How I Make Money Bike Touring

How I Make Money Bike Touring

How I Make Money Bike Touring

On April 17, 2014, I announced that I was leaving my full-time career to pursue other bike touring related endeavors. Fast-forward to present day, 2 ½ years later, you’re probably wondering how I make money bike touring. Even if you don’t care, I want to go through this exercise for my own selfish insight.

Ever since I lost my steady income stream, I’ve been living off of 3 income sources.

  1. The savings that I had carefully stashed away for a rainy day or a wedding.
  2. The income I gained from selling my stuff, like a house.
  3. The earnings as an independent contractor.

I do earn some money every year working at a prop house, helping to build movie and tv props, but I’m not going to talk about those earnings here. I will be focusing more on point #3 in this blog post since it is income related to bicycle touring or just bicycle in general. We do want to stay on topic here.

My income as a sole proprietor for my company, Milestone Rides, derives from 6 categories.

  1. Bicycle Education
  2. Adventure Cycling Association
  3. Cyclocross
  4. MeetUp Membership Fees
  5. Affiliate Commissions
  6. YouTube Earnings

Let’s talk about each of these categories in-depth.

TS 101 Class Photo

Bicycle Education

When it comes to the bicycle education category, these are jobs that I use my training as a League Certified Instructor (LCI) or I am helping out organizations, like the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or the Walk N’ Rollers in Culver City.

While I typically teach bicycle and pedestrian safety for these jobs, I am also compensated for time spent helping at community events, like CicLAvia or watching over the kids rodeo or helping with bike valet set up.

Made it to Adventure Cycling Association

Adventure Cycling Association

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, this is an ideal way to make money for me. In fact, I have mentioned that I wanted to do more of this kind of work when I left my full-time work in a previous blog post [link to blog]. I suppose I am well on my way as I have had opportunities in both 2015 and 2016, as well as next year.

To be paid to go on bike tours and have all your basic living expenses provided for, like food and shelter, are all worth my time while taking care of participants.

SLO Cross 2015


In southern California, the cyclocross scene is dominated by one organization and one woman, Dorothy (Dot) Wong of SoCalCross.

When cyclocross season starts in the Fall and runs through to the new year, she is constantly looking for people to help. I jumped in during the 2015 and now 2016 season to help her manage the race timing and results delivery.

Group photo

MeetUp Membership Fees

For those who don’t know about my MeetUp that I started in October 2014, I wrote about it here but if you want a short explanation, here it goes. I wanted to go on bicycle tours on my own, so I went to MeetUp to find a group to do this. Unfortunately, nobody was organizing this activity or if they had a group, they didn’t do it as often as I liked.

So I started my own MeetUp group and charge a $2 a month subscription fee to be part of my MeetUp (30 days are free). This was in response to the bloated inactive members I was seeing from other MeetUp groups. I knew I wanted to filter out the serious riders over the casual browsers.

This worked very well and now I am able to fulfill 2 goals: have raving fans who love bicycle touring and cover the annual costs of Meetup. I have to confess that I am actually making some income from this. I am conscious of this and have been treating my group to an occasional campfire or snacks.


Affiliate Commissions

I have 2 affiliate program that I am part of.

  1. Amazon
  2. Avantlink for REI

The primary reason for this blog was always to be able to share my passion with you for bike touring, but what came out of this was an opportunity to use affiliate links to products I use or talk about.

The Gears & Gadgets links were created to share my personal favorites and review things I am interested in. You will notice that there are affiliate links scattered across all those posts as well as on my YouTube videos.

I haven’t pursued this opportunity as in-depth as I would like, but this has been generating some passive income through the years for me.

Camera Equipment

YouTube Earnings

This last category was something I never thought I would be collecting money from. At the beginning of 2016, I decided to put in some effort and have weekly videos uploaded on my YouTube channel. I am happy to say, that this has paid off as a few of my videos are popular and have been generating income.

I was happy to receive my first check last month and have noticed that I continue to earn ad revenue every month. Not too shabby for just making fun and helpful videos, right?

How Much Did I Make?

Here’s the climax of the story, my total earnings for 2 ½ years was a little over $12,000.

This pie chart should give you a better idea of income for each year.

Income Per Year

2016 isn’t over yet so that number can only get higher.

Here is the category breakdown.

Income Per Category

Making Sense of It All

Here are some important takeaways from these 2 charts.

  • The income per year tells me that I am on the right track as I am seeing a 775% increase in my income from 2014 to 2015 and then a realistic bump of 60% in 2016 (so far) from 2015. Will 2017 bring a continued growth trend?
  • 93% of my income (Adventure Cycling, Cyclocross, and Bike Education) is from work that requires me to be there in person to earn my wage. I still have more work to do as I need to flip that in favor of the other 3 categories where I am creating passive income.
  • I am earning $400 a month so far. Not exactly killing it from an income standpoint, but at least it’s better than $0. For those who are more risk averse, this may not be the right career move if you don’t have savings or another income stream.

Photo Credit: he who would be lost Flickr via Compfight cc

How Am I Surviving?

You’re probably wondering how I would justify continuing this career path. As I mentioned earlier, I have savings that have kept me afloat while income from these sources has helped prolong my income needs.

I have also adapted a minimal lifestyle as I have eliminated all major source of debts in my life. I don’t have a mortgage or rent, utility bills, and a car payment. I live with my family and contribute with my time rather than money. My major expenses these days are food and travel. This isn’t exactly a glamorous lifestyle, but it is all worth it as I am truly unconditionally happy.

One thing I did leave out is that I started another company this March where I am selling a product on Amazon. The product has nothing to do with bicycle touring or biking for that matter. So far we are doing very well as we are shooting to be profitable before our 1-year mark.

Your Turn

Were you thinking about doing a similar career switch? Have I changed your mind? Or has this post made no difference? I’d like to hear what you gained from this post in the comments below. It’s always good to find others who are on the same path. If it’s not for support, it’s for camaraderie, so please comment below or reach out to me in any capacity.

  • michaelmcleish1990
    Posted at 04:35h, 28 November

    Hey Johnny, I’ve recently decided to take the same path as you. Thanks for your insights, they’ve helped a lot 🙂

    • Johnny Lam
      Posted at 15:44h, 28 November

      Thanks Michael. Good luck on your journey. I can’t say it is easy. I’m still struggling on a daily basis but I always get back to my “Why”.