Cyclist travels across America for ‘good vibes’

Published 10:44 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tom Helbig pedaled through the Great Dismal Swamp on his Soma Saga touring bicycle on Monday to cross the Virginia border and reach Suffolk by nightfall.

He came into the city with 50 pounds of supplies in bags strapped to his bike frame: food, spare clothes and tire tubes, a camp stove, a sleeping bag and more. He had traveled for more than 2,000 miles and had more than 1,000 miles left ahead of him.

He said the distance takes some getting used to but that he can feel himself getting stronger.

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“I micro-adjusted and shifted my weight around, but eventually you don’t notice the weight,” he said. “It can actually help on the windy days.”

Helbig left from Key West, Fla., on Feb. 20 to pedal towards the Canadian border in Maine at a pace of more than 60 miles per day. He celebrated his 44th birthday by going surfing during his stop at Tybee Island in Georgia.

The first hundred miles were filled with soreness and an array of elements, from sunburnt days to drenching downpours. He explained how he had to change out beachy clothes as the things got colder northward.

“With the changes in temperature, it’s really like I have four seasons of riding,” he said.

The trek is part of his quest to ride around the perimeter of the United States for the Tomfoolery Good Vibes Tour as part of his company Tomfoolery Outdoors. He completed a route from San Diego, Calif., to Key West in winter 2016 and simply picked up where he left off.

His plan is to head west after reaching the Canadian border in the months to come, towards Washington. He’s pedaling to get back to his home base in Ohio by July 1.

“I produce a bluegrass festival and a beer run in July and August, so I need to get back,” he said.

The Canoegrass festival and Tomfoolery Dayton Beer Miler this August are two of the signature events his company uses to encourage people to live an active, outdoor lifestyle while making a difference for others.

Helbig started his company in May 2014, after five years working for Five Rivers MetroParks and nine years before that as a coordinator for the Special Olympics. He already had decades of outdoor experiences when he had his epiphany during a fly fishing trip.

“I was working so many hours and I thought to myself, ‘Do I want to do this for the rest of my life?’ and the answer was no,” he said. “I realized I needed to find a balance.”

He got rid of many of his possessions and lived in a small cabin by a river in Dayton. He realized how little money he actually needed to be happy and accomplish his goals.

“I realized that if I put all my energy towards my own events, then I could use my positivity, my passion and my connections in the outdoor industry to make things happen,” he said.

The Good Vibes Tour came out of his “adventure lifestyle” and his commitment to community service. During his travels from San Diego to Key West, he did community service and volunteer work at 13 different stops and raised nearly $10,000 for the Special Olympics.

His story has spread across social media, with followers on Instagram and Facebook enjoying his posts and interactions with the people he meets on his way.

“I have a voice, and I figured if I have this voice, then I want to do some good with it,” he said.

He met a woman in Florida who had lost 150 pounds in the last few years from dieting and distance cycling. She was doing a 200-mile bike ride and received encouragement from Helbig’s followers on social media to hold her accountable and keep her moving, he said.

He met Brett Bramble and John Azerolo as they were walking towards Maine for Brett Bramble Walks, an East Coast overdose awareness walk from Key West to Calais, Maine. They’re walking in memory of Bramble’s sister Brittany, who died from a drug overdose in 2014.

“It motivates me to continue riding,” he said. “I try to keep it in perspective. That there are more significant challenges then the wind hitting my face on the bike.”

He holds to his motto: live active, laugh more and inspire all.

“Anytime I veer away from that, I re-evaluate and get focused,” he said.

Visit tomfooleryoutdoors.com for more information.