing graphics, and relentlessly bugging Daniel to create a super wide carbon handlebar for the Stargazer (doooo it).
I love working with the Tumbleweed team, test riding new products, and being able to give feedback on their functionality. It’s given me a new perspective as a rider and has been a unique opportunity to take my relationship with cycling a little deeper by really scrutinizing the details on a test ride, or focusing on comparable ride qualities between two different test frames. Being on the journey with Tumbleweed has also deepened my appreciation for the brand Daniel is building, what it represents, and the incredible amount of consideration that goes into each and every product developed. And I’m not even being paid to say that! It’s been such a joy to be a part of it and I get so stoked thinking about all these new Stargazer frames going out the door right now, because the Stargazer really is such an amazing bike and y’all are going to lose your minds when you finally take one for a ride ;)
What’s your favorite thing about bikepacking?
My favorite thing about Bikepacking is the unknown. The unknown conversations you’ll have with a friend or spouse. The unknown kindness you’ll experience from a stranger. The unknown detour you’ll have to take around a road closure. The unknown opportunities you’ll have to support and show up for your ride mates. There’s something beautiful and captivating about the unknown and placing yourself in situations brimming with it. It ignites the mind and squeezes out all the unnecessary noise. Bikepacking is a practice in acceptance and adaptability. Physically and mentally challenging, it taps into a part of our being that doesn’t often get activated in daily life. On a primal, extremely simple level, all you really have to do while Bikepacking is wake up, eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, sleep, repeat until the trip is done. But within that cycle just about anything can happen. It’s an opportunity to practice embracing the unknown, letting go of expectations, and remembering that, at the end of the day, it’s all about the people you’re with the joy you experience along the way!
Knowing what you know now, what piece of advice would you give yourself when you started?
The best advice I can give to someone interested in Bikepacking is to start in your backyard! Look at the hills just beyond town, the mountains on the horizon. What unoccupied areas lie within an hour of your house? These are the places worth exploring. By reducing travel time and geographical barriers, you also reduce the likelihood you’ll find an excuse not to go. We’re very lucky in Boise because we can ride from downtown and find a place to camp in the mountains in a matter of hours. During the summer, my friends and I will leave mid-week after work, ride to our favorite spot, camp for the night, and race back down in time for work the next day. Finding a place where you can reliably go provides opportunities for you to test equipment and connect Bikepacking into your daily life, rather than having it be a once-a-year endeavor or once-in-a-lifetime international trip. Those things are great, too, but I think the best advice I can give is to find a way to make it part of your daily lifestyle and mindset!
What aspects of your Tumbleweed product(s) have enabled your bikepacking journey?
I could go on and on about this one, but the main thing for me, as I highlighted above, is the sizing of the frames. It’s such a simple thing to get right but it makes all the difference. It won’t matter if you have the most expensive components on the bike if your bike isn’t comfortable. Being comfortable allows you to have a positive, healthy relationship with cycling and with yourself, especially on longer trips. It’s the most important part of endurance cycling and will make or break a Bikepacking trip. Daniel takes extra care to size his bikes properly and make sure people are purchasing the proper size for their body. It’s an extra step in the sales process but, again, it just shows how committed he is to doing it right and making people happy with their purchase.
Matthew is part-owner and photographer at Vision Kit Studio in Garden City, Idaho.
Follow Matthew at @visionkitstudio and @mhwordell.